Everyone who works in advertising needs to read this now

You can read it here.

It’s a New York Times article about my first boss in advertising. He is a legend and justifiably so.

I have since had the good fortune to have met pretty much all the big names in modern advertising, however slightly.

And not one of them compares to him.

Jeff Goodby and Lee Clow are great guys and full of talent. God bless them!

But they weren’t him.

He saw things nobody else saw.

He instinctively knew what was right.

He was the best planner you ever met.

I especially loved his take on the state of advertising today.

He is as laser-like as ever.

When asked about today’s advertising, Mr. McCabe referred to the broad use of social networking, and he stressed that the objective of advertising is to sell a product.

“Right now we have a situation where ad agencies are screwing around, trying to embrace technologies that they don’t quite understand, trying to prove they are with it,” he said. “The world is full of these people dancing from foot to foot, but there aren’t many of us coming up and saying, ‘Got a match?’ ”



11 responses to “Everyone who works in advertising needs to read this now

  1. Alas, no relative, although I’d like to think in spirit. Love the “Got a match?”

    • he’s right. advertising people have spent the past decade proving they’re down with technology when none of us really give a shit about technology. I don’t need to know how a 35 mm film camera works to shoot a great spot.

  2. The ‘Got a match?’ question was always answered, ‘Yeh, your face, my arse’ where I was brought up. Charming, eh?

  3. Ciaran, I liked that quote too. But the one that really hit home for me was this one: “Weak advertising tells people what you want them to know,” he added. “Strong advertising gets people to conclude what you want them to know.”

    • Jaime, I liked that one too. Ed was a master of leading horses to water and making them think. No accident that one of Volvo’s early taglines was “Volvo. The car for people who think”.

  4. Oh, I didn’t know that! I wonder if that tag may have inadvertently inspired “Think Different.” It’s a very similar dynamic – this versus that.

  5. heescapepod,

    Thanks so much for the post and for turning me onto the NYT Article. Loved it. But was wondering to what degree did McCabe’s campaign for Volvo merely continue the work created for them by Ally & Gargano. Didn’t Jim Durfee & co. create the “Drive it like you hate it” commercial, talking about Volvo’s ability to last 11 years while driving on Sweden’s unpaved roads and stuff? Just wanted to get your thoughts on that, as it certainly seemed like McCabe’s “stylish hammer in the face” was in a similar vein to that of Ally & Gargano.

    Oh, and I remember seeing the “It shouldn’t take an act of congress ad” back before I could drive, and that ad has stuck in my head for, oh, more than a few decades now. Brilliant!

    Again, thanks for the post!

    • Jeff,
      The Volvo work done at SMS certainly adopted elements of the work done at Carl Ally. It had the same no-nonsense tone and hard-hitting approach.

      And both Ed and Carl Ally were hounds for the truth and abhorred bullshit. So inevitably there was going to be some overlap in style and substance.

      But you have to give SMS credit for creating the Volvo brand as we know it today. I know Ed wasn’t a big fan of the “DRIVE SAFELY” line adopted later. He felt that safety was a subset of great engineering. And I would agree with him. It felt too small to me.

  6. Thanks for the reply. That makes a lot of sense, the point you make about using great engineering to imply safety really came through in the article.

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