By Glen Peak, President & Brand Strategist
Several of my formative years in the advertising agency business were spent at Leo Burnett Advertising – Chicago. A great agency that has stood the test of time and today remains one of the very best. In my view (and a host of others), Burnett has remained a great ad agency because its founder had a great set of values and he and the agency’s leadership over the years instilled those same values into all who worked there.
The importance of finding “Inherent drama” is one of those fundamental beliefs. This “truth” about creating great advertising remains as relevant today as it was in the 1960 speech below.
An excerpt from a speech presented originally by Leo Burnett to the Chicago Copywriter’s Club – October 4, 1960.
One of the basic concepts in our shop is that there is what we call “inherent drama” in every product, and that our No. 1 job is to dig for it and capitalize on it rather than taking the easy way out and leaning on contrived devices and far-fetched associations. I don’t think you have to be what they call “off-beat” to be interesting. A truly interesting ad or commercial is “off-beat” by its very rarity.
Today we have both pictures and words at our command for the expression of this inherent drama, whether it is in a package of cigarettes or a high-priced automobile.
The graphic arts have advanced so far, and with TV the predominantly visual medium that it is, I sometimes feel that good writing is rapidly becoming a lost art in advertising.
My own convictions about individuality and inherent drama, as they pertain to writing, were born, I guess, in school. I have culled from my scrapbook a passage from de Maupassant describing his literary training under Flaubert in 1875. At the expense of sounding academic, I am going to read a passage from it:
“Talent is a matter of considering long and attentively what you want to express, so that you may discover an aspect of it that has never before been noticed or reported. Even the slightest thing contains a little that is unknown. We must find it. To describe a blazing fire or a tree in a plain, we must remain before that fire or that tree until they no longer resemble for us any other tree or any other fire.
“That is the way to become original.
“After repeating over and over again this truth, that there are not in the entire world two grains of sand, two flies, two hands or two noses that are absolutely the same, he (Flaubert) made me describe, in a few sentences, a being or an object in such a way as to particularize it clearly, to distinguish it from all other beings or all the other objects of the same race of kind.
“Whatever you want to say, there is only one word that will express it, one verb to make it move, one adjective to qualify it. You must seek that word, that verb and that adjective, and never be satisfied with approximations, never resort to tricks, even clever ones, or to verbal pirouettes, to escape the difficulty.”