David Ogilvy said of the historic Volkswagen campaign created by Doyle Dane Bernbach, "It opened new doors."
Isn't that, in truth, what it's all about?
Much of what's done today that passes for creative - in the United States and abroad - doesn't open new doors.
In fact, it doesn't even use the doors Bernbach created. It only peeks, timidly and derivatively, through the opening.
The opportunity is enormous.
We have clients in desperate need. We have a brighter, more discerning public. We have dazzling tools.
But the idea is still king, and there's paucity of large ideas.
Bernbach said: "Never kid ourselves about the magic of advertising. The magic is in the product."
But advertising so strongly based on technique - be it the stock photo or the new video technogies - cannot hope to find the magic in the product. For techniques, per se, rejects the magic in the product and fosters the dangerous myth of magic in the advertising.
Any ad is labor. Good ads are hard work. And great ads are made of sweat, tears and the serendipity of the arresting view.
Few of us like hard work. So it should not be surprising that most advertising is pathetically shallow.
So what is a good idea?
It is the product or service or company presented from an outside-in perspective, stated in such fresh and arresting æanguage - visual or verbal - that it is virtually impossible to ignore.
The creative handicap for advertisers is, of course, their inside-out view of their offering: this is what we make or do; this is how we make it; this is what it does; this is why you should buy it.
But advertising agencies suffer the same handicap when financial considerations become paramount. Time and time again, experience has shown it's tough to keep your eyes on the idea and on the bottom line at the same time.
When any creative organization surrenders its soul to financial gods - self-imposed or as the result of investors' concern with profitability - the result may be increased productivity. But it is surely consistent mediocrity.
It has been said the good is the enemy of the great. So true. However, the predictable mediocrity of financially driven organization isn't simply the enemy of the good; it is a guarantee that greatness won't even be glimpsed.
This isn't to argue for unbridled license or an open checkbook. It is to argue that the advertiser is the natural guardian of profits and that the creative organization should only exist to achieve great creative work.
For years, business executives have observed that advertising people are poor business people. Doubtlessly true - and that is as it should be.
Today, the advertising business isn't what it used to be. And as we're reminded time and time again, there's no reason to believe it ever will be again.
Today, with notable exceptions, both agency and advertiser are obsessed with the bottom line, not with the power of the idea.
The issue of our times? Agency compensation. Or to put it bluntly, how much can an advertiser save by focusing on the cost of advertising services?
Lost, in the angst of these troubled times, is a larger issue: How much can an advertiser make by focusing on the value of great advertising?
Forecasts call for advertising expenditures in the United States to rise 7% or so in the foreseeable future. But is there an advertiser so unjaundiced as to suggest the return on advertising will increase that much or more?
The Volkswagen advertising of the 1960s did more than produce a return. It did more than create a marked where none had existed.
It opened doors. For advertisers and for agencies. By demonstrating once again the power of the large idea.
That is what honest advertising people, consumed with a hunger to do something great, must provide if our business - and perhaps American business as well - is to survive.

Kilde: Jim Johnston: Communication Arts, 1991.
(Jim Johnston was the co-founder of, and a copywriter with, The Johnston Group, a creative and communications firm with offices in New York, Los Angeles and the Research Triangle area of North Carolina.)

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