Before we go out on the “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!” bender, I wanted to do a little reflection on the year in advertising.
Who am I kidding? Any
reflection on 2015 turns into The Year in Trump.
So far, with almost 11 months to go to the election, the Trumpster, as he once affectionately called himself, has managed to transform
political advertising with a $300,000 radio buy in Iowa that shook the world.
Precisely. No “Daisy,” the spots were ho-hum and despite his wall of words, “low energy.”
Rather, to the embarrassment of all political consultants and especially Jeb’s, Trump the human brand strode the world like an earned media colossus, stepping on every part of the
advertising/marketing/communications industry and reshaping it in his image.
His biggest innovation this year was the audio-cloud of Trumpiness. That’s when otherwise respected news
anchors are shown looking up at this invisible deity in the ceiling as his call-in voice, the one god, blankets the studio. It’s like that famous Spielberg shot of everyone open-mouthed,
looking up at a huge flash of light in the suburban sky.
Call it the Trump Bump. It didn’t happen overnight. It took years of single-minded craftsmanship and was super-charged by his
years on “The Apprentice.”
That’s when “Mr. Trump” gave orders from the back of a speeding limousine over a squawk box to his Angels, or descended in his
helicopter to the rooftop, where the young worshipers were assembled. He also let the lucky few into his gilded and marbled apartment.
Ultimately of course, he decided who lived
and who died — aka, “You’re fired.” These were like the moves of an Eastern European strong man, and he’s got that down, even the costume.
He doesn’t wear
braid and epaulettes, but he does have have his signature blue suit, white shirt and red tie as his uniform, and he knows how to work it. ( That’s why seeing him in golf clothes is a very creepy
assault to the system, as if we are seeing him nude or something.)
His fidelity to his brand uniform was true way back in 2002, when he appeared in a McDonald’s commercial with Grimace,
the giant purple, potato-shaped thing with tender blinking eyes. Grimace was like a less-evolved M&M in that he did not speak -- thus, the perfect foil for Brandmaster Trump.
The idea was
cute enough. It took the form of a "Got a buck? You're in luck'' spot, promoting an expanded dollar menu.
In the end, Donald is shown from the back, standing at his office window with his arm
around Grimace. (Although even then, he was not used to encircling anything that wide and ovoid.) He says something about how he’s great at deals, but Grimace is too, and that together,
“We could own this town.”
Who could have predicted that a short 13 years hence, owning the town would be teeny tiny potatoes for Trump?
I bring this spot up because a very
engaging story about the making of it has emerged lately on social media.
A creative director on the shoot for that spot posted on Facebook about interacting with Trump on the shoot. (Which
really was in his Trump Tower office in NYC.)
“At one point before the camera rolled, there was a discussion I was asked to arbitrate. It seems the art director of the
commercial had intended for Donald to wear a purple tie," which would have visually connected him to Grimace.
“Donald didn't want to wear the purple tie. So we were called into
a board room with a table filled with hundreds of various purple ties … I asked Trump, if he didn't like the tie my guy had selected, if he'd like to select another purple tie. 'No, I wouldn't.
Look, this is what I wear (pointing to his own red tie.) This is it, this is what you paid for (north of $500K for one day's work as I recall), this is what you get.'”
creative director decided to let him wear the red tie for the sake of moving on with the production.
But for the CD, the kicker was that at the end of the day, he asked the stylist
about the vast collection of purple ties. The stylist told him they were gone: “One of Trump’s people came in and said, 'Wrap them all up, Mr. Trump wants them.'”
The CD ended his piece with “To this day, every time I see him wear a purple tie, I know where the cheap son of a bitch got it."
The post got hundreds of responses, many from
fellow ad folks saying Mr. T. did the same thing on their shoots.
Another popular story now surfacing had to do with Chiat/Day founder Jay Chiat, whose agency won the misbegotten
Trump Shuttle as an account. (Trump bought the Eastern Shuttle and upgraded it to super luxury, which turned out to be such a “disaster” he had to sell it as part of a bankruptcy
According to Chiat, Trump was not happy with any of the ads the agency made, and he rarely paid. In the end, Trump sent Chiat a letter excoriating him and the agency. Chiat shot a
letter back saying, “Dear Donald, Some lunatic has gotten hold of your stationery and I thought you’d like to know.”
It wasn’t an original line (it started
with a Congressman years before.) But it also illustrates that Trump was never happy with his treatment in any sort of media unless he could completely control it.
The only happy
story about Trump and an ad agency I could find came from Tom Messner, a founder of breakaway agency Messner, Vetere, Berger, & Schmetterer. The year was 1984, and in addition to his agency
start-up, Messner had worked on The Tuesday Team, which created the seminal campaign “It’s Morning Again in America” that helped reelect Ronald Reagan. That attracted Donald Trump,
who wanted to place an open-letter ad in newspapers.
Even then, the future Republican was worried about trade and unfairness. The agency give Trump's letter the headline
“There’s nothing about the U.S. Defense Policy that a little backbone couldn’t cure,” and placed it in newspapers.
Messner says he was warned that Trump
didn’t pay. He explains: "But you can't place political or issue ads or commercials without paying upfront or posting a bond.” Trump paid.
Messner adds: “We
were in the capitalizing stage and the commission came in handy. We began with each partner throwing in $2.50, so we valued cash and Mr. Trump.”
days be merry and bright. Certainly, ours will continue to be brightened by the blinding reflection off a certain self-made media deity with his blue suit, white shirt, red tie and gilded hair.
this day, Trump continues to assure anyone and everyone that associating with him makes sales go “through the roof.” Just like Santa!