Friday, July 31, 2009

No bad assignments--only bad solutions

When you work for an ad agency you quite often get assignments that are not to your liking. They come about for a variety of reasons beyond your control--- sometimes beyond anyones control. I have always tried to cope with these situations by taking the attitude that there are no bad assignments only bad solutions. And, I have found over the years
 that it is very true. If you can bring a positive attitude to every assignment the chances are you can do something better than was expected. Make a silk purse out of a sows ear... so to speak. There are always sales going on for all car accounts and today even more so than ever. It's easy to just do what is expected---show a couple of cars and some big type and get it over with. But then every once in a while maybe something different can be done. 

In this case we had Double Dividend Days to deal with. I had been in the meeting where the slogan was born. Bob Lund was the Chevy Sales Manager at the time and he was convinced that Chevrolet needed some kind of event to boost sales. The ads that had been shown were not to his liking and as he made his his comments he became more and more animated. Back then our account guys always made sure each client had the proper cigarettes, mints and chewing gum in place at their seat. Bob began talking about needing something like "Dividend Days" only better. Then he noticed his Wrigley Double Mint Gum and he stood as he nearly shouted that the event should be "Double Dividend Days!!!" Thanks Mr. Wrigley. 

You don't win awards for ads like these but you know you have done the best you can with the problem at hand. Mr. Lund and Chevy wanted some retail- like nearly full page newspaper ads that would support the new theme and work with other promotional material for the dealers. 

Bill Graefen did the copy for both ads and I put together the layouts. We were a little surprised at the good reception they received. They were very visible in the newspapers and did the kind of job Chevrolet needed at the time. The headline for the lower ad is pretty small as shown here but says---Shhhh.....don't tell your Chevrolet dealer it isn't August. Back then August was always a big car sale month to get rid of inventory and be ready for the new models. 

Saturday, July 25, 2009

In 1962 the Bureau of Advertising of the American Newspaper Publishers Association said that this Chevy ad achieved the highest ad noting among all ads for that year. The research was conducted by Starch-MMN.

Now that's the kind of recognition you like to get when you are a young ad maker. I made the layout with the four cars because Chevrolet had been asking for multi car ads to show off the all they had to offer. David E. Davis Jr. wrote the wonderful copy to go with it. That was the way we worked back then. Sometimes I came up with a picture idea and David E. would write copy to go with it and other times he would write a headline (sometimes copy too) and I would make the visual to go with it. What fun we had and what good work we did. We were pretty much beginners and just wanted to do good stuff. We weren't making a lot of money and David E. sometimes did some writing on the side. If you ever come across some good stories in an old buff magazine by a fellow named W. Frank Street that will be David E. Davis Jr. I used to pick him up on the way to work when he lived on West Frank Street in Birmingham MI. 

Times were much different back in 1962 at Campbell-Ewald and maybe other agencies too. David and I didn't get invited to the luncheon for the presentation to Chevy and we didn't get our picture taken with the Chevy ad manager. In fact we didn't know about the award until we saw the story in the local paper. No matter we were happy for the ad and for Chevrolet. Like I said we just wanted to do good stuff.

Jose Calvillo did the art for all the cars and background. I think it was Jim Jackson that did all the people. It  was not unusual back then to have more than one artist work on an illustration. At the time newspapers were where Chevrolet spent the most money. To quote Ted Little, our Chairman and CEO, " We're convinced that is where we get the most results for our money". 

Friday, July 24, 2009

I have won a bunch of awards over the years for ads I made but this is the best of all. I present it now because I finally came across the above letter. It isn't an award from some bunch of ad guys but from a fellow that saw the ad and bought the Corvette. The letter went to The New Yorker magazine and they sent it on to the agency where it made the rounds. David E. Davis Jr. wrote the copy and Warren Winstanley shot the picture looking out over the Pacific Ocean. I guess it isn't really an "award" but the kind of recognition that counts even more. I have always been very pleased with it. The ad has the kind of simplicity I always thought was important and a warm human touch in both the picture and the copy that seems to be missing in so many ads today. If you can find a copy of The New Yorker for July 7, 1962 or Sports Illustrated for June 11, 1962 you can have the ad Mr. Nelson saw. And if you happen to have a Corvette like the one in the ad you have something even better and worth a ton these days. I wonder if Mr. Nelson was a bald guy? I'll bet he was. 

You can see many more old Corvette ads from this campaign way down near the beginning of my blog.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

This is one of the announcement outdoor boards for the 1969 Chevrolets. It was shot on one of our experimental shoots at the GM Proving Grounds in Mesa, Arizona. Warren Winstanley was the photographer. We had been shooting all day but looking for one last shot before the sun went down. We set up at some distance with a long lens that I liked to use. This was made with a 35 MM camera. At the time our powers that be back at the agency had forbid us to use anything that small. They thought it wouldn't produce a sharp picture. I and Warren liked shooting with the small camera and Warren even bought a special long lens that we called the "big eye". My way around the problem was to go ahead and use the 35MM camera and then have the shot I wanted to use transfered to an 8x10 sheet of film. The powers liked to look at large pictures and didn't ever catch me. We went back to the 35MM film for reproduction. The thing I liked best about this shot was the way it illustrated the little styling bulge above the wheel wells. In regular light this styling feature was not very visible but surely made a fine contribution to the good looks of this Chevrolet. Chuck Felt may have written the copy. He was the Chevy creative director at the time and the author of the very aggressive copy we were using. One last thought on the picture. This is a very honest depiction of the car. You can tell by the vertical oval on the wheels that we didn't use a stretch lens. Everyone, including us, used a stretch lens to make the cars look a little longer and more like styling illustrations. When used the wheels were perfectly round or slightly oval in a horizontal direction. 

