Advertising's creative revolution

Director Doug Pray

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Kai Ryssdal: Even if direct consumer spending only accounts for 40 percent of the economy, the fact is that we've all been doing a lot less spending during this recession. And partly as a result, the advertising industry has taken a beating. Still though, companies are spending billions of dollars every year getting their message out. They're on TV, in magazines, on billboards and onthe Internet. But all those ads start with the same basic principles: art and nd copy. That's the title of director Doug Pray's new documentary. About the heyday of advertising in the 1960s. He explained the art part for us. And the copy.

DOUG PRAY: For years and years and years, there was always the artist, the person who did the layouts, and did the kind of graphic treatment of an ad. And then there was the writer. The guy who came up with the catchy... the copy. And what happened in the 60s is a guy named Bill Bernbach at Doyle, Dane Bernbach kinda put the two together, in the same room together as if they should never have met. And an amazing thing happened, it kinda exploded a new creative revolution in advertising.

Ryssdal: Why didn't anybody ever think to do that before?

PRAY: In the old days of advertising, it was driven more by the account. And just information. It was all about you got a car, it does 12 new things this year, we just have to tell people about the 12 new things. And have a pretty picture. So you do the pretty picture. We'll tell them about the 12 new things. I mean there were some great, amazing ads in the 20s, 30s, and 40s. But in the 60s, for the very time, advertising kinda said, wait a minute, let's do something that is completely different, something that is wildly entertaining. Why do we have to sit there and give them a bunch of information. Let's just inspire them and maybe they'll be inspired to do what the client wants us to do, which is have them go out and buy a bunch of stuff.

Ryssdal: You know you profile a woman in this film named Mary Wells who was at Doyle, Dane and Bernbach for a while, founded her own firm, and she's quoted actually as saying that this period, the 50s and 60s in advertising, was a perky period in the advertising industry. Do you agree with that?

PRAY: I think there was a time in the 60s where adverting was incredibly dynamic, probably very fun to work in, and actually really cool. As Mary Wells says the Beatles were here, the Stones were here, everything was possible suddenly. Why do airlines have to be dull? Why did airlines have to be just these steel-wrapped kinda dull things. And this is really what she says in the movie. You know, why not paint them crazy colors and do ads for them that are just, like at this point, frankly ridiculous but were really entertaining at the time.

AD: We have blue planes, orange planes, yellow planes. You can fly with us seven times and never fly the same color twice. Inside seven different color schemes. And since we fly to Mexico, and South America. Peru, Brazil and Argentina. Cha, cha, cha.

PRAY: All of the sudden it seemed like it was OK to have a hell of a lot of fun with advertising.

Ryssdal: Do you think advertising is the same way today?

PRAY: No.

Ryssdal: Why?

PRAY: Myself, Shirley, and everybody in the movie would agree that 98 percent of most advertising is pretty much garbage. A lot of businesses and certainly advertising has kinda fallen prey to this idea market research and analysis and everything is what it's all about. And if you can figure exactly what the customers are already buying, then you can figure out what exactly they're going to buy, and then you know how to advertise it.

Ryssdal: How much of the way consumers think about advertising today, which is largely negative, is because we're just so jaded now because we're just bombarded by this stuff all the time, and most of it, as you say, is dreck.

PRAY: I personally think there's way, way, way too much of it. But I think there's too much media. I think there's too much of everything.

Ryssdal: Thanks for coming on the show. I appreciate that.

PRAY: Too much everything. I have to say I have a pretty huge filter for ads. If they're great, if they grab me, and I go, wow, that was really cool, or it makes me laugh, then I stand back. I don't know if I'm going to go and buy the product necessarily. But I definitely behold something, like, hey, that spoke to me. And when that happens I don't care anymore that it's an ad, or a painting, or a poem, or a rock song, or whatever. I don't care. It's a person who figured out how to take all the powers that be and all the commerce around them and say something directly to me. And that's kinda what the movie is about. The whole theory is if you hate advertising, make better ads.

Ryssdal: The latest offering from filmmaker Doug Pray is called "Art and Copy." About the advertising industry. Doug, thanks a lot for coming in.

PRAY: Thank you very much.

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