The Brilliant Words of Leo Burnett
by Dean Rieck
He created advertising icons that we all know and love: the Jolly Green Giant, the Marlboro Man, the Pillsbury Doughboy, and Tony the Tiger. His name was Leo Burnett. And along with William Bernbach and David Ogilvy, he is credited with ushering in the creative revolution and changing the face of advertising during the 1950s and 1960s.
He's not known as a direct marketer but as an "image" advertiser. Instead of the copy-heavy ads with lengthy product descriptions and selling arguments that dominated advertising in the 19th Century, he developed fresh, simple icons that came to symbolize easy-to-understand product benefits for the busy 20th Century consumer. And for mass market, retail-based products, his approach worked like crazy.
Like many advertising greats, Burnett thought deeply about advertising. And I've collected a few of this thoughts for your consideration.
"Advertising says to people, 'Here's what we've got. Here's what it will do for you. Here's how to get it."
"Anyone who thinks that people can be fooled or pushed around has an inaccurate and pretty low estimate of people and he won't do very well in advertising."
"Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people."
"Fun without sell gets nowhere but sell without fun tends to become obnoxious."
"Good advertising does not just circulate information. It penetrates the public mind with desires and belief."
"I am one who believes that one of the greatest dangers of advertising is not that of misleading people, but that of boring them to death."
"I have learned that it is far easier to write a speech about good advertising than it is to write a good ad."
"If you are writing about baloney, don't try to make it Cornish hen, because that is the worst kind of baloney there is. Just make it darned good baloney."
"If you can't turn yourself into your customer, you probably shouldn't be in the ad writing business at all."
"Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read."
"Plan the sale when you plan the ad."
"Rarely have I seen any really great advertising created without a certain amount of confusion, throwaways, bent noses, irritation and downright cursedness."
"I have learned that trying to guess what the boss or the client wants is the most debilitating of all influences in the creation of good advertising."
"Regardless of the moral issue, dishonesty in advertising has proved very unprofitable."
"The greatest thing to be achieved in advertising, in my opinion, is believability, and nothing is more believable than the product itself."
"The secret of all effective advertising is not the creation of new and tricky words and pictures, but one of putting familiar words and pictures into new relationships."
"The work of an advertising agency is warmly and immediately human. It deals with human needs, wants, dreams and hopes. Its 'product' cannot be turned out on an assembly line."
"There is no such thing as a permanent advertising success."
"We want consumers to say, 'That's a hell of a product' instead of, 'That's a hell of an ad.'"
"What helps people, helps business."
"When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won't come up with a handful of mud either."
"I have learned that any fool can write a bad ad, but that it takes a real genius to keep his hands off a good one."
That last quote is one of my favorites. I use it for clients who get a little too enthusiastic with the red pen. I use it for businesses that want successful ad materials "updated" just because the marketing department is bored. And I even use it for myself when I get the urge to start tinkering with my own work just to "jazz" things up a bit.
We all have to remind ourselves now and then that our job is to sell, not to entertain.
Copyright © 2005 Dean Rieck. All Rights Reserved.
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