Ad advice from a legend: big headline/little picture or little headline/big picture.

February 20, 2010 — Leave a comment

I worked for an agency for a couple of years in Detroit. The first creative director I had there didn’t last long. Nice guy, but he got the boot.

His replacement was Harvey Gabor. He was famous. He was the McCann-Erickson art director who had the idea called “The First United Chorus of the World”, aka the “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” TV spot. One of the best spots evah. It was released in 1971. It was huge. The ad knocked down racial barriers, and the song became a top 10 hit. A big accomplishment for an assignment that called for selling sugar water.  Haskell Wexler, the famous cinematographer, shot it.

There’s a great story on the ad posted here. Here is another. It was a very challenging shoot, to say the least.

Harvey was one of the most intense ad guys I’ve ever met. We were concepting ads for Ziebart once, and he was ferociously picking at a hangnail on his thumb, and spalt! a Jackson Pollack burst of blood went all over his onion skin sketch pad. It was really cool. I’m not sure that he noticed.

After about a month of being the new creative director, he held a seminar for the 15 or so folks in creative department over lunch one day. It really pissed off the art directors. But it was a great message. And it worked.

He said our print ads needed to be better, and to do that they needed to be simpler. His direction: either make ads that have a big headline and a little picture, or a little headline and a big picture. Boom. Simple. Look at some great print ads. Most follow this axiom. Ads of the World blows this out to the extreme, typically showcasing work with a microscopic headline, and gigantic picture. It works.

Great advice from a great ad guy.

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