Cool New Must-Read Book. (But First, This Metaphor.)

This short essay is ultimately a book review, but it starts off with a metaphor. One where I liken creating advertising on multiple platforms to those geeky 3-dimensional chess sets. Remember the ones you saw on early Star Treks, or maybe in the lounge of your freshman dorm?

The classicist in me scorned how these 3-dimensional chess ruined the purity of the game. I’d think, dude, come on, the game’s been around since what? The 6th century? And now you and Hasbro are changin’ the rules? Bite me, is what I said.

It occurred to me my reaction was a little like the one I had back in the ‘90s when the digital revolution was changing the rules of the advertising business. At first I thought this online stuff wasn’t really advertising. It didn’t adhere to the rules I’d learned in my apprenticeship. Then as the ones-and-zeros gained ground, they just sorta pissed me off because now, just when some of us were starting to get the hang of this thing called advertising, just as we were finally learning how to write our way out of a paper bag … (hint: write on the top inside of the bag and then just sorta angle your hand out and down and then keep writing) … just as we gained some command of the craft, the whole world changed.

Can you imagine something like this happening in the world of, say, plumbing? Dude goes to trade school, learns American Standard toilets, learns Kohler faucets, learns welding, piping … gets out, first house he goes to the owner points to some computer bank where his toilet has “digitally backed up.”

That’s how it felt to knuckleheads like us; we, who the press called the digital immigrants.

To deal with this revolution, we had a number of options. Some of us got drunk. Some of us got angry. And some of us just took a deep breath and swam with the current; tried to learn the new world and perhaps bring to it the disciplines and abilities we’d learned in the old.

Which brings me around to my short book review.

There’s a fantastic new book out there by the editor of Creativity, Teressa Iezzi. Titled The Idea Writers: Copywriting in a New Media and Marketing Era. Appropriately, (he thinks smugly) I’m reading it on my iPad. I highly recommend it.

It’s the first book I’ve seen that thinks through what passes for “rules” in the new digital world. She uses many great examples, mostly campaigns you probably know about, but they all help her build a map, a way of looking at this new three-dimensional chess set.

Yes, the old game is still in there, somewhere. Creativity, still needed. Storytelling, still needed. But the added platforms, the interactivity, the inclusion of the customer, the fluidity, the speed, man,  it all makes for a totally new game.

I’m playin’ it the best I can. I’ll see you down in the freshman lounge.

8 Comments

  1. ¡Oh how wonderful is to hear you praise this book!

    I finished it last night, and all I kept thinking about was: Ogilvy on Advertising, Hey Whipple, Squeeze This… and The Idea Writers.

    I feel lucky to enter this industry learning from writers like yourself and Iezzi and with a real revolution taking place.

    __
    Alex Santiago
    @SoSaic

    Reply
    • Hey Alex: Glad you liked Whipple. And this new book? Yeah, I am really diggin’ it.

      Reply
  2. Luke,
    Like most others, i read and loved your book when i read it years ago as a junior. So your recommendation is a strong one. Just bought a copy for myself and for the writers who work with me. Look forward to our reading and discussing it.
    Thanks.
    Todd Slutzky
    @toddfs

    Reply
    • Hey Todd, glad you liked Whipple. Yeah, this is a good bok to help people re-set, get out of just Ad Mind and into Content mind, entertainment mind, event mind.

      Reply
  3. Thanks for this tip Luke.

    I first read your book about a year ago. It was recommended reading for an ad course I’m about to start in Watford, near London, next year. Each time I read from it I was inspired. Among other things, I learnt that simplicity is key. Eventually I put together a book and got offered a place on the course. Since waiting for the course to begin, and saving money for the fees, I’ve gradually become more and more disillusioned with the industry. The more blog posts and articles I read, the more I get the impression that things aren’t as simple as they used to be. I’m overwhelmed by negativity; by people praising ‘codewriting over copywriting’, heralding the death of traditional and such like. Overly complex ‘integrated-online-treasure-hunt-google-maps-tweet-your-confession-then-like-us-on-facebook’ type campaigns proliferate and seem to go straight over my head. I mean who has the time of day to engage with brands like that? I think I’ve maybe engaged with 2 digital campaigns as a consumer (as opposed to an ad student) and I’m a young white male who spends a shit load of of time online. Aren’t I suppose to love this sort of stuff?
    Anyway, where I used to feel a desire to write simple, witty, yet logical ads, I already feel bitter, and I haven’t even worked in the industry yet. I’m 23 for chrissake! Do you think Iezzi’s book soothe me woes? Or is it time to re-think the career? I’ve just ordered the thing either way.

    Reply
    • Hey Tom: While I’m glad you like to write clever ads, your assessment of the new advertising world is, in general, correct. It is no longer about ads. Yes, our work today INCLUDES ads, but the world is going toward telling an interesting brand story on many platforms. What was once a pretty clear playing field of print-TV-radio-outdoor has become kaliedoscopic with media opportunities. The new ad people need to be able to work in all platforms. I still think it is one of the best industries for a creative person to be in. It’s just …different.
      I think reading Teresa’s book will calm you down.

      Reply
  4. read your kind review. glad you liked whipple. I could never get into ogilvy on advertising. Tired, but just couldn’t. I like it for its historical value, but otherwise, dang, I just can’t get there.

    Reply
  5. I got into copywriter because of his interview answers in “The Art of Writing Advertising”, and I must admit, what he did for my little island of PR was incredibly wonderful. So, I am being a little biased, I guess.

    However, I am getting some wonderful perspectives on how things were and could be, especially after reading your book and Iezzie’s book. I actually saw some old executions used by Ogilvy that mirrored some of the executions Iezzie praised from CP+B, which was interesting (Or should I say CP+B mirrored, who knows).

    At any rate, being a college senior I felt like I would share a little to those students coming up, especially in our advertising club. http://vimeo.com/18122352

    I am humbled just to be able to chat with you and other modern greats. Hopefully your Holidays were wonderful.

    Peace
    Alex

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. THE IDEA WRITERS » The reviews are in… - [...] “I highly recommend it.  It’s the first book I’ve seen that thinks through what passes for “rules” in the…
  2. @Ogilvy On Advertising | @HeyWhipple | #TheIdeaWriters « Social Mosaic Communications - [...] but not to my surprise, a couple of days after I was done reading it, Mr. Sullivan praised the…

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Luke Sullivan

Author, speaker, and ad veteran available to recharge, reinvigorate, and refocus marketing, advertising, and branding firms.

I give a hugely energetic series of presentations on innovation, creativity, branding, and marketing. I spent 32 years in the trenches of advertising (at agencies like Martin, GSD&M, and Fallon) and I’ve put everything I learned into my book, Hey Whipple, Squeeze This. But for me nothing beats taking the message out and speaking to living breathing audiences at clients, agencies, and conferences. You can book me on the button below.

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