Famous Last Words: Bose Ads Created by Bozos
On July 12, 2013, The New York Times ran the obituary of Amar G. Bose. He was the inventor of the Acoustic Wave Music System, noise canceling headphones and myriad high-tech audio systems for consumers and businesses. Bose advertising has always fascinated me.
Many years ago, my first novel was bought for the movies (no film was ever made, alas) and Peggy and I blew the option money on a Bang & Olufsen Beomaster 2400 stereo rig. Included were the magnificent receiver/amplifier, giant speakers and turntable. The B&O line is not only eye candy—so elegant it was exhibited at New York's Museum of Modern Art—but also produces a rich, gorgeous sound.
The Bose Conundrum
While our B&O was continually delighting us, I kept coming across ads for Bose radios. These looked to me like the kind of slick plastic junk offered during—and just after—World War II.
The copy message was upbeat and effusive. But not believable:
Our best all-in-one music system that delivers room filling performance no matter what you play!
Advanced audio technologies fine-tune the sound for clarity and consistency even at loud volume levels, in large rooms.
In all the years I read Bose ads, I never bought into the copy. It was impossible, I thought, that a little piece of plastic could deliver concert hall quality sound. For starters, it did not have external speakers. The sound had to be ordinary at best.
To my mind, this was all Madison Avenue "creative" hype. I would have happily bought a Bose rig for the office if it lived up to the copy.
World Class Ad Copy by Accident!
What follows are the most powerful two paragraphs of advertising copy ever created for Bose Corporation. It was not by an agency copywriter. Rather, it was from Amar G. Bose's obituary by Glenn Rifkin in The New York Times. It is the work of a superb journalist whose job is to relate who, what, where, when and how. I think you'll agree it is far more informative than the tons of Madison Avenue crap typified by the smartypants blind ad seen in the mediaplayer to the right.
A perfectionist and a devotee of classical music, Dr. Bose was disappointed by the inferior sound of a high-priced stereo system he purchased when he was an M.I.T. engineering student in the 1950s. His interest in acoustic engineering piqued, he realized that 80 percent of the sound experienced in a concert hall was indirect, meaning that it bounced off walls and ceilings before reaching the audience.
This realization, using basic concepts of physics, formed the basis of his research. In the early 1960s, Dr. Bose invented a new type of stereo speaker based on psychoacoustics, the study of sound perception. His design incorporated multiple small speakers aimed at the surrounding walls, rather than directly at the listener, to reflect the sound and, in essence, recreate the larger sound heard in concert halls.
For me, this was an epiphany—a "holy shit" revelation that unlocked the secret of how the Bose system worked.
Of course no giant speakers were needed. This little wonder blew sound all over the room. The walls, ceiling and floor became speakers! Bloody brilliant!
David Ogilvy Has the Last Word Here
"I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don't want you to tell me that you find it 'creative.' I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product. When Aeschines spoke, they said, 'How well he speaks.' But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, 'Let us march against Philip!'"
Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His next book will be "Write Everything Right!" Visit him at dennyhatch.com or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.