It was totally off my radar, but on August 13th, 2011, Bill Bernbach would have been 100 years old. Who is Bill Bernbach, you ask? Well, if you’re in advertising (especially if you’re a writer), you take a knee at the mere mention of his name. He would be on the Mount Rushmore of advertising if there were such a thing.
If you’re not in advertising, you can still thank him for helping making the ads you read and the TV commericals you watch more informative, thought provoking, entertaining and much, much smarter. He never talked down to his consumer audience. He treated them with respect and never like they were not the “lowest common denominator.”
And he wrote beautiful copy. Just read the original Volkswagen campaign and you’ll see what I mean. “Lemon.” “Think small.” And the list goes on and on.
My Facebook friend Patrick Scullin has a very nice tribute on his blog: http://blog.asoy.com/2011/remembering-bill
I teach my students at UNC that writing copy doesn’t have to be scientific and formulaic and just a bunch of marketing points strung together. It can be powerful and inspiring and intelligent and may actually sell something.
The craft of copywriting may be a dying art, but every time I read something Bernbach wrote, it restores my faith.
If I could be 1/100th of the thinker and writer Bill Bernbach was, I’d be happy. And probably rich. But he’s given all us creative writer types something to aim for.