Legendary New York agency Cliff Freeman and partners just shuttered its doors. And anyone in creative advertising of a certain age shed a quiet tear.
Cliff ruled American advertising like a giant in the 1990s. The 90s wasn’t our best decade. It was full of shite, to put it bluntly. What set Cliff apart was his unrelenting love of overtly selling stuff while all around him pondered Gen X’s teenage brooding.
Cliff was of course, the man who penned “Where’s the Beef?” for Wendy’s hamburgers, which went through the culture like a dose of salts. He then went on to pioneer, and specialize in, a new form of retail advertising: really, really, really funny ads that stuck in your head. He realized that if you’re going to be funny, be really funny. that’s the only thing worth going for.
Starting out in NYC in the early 90s, working for Cliff Freeman was a shortcut to fame and awards glory. It was Shangri La. And a lot of his employees went on to become industry titans. Because they had had such an affirming experience. Being rewarded for just being themselves. you can’t beat that. i knew the guys that did this at CFP. bastards!
I met Cliff once at an ad awards do in New York. It was the History Channel’s top ten ads of all time thing. we both had catchphrase based ads in the top ten. we chatted about the recent superbowl. we’d both had ads in it. cliff was much more psyched about being in the superbowl than i was. i found that strange.
Having catchphrase fame in common i asked him for advice. He said he didn’t want to be “that guy who did that one famous thing”. that stuck with me. neither did i.
Cliff clearly had the most fun anyone ever had in advertising. I’m sure that will be a consolation to him.
Just one example of many, many great CFP ads.