Wednesday, March 9, 2016


Bill Bernbach, named by AdAge the most influential adman of the 20th century, had a beef with technicians.

Before quitting Grey to start his own agency in the late 1940s, Bernbach sent a one-page letter to his colleague that creatives, to this day, love to reproduce.

Bernbach told them he worried Grey, by ceding the agency to technicians, would "follow history instead of making it."

"There are a lot of great technicians in advertising," he wrote. "And unfortunately they talk the best game. They know all the rules. They can tell you that people in an ad will get you greater readership. They can tell you that a sentence should be this short or that long. They can tell you that body copy should be broken up for easier reading. They can give you fact after fact after fact."

Bernbach admitted technicians can help—a bit.

"Superior technical skill will make a good ad better. But the danger is a preoccupation with technical skill or the mistaking of technical skill for creative ability."

Bernbach pled with Grey to shun "routinized men who have a formula for advertising." His parting advice became his eventual battle cry—and a mantra of creatives everywhere.

"If we are to advance we must emerge as a distinctive personality. We must develop our own philosophy and not have the advertising philosophy of others imposed on us.

"Let us blaze new trails. Let us prove to the world that good taste, good art, and good writing can be good selling."
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