As Julian Watkins intimates in his dedication of this book, anyone who attempts to name "The 100 Greatest Advertisements" is not settling the matter, but is merely starting something. Because I think Mr. Watkins is starting a good thing, I am glad that he asked me to write the Foreword to his book.
When I began as a copywriter, a book likethis would have been worth more money to me than I owned. A week's salary would have been a bargain price. Possession of such a collection of ads, and insight into how they were produced and what they accomplished, would have paid dividends on the spot - and would have continued to pay them for years afterwards while I was a developing copywriter,and for many more years during which I hired, taught, trained and tried to inspire other copywriters.
Writers and artists do not learn best from textbooks, but by doing and by absorbing through their pores, from the work of others, the particular qualities which appeal to them and stimulate their own potentialities. It is harder for teachers of advertising in schools and colleges to know and obtain the great advertisements, or even the successful ones, than it is for teachers of literature to know and obtain the great or successful books. We in the advertising business have not been adequately cooperative in providing teaching material, particularly information which willhelp teachers and students distinguish between the superlatively effective, the fairly effective, and the ineffective, in copy.
There are many successful ads, few great ones. A great ad by virtue of the very adjective applied to it, must be not merely successful, but phenomenally so. Yet phenomenal results alone - whether in number of readers, or inquiries, or even sales, do not make people feel that an ad is great unless its message is made memorable by originality, wit, insight, conviction or some other notable quality of mind or spirit. And even those qualities do not make it great if its claims are dishonest, if it impairs the good will of the customer toward the advertiser either before or after the sale, or if it impairs the good will of the public toward advertising. The best identification of a great ad is that its public is not only strongly sold by it, but that both the public and the advertising world remember it for a long time as an admirable piece of work.
A single agency or advertising department cannot as a rule do much better than the schools in putting before the beginner enoughads that can be called great. The agency or department may produce much excellent work, but seldom does that work span the wide variety of tasks that advertising can perform, or the widely varied styles and methodsby which similar goods and services can be and have been sold.
Of course, there is always on display in current media the daily and weekly grist of all the advertising mills, but current advertising style can be as monotonous as current automobile style, and pre-occupation with it merely sets up the need for a strong antidote, lest the pressure of standardization ruin the youngster for life.Advertising is no exception to the rule that superlative work has an unequalled thrill for the craftsman. The great ads will contribute mysteriously but potently to any beginner who has a spark that can be struck. And, let me add, Mr. Watkins' Combination Panorama and Close-up of the Ads that Folks Remember can be just as enlightening and even more profitable to the Boss himself.