Friday, August 19, 2016

Rebel, Rebel

"Don Draper with a conscience," copywriter Howard Luck Gossage created ads in the 1960s for airlines, breweries and oil companies.

But his favorite and finest work was extracurricular.

Nicknamed "The Socrates of San Francisco," evenings Gossage turned his agency, headquartered in an abandoned Barbary Coast firehouse, into a salon where iconoclasts like Tom Wolfe, John Steinbeck, Marshall McLuhan and Bucky Fuller met regularly to booze it up and brainstorm.

Gossage was the first marketer to see advertising as a "conversation," coining the word "interactive" to describe the ads he created. Their goal, he said, was to get audiences to opt in, join communities and converse with brands. "Our first duty is not to the old sales curve, it is to the audience," he said.

Gossage also dreamed up "pay per view" (30 years before we could access the Web) and was the first marketer to integrate advertising and PR.

In 1966, Gossage took on the fledgling Sierra Club as a client, creating ads to protest the damming of the Grand Canyon. The ads galvanized activists everywhere, halted the government's project, made Gossage's client a household name, and spawned yet another group, Friends of the Earth, which was kickstarted in a rent-free back office in Gossage's agency. Friends of the Earth today is the largest grassroots environmental organization in the world.

David Ogilvy once called Gossage, "The most articulate rebel in the advertising business."

Rory Sutherland, vice chair of OgilvyOne, calls him a forgotten hero of advertising's Creative Revolution.

"Gossage is the Velvet Underground to Ogilvy’s Beatles and Bernbach’s Stones," Sutherland says. "Never a household name but, to the cognoscenti, a lot more inspirational and influential."

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