Friday, June 28, 2013

Imagery and Advertising

A philosopher once observed that just as our eyes need light in order to see, our minds need ideas in order to think.

We recognize ideas as we encounter them. It is the natural discovery process called "realization."

Therein lies the great force of advertising.


This revolutionary advertisement for Smirnoff was the work of photographer Bert Stern who died earlier this week at the age of 83. He lived in New York City.

The slogan for this 1956 ad in Life Magazine was "It takes your breath away." The promise, of course, is that this drink is more astounding than the typical martini.

Here, in this "dry" environment, the experience has turned the world's largest object upside down.

This idea was so clear to readers, so compelling, and so easily extendable to follow-on ad pages, that it transformed America into a martini sipping country during the late 1950s.

Stern saw the "dry" connection to the desert two years earlier when he shot a prototype photo near Palm Springs, CA.  In 1955, Smirnoff sent him to Egypt to shoot the real thing.


This advertising demonstrates the power of original artistic expression when it works in service of a compelling selling idea.

Persuasion is not necessarily rhetorical. Indeed, "realization" is often more usefully produced by imagery.

    Copyright © 2013 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Paying Attention to Attention

Blur is a popular metaphor for the human information environment, as new electronic media, information, entertainment and social connectivity compete for our attention everywhere.

Sometimes, we need help to stay on track.

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Rather than tout electronic entertainment features with inherently distracting playlists and phone connectivity, Mercedes calls our attention to the task at hand.

This commercial is an effective demonstration of distracted driving.

Lulled by a popular song, the driver begins to day-dream, conjuring an alluring companion.

Sensing his loss of concentration, the automobile intervenes.

Warned by the assist signal, the driver snaps to attention and the companion resolves into an alert passenger who is paying attention to the road. Is the passenger the driver's best friend who happened to be riding with him? Or, is the passenger the embodiment of the driver alert system? Could be both, we don't know.

The commercial demonstrates the everyday phenomenon of "looking away" in modern information environments, and the importance of staying on task when attention matters most.

   Copyright © 2013 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Advertising and Persuasion

Perhaps the most evocative image is that of the courageous woman.

This idea is compelling because of its complexity. The facets of this idea include vulnerability, generosity, grace, sacrifice, expectations, acuity and strength.

Although superficially contradictory, historically, this admixture of facets comprises the essential motivating metaphor of nations.

In the United States, this metaphorical figure is Columbia. As a statue, she stands above the Capitol Building in her District of Columbia.

Seen in this 1917 poster, wearing the classical cap of liberty, she extends her arms to implore actions for the common good.


In 1918, this imagery appeared in a more contemporary form. Standing before the Capitol Building, with the Columbia statue atop, a young woman quotes then President Wilson and embraces the flag to her heart to summon the nation to action.


Metaphors are not merely stylistic "figures of speech" comparing two objects without using the words "like" or "as." Reliance on that kind of definition is an injustice.

Metaphors carry deep cultural meaning. And, without such meaning, we cannot move forward, we cannot act with productive purpose.

Therein lies the power of metaphor in advertising. If you have not connected your message to its cultural value, you have missed the opportunity to persuade.

  Copyright © 2013 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Extraordinary Advertising

I have often written about admirable advertising. This is that top five percent of everyday advertising that is both strategically smart and productively creative.

Adverting can sometimes rise to a higher level, to help us see new possibilities about who we are and what we might become.

At the highest level, advertising can turn the nation. Noble virtues can be conveyed, and the public shown how their everyday actions can make important differences. This is the basis of social movements.


This advertisement was so compelling when it first appeared in the New York Herald Tribune in 1942, that newspapers all over the nation repeated it. The copy was also widely read during radio broadcasts.

These powerful words became, in effect, a leading viral phenomenon in their own era.

It is 3:42 a.m. on a troop train.
Men wrapped in blankets are breathing heavily.
Two in every lower berth. One in every upper.
This is no ordinary trip. It may be their last in the U.S.A. till the end of the war. Tomorrow they will be on the high seas.
One is wide awake ... listening ... staring into the blackness.
It is the kid in Upper 4.

Tonight, he knows, he is leaving behind a lot of little things - and big ones.
The taste of hamburgers and pop ... the feel of driving a roadster over a six-lane highway ... a dog named Shucks, or Spot, or Barnacle Bill.
The pretty girl who writes so often ... that grey-haired man, so proud and awkward at the station ... the mother who knit the socks he'll wear soon.
Tonight he's thinking them over.
There's a lump in his throat. And maybe - a tear fills his eye. It doesn't matter, Kid. Nobody will see ... it's too dark.

