The eloquence of John F. Kennedy for @CarnivalPLC

From a purely creative standpoint, the Carnival Corporation ad in yesterday’s Super Bowl was beautifully shot, and an impressive use of a historical speech. (It recalled the “Farmer” ad for Dodge from a couple years ago that made similarly effective use of a speech by broadcaster Paul Harvey.) The JFK remarks were given at the 1962 America’s Cup race. The remarks sound rather extemporaneous, but were probably prepared. Perhaps the work of Ted Sorensen or some other speech writer. Kennedy was no slouch himself, of course, when it came to rhetoric so it’s certainly possible that the words were entirely his own; but that seems unlikely given the nature of how a president’s every word is carefully thought through. Whatever the case, Kennedy was a great sailor, and a Navy man; his love of the sea is clearly evident in the sound and timbre of his voice. Kennedy also loved poetry and knew how to find the music in words, which is so evident here. I’m not really a cruise person; this ad doesn’t change that. However, I admire Carnival as a company for making such great use of the speech, and creating an emotionally appealing and enjoyable ad. I will remember Carnival for making this ad, and like them more because of it. Mission accomplished.



The old and famous


The always interesting Lurzer’s Archive has this fascinating look at the trend of famous, older women appearing in ads for various fashion brands. This is a welcome development as far as I’m concerned; most advertisers are obsessed with youth and targeting their ads to a younger consumer. These products presumably are not strictly trying to reach the geezer demographic. Of course, the buyers of expensive luxury brands skew older; those are typically the consumers who can afford them. But fashion brands can’t afford to be seen as being “for old people.” That would be the kiss of death.

The flip side to this trend is the way products like Medicare insurance plans advertise. They wouldn’t touch this sort of thing with a ten-foot pole. Not because Joni Mitchell is a chain smoker. Or because Joan Didion is too elitist. (Well, those reasons, yes.) But mostly because these ladies are just too damn old.

In my job as a copywriter and Creative Director I work with a great many brands that provide Medicare insurance and other kinds of health-related products that are solely aimed at oldsters. Typically, these brands demand that the actors and models appearing in their ads be deliberately younger than their target audience. While I can buy this argument to a certain point for products like adult diapers, which might want to expand to a younger audience, in the case of Medicare insurance, it can’t be sold to someone under 65 who is not on Medicare. (The only exception is people who are permanently disabled; but rarely do you see ads for Medicare insurance with disabled actors.)

The clients’ reasoning for “younging up” their models is that today’s aging baby boomers are “different” and think “younger” than earlier generations. Never mind that this is a highly debatable premise when you are looking at a hip or knee replacement or living with some chronic ailment. The practical effect is that we sometimes see ads with actors who look decades younger than the 65-year-olds who are the customers we’re targeting for Medicare supplement plans and the like. There is an art to finding models who look their age but also look good for their age, not simply casting people who look ten years younger than they’re supposed to be – which is the way many clients want them to look. So I say, good for fashion brands for showing older people who aren’t trying to hide their age. Maybe brands that are actually targeting older consumers will someday catch up.

The talented Mr. Brown


In my other life, I’m an advertising copywriter. Recently, I had a lot of fun working on a video project for the Mail Handlers Benefit Plan (MHBP). It was also a chance to work with my longtime colleague and friend, the very talented Dick Brown. Dick is something of a legend in Utah advertising. He graciously came out of retirement to be the talent in this funny online video. Singing and performing has long been a sideline for Dick; many years ago he performed with The Young Americans and toured with Johnny Mathis. Thanks Dick, you are a lovely guy and made this a fun project.

poetry, advertising, and hal riney

Business man & new !

I’ve always enjoyed reading and listening to poetry. But I’ve only recently been writing and publishing it. My mission is to write poems for people who think they don’t like poetry. I’m not a conventional poet. I got here after writing advertising for many years. I think poetry has influenced my advertising writing, and vice versa. My poems tend to be short, like most advertising. I use words to create mental images. Good advertising does the same thing. And my poems tell a story about feelings, without telling the reader how to feel. It’s the same with a great ad.

Poetry helped me become a better advertising writer. And advertising has helped me become a better poet.

The best advertising writer during my lifetime was Hal Riney. He wrote like a poet, evoking feelings, telling stories, and creating mental images. He also voiced many of his own commercials, like a poet, becoming as well known as a voiceover artist as a writer. His best work is still some of the greatest advertising ever created.

I never worked for Hal Riney, but his influence on me was huge. I may or may not have consciously copied his style, but it found its way into much of my advertising writing. I’m grateful for that.