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Thursday, 29 March 2012

The unsung marketing genius: another breed of Madman

Would you like to know how one man managed to make marketing money work about ten times harder than it should?

Well, there is a new book out called "Changing the world is the only fit work for a grown man," by Steve Harrison.

I have been kicking myself that I didn't know more about this man - and so should you if you don't read this book.

I cannot recall anything as well researched or written about any subject or person in the advertising business. Not a duff sentence. And what pictures! Even his old 1960s offices look damnably cool today.

But the reason I should have known about the man is that he was doing stuff 50 years ago - perfectly - which foreshadows so much of what people are doing today - imperfectly in most cases.

But doing so with the most extraordinary wit, panache, commitment - and above all results.

I knew of him and some of his advertising. But I didn't realise what a trailblazer he was. What a fool! I could have learned so much.

His name was Howard Luck Gossage. They called him The Socrates of San Francisco: they don't go for understatement on the West Coast.

But he really was something else.

He was integrating marketing in the most imaginative ways possible. He was using what I can only call social media. He harnessed PR to the most amazing effect. He was even using advertising in a way that we now think of as "interactive".

He turned down the Volkswagen account that did so much to make Doyle Dane Bernbach famous.

His dedication to doing the best or nothing was downright alarming.

To one of his clients, winemaker Paul Masson, he said "I don't like your advertising." Masson said, "But you're doing it."

"That's why I want to resign the account." And he did.

He was decades ahead of his time.

And he was bigger than advertising. His circle included writers like Tom Wolfe and John Steinbeck (who he had working for Rover Cars). He championed Marshall McLuhan, famous for the remark, "the media is the message". His ads helped save The Grand Canyon.

Hot creative agencies today - like Goodby, Silverstein and Crispin, Porter + Bogusky - got their inspiration from his thinking. I wish I had studied him more, and now I have.

Whatever ability I have in this business I have gained through study. This is a book to study. And clearly Steve, who built and sold a highly successful agency, studied Gossage and applied his principles in a lot of his own work to remarkable effect.

David Ogilvy once told me that the secret of success in this business was charm. Gossage had it by the oodle.

To be honest, not everyone will appreciate just how good this man was. But then a lot of people think McDonalds is good food.

You can see some of his ads here: http://www.lacreativeclub.com/gossage.html.

But get the book. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Changing-World-Only-Work-Grown/dp/0957151500.

Do it now, the minute you finish reading this.

Never too late for me. And never too soon for you.

And please don't wonder for a minute: I am not an affiliate.

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