When Advertising Critics Tried Harder

In case you're not familiar with it, that headline is an allusion to "When Advertising Tried Harder," the book written by ad industry chronicler Larry Dobrow, who died last week at the age of 85. We knew that Dobrow loved the ad business, that his book was among the first -- and best -- to review the Golden Age of advertising during the 1960s. What we didn't know was that Dobrow was actually the first real advertising critic Madison Avenue had, predating Adweek's Barbara Lippert and Advertising Age's Bob Garfield.

Dobrow actually began reviewing ads for Ads magazine in the early 1980s, long before Lippert began Adweek's "Critiques," or Garfield began Advertising Age's "Reviews," Ken Fadner, publisher of MediaPost and one of the founders of Adweek, said during a memorial service for Dobrow in New York on Friday.

Later, after Ads magazine had folded for economic reasons, Fadner said he convinced Dobrow to bring his ad reviewing skills to Adweek, and made covering the creative side of the business the central focus of Adweek for years to come. Part of that coverage included the annual advertising awards festival in Cannes, France, which Dobrow helped put on the map.



Another reason for the title of this column is the symbolic irony that all of the other major ad critics are moving on, as well. Garfield has left Advertising Age for "Bob Garfield Inc.," including a variety of endeavors in publishing, public speaking and consulting that may, from time to time, include a bit of advertising criticism. And Lippert, we learned last week, is leaving Adweek , after more than a quarter century as its ad critic.

At this point we should remind anyone who might be confused by the name that yet another advertising industry critic, a younger Larry Dobrow who recently wrote for Advertising Age and for MediaPost before that -- and who is not related to the late Larry Dobrow -- is very much alive, but has also moved on from Advertising Age.

Upon learning of his elder namesake's passing last week, the younger Dobrow told us that he did get to know him a bit over the years, mainly from trading correspondence, and mutual admiration.

"We'd exchanged some email over the years and he was an incredibly decent and accomplished guy," said the younger Dobrow, adding: "One time, jokingly, I told him that I was taking credit for having written 'When Advertising Tried Harder.' He didn't find that too amusing, so I suggested he could take credit for having written a bunch of stupid shit about magazines. That, he seemed to enjoy."

Interestingly, we also learned at Dobrow's memorial service that he was actually about to embark on a revised, contemporary edition of "When Advertising Tried Harder." Weeks before his passing, Dobrow had signed a contract with a publisher to write an updated version of the book.

We're hoping someone sure tries hard to complete that task, in memory of Larry Dobrow, and all the great advertising he would have chronicled had he had the opportunity.

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