Way back in the day, 1960 or so, I got to attend some Advertising Age ad workshops at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. The excitement and galvanomter level were about the same, I imagine, as at today's Austin SXSW; the giants were there. Bill Bernbach. Commander Whitehead. Howard Gossage. Maybe George Lois was there but if he was I don't remember him, and I think I would have. But the place was thunderous with the footsteps of real giants, and their shoes proved hard to fill in the decades to follow.
Bernbach stands out as one who changed advertising forever, made it resonant with intelligence, meaning, lightning-like speed of benefit-recognition. "Think small," was the headline that started it all, in a full-page newspaper ad for Volkswagen that showed the car small in a corner, surrounded by space. Wasted space, some would say. Ogilvy would have filled it with words, but that's neither here nor there--he was just another kind of giant, albeit in love with words. His.
Heady times. I came back from that workshop and began my career in earnest. That workshop was the rocket booster that put me in my smallish orbit.
Oddly, the advice I remember from Bernbach was, "Keep your health." I took notes furiously, sat near him at his table at lunch, listened intently to all everyone had to say, but all I can recall from that career-fueling few days in Chicago was Bernbach advising, "Keep your health."
I remember puzzling over it when he said it. I was young, indestructible, smoked like a coal plant, pulled all-nighters, dove into impossibly stressful situations, and health was, well, not a factor.
It was the best advice, not just some throwaway. Of course I wanted advice on how to have great ideas. I didn't realize that good health was the linchpin for that and all else. I came to that realization gradually over many years.
Keep your health.
Oh, right, this was to be a review of Damn Good Advice by George Lois. And so it is. Somewhat.
The abrasive, audacious, self-congratulatory, legendary George Lois wrote a book of bite-sized and numbered recommendations, all illustrated, usually with some paean to his own wit and creativity. I'm not denigrating Lois for any of this--he can back it up with accomplishment. And I mean stellar meaningful accomplishment. He joins that company of giants, that pantheon of MVPs, because he performed admirably in the arena, time after time after time. He kicked marketing ass. And maybe an AE or two's butts along the way. I seem to recall that.
He fired a racist client. A big client. He stood by his principles, unwaveringly, without apology. Still does. He's as free with compliments for others as he is for himself. He simply takes his own advice, number 91 in the book, "When you got it, flaunt it!"
If you're a "creative," you'll find yourself smiling, nodding and even laughing as you read this compendium of smarts and smart-ass. It's a, yes, must-read, for all of you in the arena.
And here's to your health.