Monday, July 13, 2009

This is a fine example of the importance of newspapers to Chevrolet. It is four consecutive full pages that ran in every major paper in the country. And the following black and white ads shown below are follow up ads. Newspapers do not represent the major communication media today that they did back then when nearly everybody got their news from their local paper. My how things have changed. These were all what was called "run of press ads". All that means is that there was no special paper used or anything done to help the ads appear better. Later we would run four page units printed on better paper and in full color. 

The aggressive and competitive nature of the copy was the concept of Chuck Felt who was Chevy creative director and my boss at the time. It was a major shift in Chevy communications. Chuck wrote some of the ads himself and was very demanding that all the ads follow the format. 

The photographs for the Caprice and Impala ads were shot on the Wabeek Farm just off Long Lake Road in West Bloomfield, Michigan. The area is full of condos and large homes today but back then it was farm land with cows roaming the pasture where we did the photography. At the time I lived on Pine Lake and the location was only about a mile from my home. Warren Winstanley was the photographer I worked with and he lived way over near Lake Sinclair. Usually I had to go to a location he found but this time it was my find. To do the pictures required everyone to be on location before dawn with plenty of time to get the shot set up. The cars had to be brought in by covered vans and all the models there on time. It is amazing the number of people it took to make a major photograph. There had to be a number of police on hand too. They were usually off duty officers that had permission to act in our behalf to keep the onlookers away and help with security. We made several pictures at this location. The Caprice newspaper ad and the Impala ad shown above plus a follow up magazine spread and a couple shots not used. Warren was always happy to oblige me in shooting extra pictures because quite often they would be turned into ads and he would receive the going rate for them. I always thought it was a good deal for everyone because all the major expense for trucking the products, getting the models, renting the cops, and using the photographers talents had already been paid for. Film was the cheapest thing we had and a little extra time paid off for everybody. One last little thing, the model in the Impala ad is one of out art directors. I thought he looked better than any of the models we looked at and we used him in this shot and a magazine spread too.

I had a small extra expense while we were on location at the Wabeek Farm. I had driven my 1966 Corvette to the location and while we were busy shooting one of the Wabeek cows decided my radio antenna looked like pretty good eating and tried to bite it off. 

The Chevelle and Camaro ads were photographed by Dennis Gripentrog with Tony Longo acting as art director. They were shot on location at a gravel pit in Oxford, Michigan. The Camaro ad is a good example of what can happen when you get good people together. While they were making the ad they also made another shot that produced the follow up ad that I like so much-"Ask the kid that owns one." If you look close at both pictures you will see it is the same young lady in both ads. She is wearing the same outfit too. Most likely the same situation I described above with Warren Winstanley. Tony got Dennis to do an extra shot that turned into a great ad.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

This is one of my very favorite ads. For me, Chevy ads don't get much better than this. The version above is for newspapers and the same ad ran in all the big magazines of the day. The magazine color ad is even better than this with a bright red car. The copy was by Jim Hartzell and he goes right to the youth market we were looking for with Camaro.  Jim produced a ton of outstanding work for Chevy including the very memorable "Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet". That theme continues to come up in references to Chevy today even though it received very little play back then. Tony Longo did the art direction for the ad. He and Hartzell worked together to produce many of the best ads ever done for Chevrolet. We called Tony "Captain Pops". I don't remember why but Tony was one of those talented people you just had to like. Jim is still with us but Tony went to that big ad agency in the sky many years ago. For this ad I think Tony used Dennis Gripentrog for the photography. Dennis did lots of wonderful work for us over the years and was a leader in understanding how to make great shinny product illustrations. He had a way with lady models too. 

