Great advice from the late great adman Pat Kelly — “Make ads that don’t look like ads.”

It’s a shame that Pat Kelly isn’t better remembered. I was lucky enough to take a TV writing class from him at New York’s School of Visual Arts. His most famous work: he invented the entire Federal Express campaign at Ally & Gargano, made some epochal commercials with the legendary director Joe Selemaier. He also did some incredible work at Leo Burnett when he was starting in the business — much of his work is brilliant. The class was fantastic. His critiques were gems. But the most damning thing he could say about anybody’s work, no matter how ‘brilliant’ it appeared to be was, “Nah — it’s an ad.”

Let me digress for a moment to paint the picture. He looks like Lowell George of the rock band “Little Feet,” long hair, long beard, denim overalls. He commutes down from Woodstock, where I hear he lives in a converted chicken shack. I’m not kidding.

But this is the guy that wrote “fast-talking-man,” and the line “when it absolutely positively has to be there over night.”

And when he sees an ad he doesn’t like, he says it’s because “it’s an ad.” As a young creative person, I didn’t quite understand what he was talking about. I mean, wasn’t that what we were supposed to be doing, making great ads? It took me a while and lot of hard work to truly integrate the genius of Kelly’s observation — people don’t like ads. They like interesting things that show themselves themselves. If something looks or feels like and ad (or to be PC, a website, a promotional event, a press release, etc.) they TURN OFF. Ads scream — “HEY, IGNORE ME I’M JUST AN AD AND I’M TRYING TO BAMBOOZLE YOU!!!”

So Pat, thanks. And rest easy wherever you are.

Mayhem — The Leo Burnett ‘Critter’ as anti-critter…

He’s there. Right alongside the Pillsbury Doughboy and The Jolly Green Giant and Tony the Tiger and Charley the Tuna. That snarly, bearded, with little piece of band-aid tape above his eye purveyor of all that is wrong with the world known as “Mayhem,” spokescritter for good ole’ Allstate insurance. Espousing all the little things that go wrong, this critter has taken his proud place among the greatest that the Leo Burnett agency has ever created. How do I know? I heard him ripped off this morning. On the radio. Some health company was touting some undecipherable disease and they gave that disease a persona just like Mayhem. But not as good. By a longshot. But still, boxed into a corner, the agency creatives reverted to the ultimate sign of someone having come up with a “big” idea. They ripped it off. (I could almost hear the cash registers ch-chinging at the Allstate company!) Another winner for Leo. And I thought, would Leo himself have approved of this downtrodden anarchistic force of evil as a spokes-critter? I do believe he would have. See, he liked the sounds of ch-chinging too.

Leo does it again.