PUSHING A VISUAL TO ITS GRAPHIC BRINK
When I was a rookie art director at Doyle Dane Bernbach in 1959, my first assignment was to create a campaign for a new product, Kerid eardrops. Burrowing through Kerid’s research,I confirmed that most people clean their ears by poking around with pencils and bobby pins. I pushed that finding to its graphic brink by showing a colossal close-up of an ear sprouting a pencil, a paper clip, and assorted hardware. The ad screamed: Don’t risk a punctured eardrum by poking and stabbing and tinkering with your ears: Use Kerid eardrops. Outraged veteran creative people at DDB formed a posse and galloped up to Bill Bernbach’s office to protest my “disgusting” campaign. Bernbach patted them on the head and herded them out the door. (In those days, the buzzword was “tasteful.” Taste, schmaste, my ass! There is imagery that shocks people for shock’s sake–an imagery that attracts and holds attention because of a meaningful and memorable message!) I thought of myself as a modern-day Hieronymus Bosch, vulgar at times, but conceptually and viscerally dead-on. My boss and I sold the campaign, Kerid sold a lot of eardrops, and a lot of people quit sticking bobby pins in the wrong place.
PUSHING THROUGH A NAUGHTY AD WHEN THE BOSS IS AWAY
In 1959, Chemstrand Nylon, Doyle Dane Bernbach's biggest client, was stuck with a huge inventory of leotards which they had to unload. A double page ad was needed immediately in Woman's Wear Daily, the soft goods industry bible. I belted out a sketch of this ad and gave it to the account man. He showed it to Chemstrand and came back with a fast okay. It was late afternoon, so I found a woman gymnast at the 23rd Street YMCA to pose. It was too late to cast a male hand model, so I volunteered to pose for it myself. (Heh-heh). The ad ran, and the orders for leotards poured in. The account man was ecstatic and reported that Chemstrand said it was their most successful trade ad ever. Only one snag. Bill Bernbach happened to be out of town, and saw the ad in Woman's Wear Daily after it ran. "Disgusting," said Bernbach. I was stunned. "Hey Bill, the 'action' ad was exactly right for the marketing problem, and it was a big success. Everyone loved it, Chemstrand was crazy about it, and Bill, you're a prude." Which he was. I retreated out of the room and we never had an argument about "bad taste" in an ad ever again.
THIS AD SMELLS FISHY!
CBS Radio used Doyle Dane Bernbach to place its programming ads in daily newspapers. They surely didn’t need any design help, because the pioneering art director, Lou Dorfsman, a mentor of mine since I came home from the Korean War, created all their ads. But in 1959, in the first few days I was at DDB, Louie figured I might as well do an ad for him. The same day I received a requisition to do the CBS Radio ad, a cantankerous agency memo on my desk ordered that, in no uncertain terms, each and every prop used in a print shoot,must be returned by art directors to Maxwell Dane, the money guy at the agency. With no exceptions!Now the rush ad I conceived involved shooting a fish (whose portrait is shown here)...so dutifully,after an evening shoot, I returned to Doyle Dane and gently laid the fish, wrapped in the Daily News,on the bean counter’s desk. It stunk out the joint when everybody came to work the next morning. Mr. Dane was not amused.