A couple of thousand miles away, where he's going, they don't know him very well.
But people all over the world are waiting, praying for him to come.
And he will come, this kid in Upper 4.
With new hope, peace and freedom for a tired, bleeding world.

Next time you are on the train, remember the kid in Upper 4.
If you have to stand enroute - it is so he may have a seat.
If there is no berth for you - it is so that he may sleep.
If you have to wait for a seat in the diner - it is so he ... and thousands like him ... may have a meal they won't forget in the days to come.
For to treat him as our most honored guest is the least we can do to pay a mighty debt of gratitude.

The New Haven R.R.

It is impossible to know how many lives were made better by the words of copywriter Nelson C. Metcalf, Jr. and the art direction of Ed Georgi.

Clearly, the message resonates yet today.

    Copyright © 2013 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

An Adventure in American History and Advertising

Advertising is a compelling window on the economy and society of any nation. You can see this for yourself in my exhibit of admirable print ads in America since 1890. 

Using Pinterest, I've organized close to 400 print ads with a "board" for each of 13 decades. Each decade begins with a brief narrative about the economy, technology, and society. 

For example, the narrative for the 2010 decade is, "Concerns about climate and the environment continue in the midst of ongoing loss of economic opportunity and the apparent disfunctionality of politics and government."

The first of the 30 advertisements for the 2010 decade is from Kaiser Permanente. It speaks to the fact that 50 percent of Americans without health care are people of color.



Read the narrative for each of the thirteen boards, and see how the 30 ads for each decade inform you about the direction of the times.

Here's the link to AdmirableAds  where you can begin your adventure in American history and advertising.

    Copyright © 2013 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Advertising Reflects Family Values

In 2010 Pew Research, a highly respected national polling organization, found that racial intermarriage is almost universally accepted in the United States.  

Indeed, over one-third of adults say they have a family member or close relative married to someone of a different race.

In light of the substantial weight of public opinion, and the changing demographics of the nation, this Cheerios commercial presents an everyday family.

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This commercial succeeds because of the quality of the script and the actors. Each actor plays an important role portraying a caring family member. Cheerios plays a role as the centerpiece in a gift-like act that celebrates the central values of family.

This is admirable advertising.

For more perspective on the psychology of advertising, please see Diversity and Communication Power.

   Copyright © 2013 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Advertising and Energy

Being at the beach means more than enjoying the surf, sand and sun.

Today, just as with anything we do, it means continuous conversations using our phones. 

There’s a lot of energy at the beach, but what do you do when your phone runs out of it?

See how Nivea has grabbed the energy of the sun, put it in the hands of beach goers, and in so doing placed their sunscreen products in the middle of a summer of fun.

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The video shows you how Nivea employed the magazine Veja Rio to deliver their sunscreen products ad featuring a wafer-thin solar panel powering a phone plug. 

Advertising is all about placing your brand at the center of the cultural conversation. Clearly, Nivea shines with its expertise on how to enjoy the benefits of the sun.

For more on how psychological theory informs thinking about advertising, please see Apperception and Opt In Advertising and the many other posts in this comprehensive review of the Psychology of Advertising.

    Copyright © 2013 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved

Monday, June 3, 2013

Advertising is Magic Intersection

At its best, advertising is the magical intersection of art and commerce. 

This is wonderfully demonstrated by Amtrak advertising in the late 1980s. You will recognize the voices of singer Richie Havens and actress Colleen Dewhurst.

Appreciate how the copy, visualization, musical score, and vocal performance move you in this commercial from 1986.

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As the commercial tells us… it is the way we see, the way we feel, the way we look out on life.

Great advertising finds that magical intersection of our individual lives with something that is much larger.

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The artistry in this 1989 commercial embraces the traveler, and everyone who made that travel possible, to celebrate their membership in the grand experience that is America.

Advertising is grand and powerful when helps us recognize critical intersections in our lives, choices we can make, pathways we can pursue, to lead richer, fuller lives.

This is the magic of advertising.

For more on the psychology of advertising, please see Diversity and Communication Power.

      Copyright © 2013 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Attitude Toward the Ad and Suspension of Disbelief

Double booking presents problems for airlines, but if you are piloting a Kia Cerato there’s never an uncomfortable moment.

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This commercial from Australia is all about the concept “attitude toward the ad” and another concept called “excitation transfer.” We smile at the light-hearted interpretation of modern times, and then our feelings of enjoyment with the commercial are transferred to our attitudes toward the brand.

Through this enjoyable moment, we come to appreciate the selling idea that uncomfortable moments can be made to disappear in this car. Clearly this is the hyperbole of surprise, but during this commercial we may suspend disbelief to accept the idea as we smile.

For more perspective on the psychology of advertising, please see Advertising and the Arc of History.

Copyright © 2013 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.