DOA Q&A: Bill Bernbach

  • by July 14, 2009
DOA Q&A Bill BernbackBill Bernbach was, of course, one of the founders of Doyle Dane Bernbach, and, as architect of the copywriter-art director team and modern media planning, one of the creative minds largely credited with fueling the revolution on Madison Ave. of the late '60s and early '70s. Bernbach passed away in 1982, but media once again faces upheaval similar to that brought on by the mass adoption of television, and we could sure use his guidance again. Here, Paul Parton of Brooklyn Brothers, wonders what Bernbach might have to say about media today. The responses are verbatim quotes, though the interaction is imagined.

Q: There seems to be a rift opening up in the media world between the analysts who are putting their trust in data and the media creatives who are putting their trust in inspiration and insight. Where do you stand?
A: There are two attitudes you can wear: that of cold hard arithmetic or that of warm human persuasion. I will urge the latter on you. For there is evidence that in the field of communications the more intellectual you grow, the more you lose the great intuitive skills that make for the greatest persuasion - the things that really touch and move people.

Q: But given the availability of new types of data from new sources isn't it natural that we should begin to focus more on the science of our industry?
A: I want to warn you against believing that advertising is a science . . . . Logic and overanalysis can immobilize and sterilize an idea. It's like love - the more you analyze it the faster it disappears . . . . Nobody counts the number of ads you run; they just remember the impression you make.

Q: Doesn't that kind of thinking just lead to greater risk in the way we make marketing decisions?
A: The men who are going to be in business tomorrow are the men who understand that the future, as always, belongs to the brave.

Q: So if we start moving toward media creativity, are there any potholes we should watch out for?
A: You can get attention and really make people resent you if you do it with an unrelated gimmick. They won't like you for that.

Q: How can that be avoided?
A: Adapt your techniques to an idea, not an idea to your techniques... Know your product inside and out before you start working. And relate that to the consumer's needs.

Q: What's one thing that will always be true?
A: You cannot sell a man who isn't listening.
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