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What Educating Peter Teaches Us

While this is really hard, mute your cell phone, quit email, close browser windows and carve out 11 whole minutes to watch Educating Peter. This landmark video was made by Digital — Who the hell is that? — before there was the internet, 140-character ads and twenty concurrently running apps to lift everyone’s ADD to the stratosphere.

Educating Peter is an early explainer demo that many marketing professionals with wear on the tires will fondly remember. What better way to demonstrate computer systems — which are essentially silicon, wires and electrical currents — than by taking “Peter” on a Tron-like tour of its inner workings.

Is it dated? Yes, I guess. Does it have an effective close or call to action? No, it ends like they ran out of budget. Is it still relevant? Yes, it speaks to the market in a memorable, clear and approachable fashion.

Here’s a recent video we made for our client, Avalara. It’s as different as night and day to Educating Peter. But while styles have changed, the goals of advertising haven’t. We’re still trying to get our audiences’ attention and sell them stuff. This is the heart of advertising, dating back to barkers standing on Egyptian piers 3,000 years ago announcing the cargo of arriving ships.

The next time you get a brief looking for “disruptive digital thinking”, remember Educating Peter and its clear purpose: communicate the complex value proposition of a dry product in a way that people will actually want to watch. Then let the ideas flow like water from a pitcher. 

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History of Advertising

Pepsi spot is only missing one thing: An Idea.

Back in the old-fashioned times before the internet, I used to go to the Museum of TV & Radio in NYC and watch TV commercials on VHS. They have a vast archive there, including a tape with a compilation of Pepsi spots and its classic tag line, The Choice of A New Generation. Watching them all back-to-back surfaces the irony that there are several generations of commercials with the same line.

Fast forward to today, with the cringe-worthy spot featuring Kendall Jenner. 


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History of Advertising

If Women Ruled The World

Probably fewer wars, resistance to the defense/oil/pharma economic machine, more empathy, greater equality, reduced corporate greed, same pay for the same job, universal access to health care, less global corruption, niceness not nastiness, enhanced sense of a global family... that's for starters. On this International Women's Day, State Street did a great job by putting a female in front of the bronze bull on Wall Street. Those male-driven corridors reek of testosterone, ego-centric mentalities and an artificial value system (and brains and money, to be fair).

Years ago, Shirley Polykoff ruled a female department of staffers selling products for their gender at FCB. She wasn't the first woman to work in advertising, but she was the first in NY to be empowered with a platoon of soldiers and a budget. One of their great early successes was for Clairol Hair Color. "Does She ... or Doesn't She" became a catch phrase across the country. The reference was does she or doesn't she color her hair, but the obvious double entendre was does she or doesn't she... you know... boink. Watch this video for a pocket lesson on how Shirley changed the game.

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History of Advertising

Don’t Let Art Direction Become A Lost Art

This ad does exactly what its creator wanted. Men, lechers that we are, think: “Heh, heh, I’m going to get a free gander at her privates.”

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History of Advertising

Happy World Radio Day

ROI: 1st Radio Commercial Sells 3 Condos

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History of Advertising

P.T. Barnum: The George Washington of Advertising

PT Barnum invented many of the techniques that we employ in advertising today. How many can you utilize in your business? Click here to read my article at adforum.com: P.T. Barnum: The George Washington of Advertising.

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History of Advertising

Why Paul Rand Transcended Design

Paul Rand is known as one of the most iconic graphic designers in American history, but his contributions are even greater than that. He elevated commercial artistry into graphic design. Previously, art directors were often known (behind their backs) as page decorators. Make it pretty, make it blue, send it through. Rand was one of the best, most articulate, most persuasive practioners to show companies the power of a corporate vocabulary — how their imagery (logo, colors, type, visuals, etc.) established how they were perceived in the marketplace. Other famous Rand logos were for UPS, Westinghouse and NeXT computers (for Steve Jobs).

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History of Advertising

Thanksgiving and the Selling of the New World

In 1620: The Mayflower lands at Plymouth [in now Massachusetts] with 102 people. The brutal winter kills half within five months. “Wild beasts and willd [sic] men” are all around them. This was the start of the settling — and then selling — of what became America. 100 years later, here's a drawing of Savannah, Georgia, showing the clean grid format the city still has today. The idea was to make it compelling for people to come and settle there.

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History of Advertising

How Accountable Advertising Became Insight Marketing

John Wanamaker is known in the biz for saying “Half the money I spend in advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” Jumping forward, direct marketing used to be called “accountable advertising”… because you could actually measure ROI, e.g., if AT&T spent x dollars on a mail campaign and got y number of responses, they could measure what was going on. The advertising was accountable to itself.

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History of Advertising

Pull The Powerful lever of Patriotism

This classic WWI poster has a one-word headline and a powerful image of a mother going to the bottom with her child. It refers to the German sinking of the passenger ship Lusitania. On Veteran's Day and in the aftermath of the great election upset, take a look at some war posters and consider the extraordinary power of patriotism in advertising. Patriotism pulls the same string that all of us who love this country share. Advertising has a long history of the federal government using it to sell war bonds, promote enlistment and a variety of other communications needs. And companies who participate in the war effort are quick to promote their role, too.Click here to view the gallery of war posters

This modern poster does the same thing. I started it at 2am when Trump won the election. I feel that this presidential campaign blew a hole in the heart of our country. Now we come together.

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History of Advertising

  

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