Desperate Times for General Ad Agencies
The idea that advertising agencies are recommending campaigns based on humor—and marketers are going along with it—is an act of desperation.
At the end of this issue is an illustration from an upcoming Campbell’s Soup commercial that urges consumers to “Make some holiday magic.” It depicts the branch of an evergreen tree reaching through an open window and grabbing some green bean casserole.
The viewer will think, “My isn’t that cute and clever,” and remember the gag, but not the Campbell Soup.
Be well-mannered, but don’t be a clown. People don’t buy from bad-mannered salesmen, and research has shown that they don’t buy from bad-mannered advertisements. It’s easier to sell people with a friendly handshake than by hitting them over the head with a hammer. You should try to charm the consumer into buying your product. This doesn’t mean that your advertisements should be cute or comic. People don’t buy from clowns.
With very few exceptions, humor in advertising doesn’t work.
So what’s Madison Avenue up to?
My family bought our first television set in late 1947. I remember Tuesday, June 8, 1948, when vaudeville and Borscht Circuit comedian Milton Berle appeared on NBC’s Texaco Star Theater and was falling-off-your-chair funny. Soon thereafter, Berle was signed as the permanent host and began a reign of television supremacy that lasted until 1956 when “Uncle Miltie,” the king of television, was toppled off the throne by a half-hour show on ABC starring—of all people—Bishop Fulton J. Sheen.
During those first three years—1948 to 1950—Tuesday nights were bad times for restaurants, movies, concerts and the theater. They were a disaster for NBC’s competitors. Berle, whose show was seen from 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., was watched by an average of 84 percent of U.S. households.
Sixteen years later, in 1964, the highest rated show was the “Beverly Hillbillies” with an average viewership of 41 percent of households.
- Madison Avenue