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Back to the Classics: The Man Who Invented Great Advertising

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None of us would be working in advertising if it weren’t for Bill Bernbach.

Yes, I know, that’s quite a statement. But it’s true. Before Bill Bernbach came along, advertising was so awful, the industry would most likely have died out before any of us had the chance to consider it as a career.

Bill Bernbach was the founder and creative director of what was arguably the greatest ad agency of all time, Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB). Bernbach opened his agency in 1949 because he saw that American advertising at that time was — there’s really no delicate way to put this — a pile of crap. The work coming out of Madison Avenue consisted mostly of moronic illustrations, irritating jingles, stupid mascots and puerile, repetitive copy. billbernbach2

Bernbach put a stop to all this. He gathered around himself a group of copywriters and art directors who were as nauseated by this dreck as he was. Over the next 30 years, they would create a collection of work that was so ingenious, so strategic, so tasteful and so undeniably effective, it transformed advertising from a laughingstock into an industry that talented people actually wanted to work in.

In this column over the next several months, I’ll be detailing some of the innovations Bill Bernbach developed that literally turned advertising around. But in the meantime, let me leave you with one of my favorite Bernbach quotes.

“Forget words like ‘hard sell’ and ‘soft sell.’ They will only confuse you. Just be sure your advertising is saying something with substance, something that will inform and serve the consumer, and be sure you’re saying it like it’s never been said before.” – –  Bill Bernbach

Column written by Mark Carpenter, AAF Omaha Board Member &
Co-Chair Nebraska ADDYs Committee

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