This week, we introduce a guest writer, Tom Yobage, who also happens to be Alison’s father. Beginning in the Mad Men era of the 1960s, Tom worked on Madison Avenue for four decades at Doyle Dane Bernbach. The advertising agency started the Creative Revolution with its breakthrough campaigns for Volkswagen (“Think small.” “Lemon.”) and Avis (“We try harder.”) At Doyle Dane Bernbach,Tom worked as a copywriter and creative director. The stories he can and will tell about the ad campaigns created by Doyle Dane Bernbach deserve their own blog, but we’ll start with the clypd blog. What follows is a story he shared with Alison earlier this week, about the power of celebrity in advertising.
Advertisers love to use celebrities, because celebrities can stop you, attract your attention. They’ve got recognizable faces which usually stand for something and leave you with a good feeling inside.
As a safety check, before signing a celebrity, advertisers and their agencies can buy studies, surveys, and research to help guesstimate a given celebrity’s stopping power and likeability.
But with Muhammad Ali’s passing last week and his funeral this week, I was reminded of a story I had been told years ago at Doyle Dane Bernbach about true star power. No studies, no surveys, no research needed.
In the early 1980s, Doyle Dane Bernbach was asked to create a new advertising campaign for the Bulova Watch Company. Bulova had come up with a series of great designs for its watch faces and wanted to promote them.
The agency created a campaign that used famous celebrities with great faces. The idea was for each celebrity, with a great face, to be shown wearing a Bulova watch, with its own great face.
The headline was: “One great face deserves another.”
Johnny Cash was one of the celebrities they used. Another was Muhammad Ali.
At the time, Bulova had its headquarters and manufacturing facilities in a beautiful campus-like setting in Queens, New York, on the way to LaGuardia Airport. And someone thought it would be a great idea to have Muhammad Ali stop in at Bulova headquarters and visit with Bulova top management.
On the day of Ali’s visit – for reasons unknown, Ali didn’t walk into Bulova through the front door of the headquarters building. Instead, Ali came in through a back door which opened into the manufacturing facilities.
Unannounced, unheralded, with no big entourage, Ali walked into the Bulova factory. Almost instantly, one of the Bulova workers recognized Ali…stopped working…and stood up to honor Ali. Then another worker recognized Ali…stopped working…and stood up. Then another. And another. And another.
As Ali walked through the factory toward the headquarters offices – still unannounced – more and more workers recognized him…stopped working…and stood up to honor him. Someone started clapping Then more people started clapping. By the time Ali reached the offices, all the workers had stopped working…were standing…and giving Ali a standing ovation.
Some were honoring him for being World Heavyweight Champion three times. Some were honoring him for his civil rights work. Some for his stand against the war in Vietnam. Some for his work with the poor and underprivileged. Whatever the reasons – by the time Ali got to the office door, all work had stopped in the factory.
If the Daily News had had a picture of it, my guess is the headline would have been: “The Day Time Stood Still at the Bulova Watch Company.”
Check out the spot below. Also in the ad: Morgan Fairchild, Johnny Cash, Bernadette Peters, Roger Daltrey, Cathy Lee Crosby and Muhammad Ali