June 22, 2009

The First Interactive Ad Man


I recently came across an interesting article entitled “The First Interactive Ad Man” written by Jeremy Lockhorn, director of emerging media and video innovation at Razorfish. Written in 2004, the article is all about Howard Gossage and shows how his approach to advertising has really interesting parallels with the world of interactive.

You can read the full article here but some of the highlights are:

“He believed advertising should be a conversation. Instead of one-way messaging, get consumers to participate in the ad. If you can, you’ve made a connection. It’s more likely they’ll remember your brand and message”.

“He was fond of coupons, sweepstakes, and other gimmicks that got people to engage with his ads. But he also knew how to use a clever headline to grab people and get them involved. This idea, that advertising should be interactive, is now conventional wisdom”.

In a later article “Rich Media, Online Ads, and Howard Gossage”, Lockhorn illustrate points about the digital medium referencing the famous adman. Have a read here.

He refers to the quote about Advertising seeming like “shooting fish in a barrel”, but says that there is some evidence that the fish don’t hold still as well as they used to, they are developing armor plate. They have control over what type of ammo you have, when the trigger gets pulled, and how fast your shot moves. Oh, and they’re not all in the same barrel anymore”.

Gossage said “The real fact of the matter is that nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad” and Lockhorn goes on to say that “Online media offer a tremendous opportunity to drive response (conversion, etc.) and to build connections with consumers that will ultimately drive brand forward. Existing and emerging technologies offer power to engage consumers in ways previously impossible. But remember: Nobody reads advertising. People read what interests them”.

Find more articles by Jeremy Lockhorn here.

If you want to learn more about Gossage then it is worth checking out the 1986 publication The Book Of Gossage put together by Jeff Goodby, Stan Freburg & Jay Conrad. He called Copywriters “very strange people who have only reached copywriting after eliminating every other means of making a living through writing”. He is observations were so well put that it made the industry take a good look at what business it was really in. There is too much of advertising, he complains. “If you have something pertinent to say, you neither have to say it to very many people –only to those who you think will be interested–nor do you have to say it very often.

He wrote some quirky ads that reflected his alternative view, especially the one (immortalized in Ogilvy On Advertising) headlined: “SHOULD WE ALSO FLOOD THE SISTINE CHAPEL SO THAT TOURISTS CAN GET NEARER THE CEILING?” for the Sierra Club.

A few other famous Gossage quotes:

“Our first duty is not to the old sales curve, it is to the audience.”

“I like outdoor advertising. I just think it has no right to be outdoors.”

“Is advertising worth saving? From an economic point of view I don’t think that most of it is. From an aesthetic point of view, I’m damn sure it’s not.”

Order the book below…