WHY ARE YOU EVEN DOING THIS?
As a faithful follower to this weekly screed, you have some kind of interest in advertising.
Whether you create advertising for yourself or for someone else, you have some vested interest in "Getting your name out there."
Which, frankly, is a really weak goal for advertising. "You gotta get your name out there, kid."
There are plenty of names out there. Do you care about them all? Any of them?
What names do you care about?
You care about the names that make you feel something.
HOW DO YOU MAKE PEOPLE FEEL?
This screed makes you feel something.
Some people love it. I have the fan mail to prove it.
Some people hate it. Sometimes, when I write things that don't toe a particular party line, people feel insulted and they unsubscribe.
So it goes. Their loss.
But feelings are at the root of everything we do in creating advertising.
Creating an effective advertisement requires understanding how to make a single, defined individual feel the right thing about that which is being sold.
THERE MUST BE A RELEVANT ELEMENT OF ART, POETRY, SHOWMANSHIP, FINESSE, SOMETHING
An advertisement can't just be a Post-it Note that says, "Yeah, we sell that, too!"
And, unfortunately, that is what so much advertising is.
"Hey, we sell this for all your fill-in-the-blank needs!"
Which brings us to why I'm even on this tear.
Something happened over the holidays, and it represents a great loss to many people, including those of us with a fondness for smart radio advertising that means something.
ON CHRISTMAS EVE, WE LOST A LEGEND
The radio advertising genius Dick Orkin went to the great Radio Ranch in the sky.
Dick was 84.
And he was perhaps one of the single best minds ever in advertising.
His specialty was radio, but his brand of thinking informed advertising at large for anyone willing to pay attention.
His brand of thinking is especially useful now, in our age of not-too-deep thinking and information overload.
Dick was no dummy. He had a bachelor's degree in speech and theater from Franklin & Marshall, a master's in clinical psychology from the Phillips Graduate Institute, and studied for his MFA at Yale.
DICK KNEW THINGS
One of the things he knew, and which informed everything in his work, was how to matter to the listener.
His Famous Radio Ranch was known for developing funny radio campaigns.
The Radio Ranch had a wealth of advertising trophies backed by an abundance of impressive, results-producing campaign credits for businesses across the nation and even across the ocean.
Long before I knew who Dick Orkin was, I knew his work.
It leapt out of the radio, grabbed you by the ears, made you listen--and made you care.
When I was eventually working in Los Angeles radio, I had the good fortune to learn from Dick at industry seminars, and later in private sessions and classes at his home in Toluca Lake.
DICK WAS A THINKER AT A DEEPER LEVEL
One of the things that so many radio advertisers want to have is a "funny commercial."
There's a kind of conditioning that has come with Big Agency Advertising, and it's the (sometimes) misguided notion that advertising needs to be funny.
In past screeds, we've dismantled that notion and proven that funny doesn't sell. Relevance sells. It doesn't hurt if it's funny. But it must be relevant.
Dick was happy to explain how to be funny, and how to make it relevant at a deeper level than most slap-dash comedy radio commercials ever reach.
DICK ALSO SHARED THE UNDERPINNINGS OF HIS PARTICULAR BRAND OF GENIUS
In searching for examples of Dick's work, I came across a YouTube clip.
It was posted by Dick's good friend, radio guru Dan O'Day. For years, Dick and Dan worked together, training radio professionals in ways to make better radio.
One of the Dick Orkin presentations that Dan sells as an info product is called, The Architecture Of Comedy. In the YouTube clip, before we get there, Dick has been playing radio commercials for the audience, and discussing how the comedy works. He then says, in part:
[The] fact that sex and death are
the basis of so much humor, including
some of the materials that you've
heard in the commercials here, is
because these are things largely
out of our control.
If we could control them, of course,
life would go swell, because everything
is in our control. It's a perfect world.
But we know it's not a perfect world.
Everything human is pathetic. As long
as a person takes themselves seriously,
there will be humor in the world. Because
we're taking ourselves seriously in the
face of an imperfect situation and an
imperfect world. Only man has dignity.
Only man, therefore, can be funny.
THIS IS NOT STANDARD COMEDY INSTRUCTION THINK
Dick goes on to talk about pomposity, ego inflation, ego deflation, the comedy of Type A versus Type B personalities, the awareness and the capacity to understand living in a world where things go wrong and you can laugh at them, the sense of maturity and self-worth required for that, and how a sense of humor is the ability to avoid getting caught in mind ruts where you can't see the opposite.
This is somewhat different than the standard "comedy rules" type of instruction that often comes from comedy experts--things like "Use The Comedy Rule of Threes."
There are all kinds of technical rules that help make comedy work.
But rarely does any guru talk about the human condition and the underpinnings of life that need to be understood before trotting out those rules.
DICK PROVIDED SOMETHING THAT IS SORELY LACKING RIGHT NOW
He provided thoughtful insight into that which lies beneath the craft.
He had a depth of knowledge in performance and psychology that he was readily willing to share.
In the present info-overload culture, the kind of depth that Dick brought to his how-to insight are sorely lacking.
Tools and tricks and surface features are often all anyone gets.
They get only the tip of the iceberg.
The iceberg's foundation--the 90% of the substance that makes it possible--is hidden beneath the surface.
Dick was great at revealing the foundations and making them relevant and useful.
And without relevance and usefulness, where are we?
Dick Orkin has left the ranch.
Long live Dick.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
Blaine Parker helps people sell their stuff. An advertising Creative Director and Copywriter at Slow Burn Marketing, he specializes in big-brand thinking for small-business marketing. He has the voice of a much taller man.