This is a really fine headline and copy for the newly restyled Nova. It looked a lot less like an economy car and offered lots that other competitive makes didn't offer. I especially like the double meaning in "You won't clutch at its price." The new Torque-drive transmission was being offered and it eliminated the clutch pedal. And Nova was a real Chevy value. This was shot on a prototype model at the GM Tech Center across the street from our office on Van Dyke in Warren Michigan. I think the art direction was by Tony Longo and if that is so the photographer was Dennis Gripentrog. I am always surprised today at how many people are fixing up Novas from around this period. I see some with very special engines that could compete with just about anything. I always liked the way they looked too.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The key word in the headline is competitive. That didn't mean all other GM offerings. But it did mean Ford and Plymouth. Newspapers were used for much more than rebates back in the '60s. The ad content was much more like that of magazines. In fact some of the ads ran in both newspapers and magazines. There were times when newspapers were used to support sales events like "Red Tag Days" or "Double Dividend Days" but rebates had yet to be invented. This Chevy could wash it's headlights, apply liquid tire chain,defog the rear window, and keep you warm or cool automatically. Not much compared to what nearly all cars do for you now. But sometimes I kind of wish for the very old days when I could lift the hood and actually do something to the engine. My first car was a 1936 Ford and I could remove the transmission in exactly 20 minutes. That's because I had to do it so many times after removing some gear teeth trying to beat somebody at a light. I loved that car and wish I still had it. Someday I'll show some pictures and tell the story of it. The art direction  was by Tony Longo and the photography by Dennis Gripentrog.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Chevelle was on its way to becoming the car enthusiasts of today like to show off at old car shows. Enthusiasts back then liked it for the same reasons. Performance, and..... performance! It was a very good looker too. With the SS 396 package it was really something. I think this ad may have been shot by Dennis Gripentrog with art direction by Tony Longo.

The facts in this newspaper ad were things you could order on the new Impala or Caprice like headlight washers or liquid tire chains. Perhaps not the strongest available options but presented in a very forceful way. Another good example of the aggressive posture Chuck Felt had established  for Chevrolet for 1969. I think the picture was done by art director Tony Longo and photographer Dennis Gripentrog. Copy was most likely by Jim Hartzell. 

This is not an ad but something of interest that was happening back in 1969. Yes, the OJ is that OJ Simpson. From time to time, Chevrolet was interested in using sport celebrities to promote their cars and trucks. OJ had just graduated from college after an outstanding football career and was the next big name to join the Chevy effort. He would appear in at least one magazine ad. I have a copy somewhere but for now I can't find it. He and his first wife were just standing beside a car--probably an Impala. I never thought much of using celebrities that way but they may have been of use in other ways. The painting above was one of three. Another was of Knute Rockney of Notre Dame fame and the third had something to do with baseball, I think.
I and a couple other agency guys had lunch with OJ at the Recess Club in the Fisher Building, next to the GM building, in Detroit. He was very easy going and agreeable but was also making some big bucks for his trouble. We had a few prints of the painting with us and I had him sign one for my sons. We still have it and I had it framed after he became even more famous. Don't know if it is worth anything but if you happen to have a copy it is certainly an interesting piece of Chevy history.


I wish I had a color version of this ad but the black and white will have to do. What a wonderful way to tell the wagon story. The copy begins--We call them "walk-ins" because they are so easy to get into. Financially. And bodily. It then goes on to tell the story of what you get in even the least expensive model. We could have shown each wagon in a separate picture or placed them all in a row in a field with no people but that would not have had the impact and warmth of our picnic scene. These were the kind of people that were buying Chevy wagons and this was what they sometimes did with them. It was with ads like this that, over the years, we were able to build the relationship with America that Chevy continues to enjoy today. Look at the little boy standing on his head in the upper right hand corner. This shoot with real people turned into a real event with real food and enjoyed by all.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I was very pleased with this newspaper ad for the new Chevy wagon. It is a full page ad although it doesn't look it. The ad space was spread across the lower half of two pages in the paper. Special instructions were given to make sure we got two pages that were joined rather than separated as most pages are in a paper. Chevrolet ran so much advertising in newspapers back then that they were able to make it happen. Here again we are playing to America and the special relationship we were able to build over the years in many different ways. Chevrolet popularity gets a nice plug with all the people lined up to take a seat and with the copy line-"Chevrolet's Sit-in is on". Uncle Sam at the end of the line waiting his turn is a nice warm touch too. I also like the very big type for the headline. I find it odd that art directors doing the ads now have chosen to use small type headlines for such a long time. I'll bet the copy guys would love their headlines big and bold. A good headline shown big and bold commands a lot of attention.

This is the newspaper version of the magazine ad seen below for the announcement of the new Chevy wagon. The same photograph was used simply by making a black and white print from the color shot and adding a little retouching.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

This is an interesting comparison between a station wagon layout ad concept and the final version that actually ran in all the major magazines in 1970. The top ad picture was shot on the Screen Gems movie lot in California during what we called an experimental shoot. There were no approved ads to be shot but we had all the new prototypes to photograph using a few pre determined directions for each car. The wagon for '70 was all new with a very nice feature that made entering the rear seat easier than ever. We called it the walk-in wagon and made the above experimental shot with all the ladies as a demonstration of the capability. The picture for the layout is made with an inexpensive print of not great quality that has also faded some over the years. I presented the ad to the Chevrolet clients but you can guess why I didn't get it sold. The ad that ran was shot in the parking lot at the GM Tech Center in Warren Michigan. Our office was across the street on Van Dyke and when the wagon became available I called Warren Winstanley who shot the original picture in California. He arranged for a pretty young lady to meet us there and we took the picture you see below the layout. No trouble selling it. I still think the picture with the real looking ladies would have made a more memorable ad but when you are making ads you sometimes don't get to have things go your way. I am happy to get to show you both versions now.