Fun With Advertising: A Dazzlingly Smart Ad From CBS, and Something a Little Cheesier

Aug 6, 2014

I absolutely love this print trade ad from CBS, which, as it turns out, is an award-winner.

I took a picture of the ad — here it is:

cbs-ad-3a

The target of the ad is potential advertisers on CBS. As you can see, the ad is spread over two pages, and the real thing is much more dynamic than my picture of it. It really pops off the pages. Furthermore, the ad’s in dramatic black & white. To the right of the picture the headline reads “The MAGIC is built-in.”

Here’s what the copy in the ad says (the words that are italicized, below, are italicized in the actual ad):

“There are two pictures on this page: the one you are looking at; and the one they are looking at (which you can’t see).

“To you the important picture is the people in front of the television screen. It is a picture of special impact achieved only by this medium, yet which goes far beyond the novelty of television.

“But we are equally concerned with the picture on the screen. For it is the result of creative programming which alone can sustain this kind of impact…building into every program the magic that holds the largest audiences week in and week out.

“It is now clear that CBS is the richest source of such programming in television today; that CBS consistently has more of the most popular programs than any other network; and that most of these programs have been created or produced by CBS.

“This picture of television’s impact is a picture any advertiser can create—but he needs the magic of CBS to hold it.”

Then, at the bottom of the ad it says, simply, CBS TELEVISION

Combine the alluring visual of the picture with the copy above, and you’ve got one really smart, effective ad. And, in fact, the ad won a prestigious Club Medal from the Art Director’s Club of New York.

Kudos to the artist on the project, William Noyes, and to CBS’s in-house art director, William Golden.

And oh yes, did I mention that this ad ran 65 years ago, in 1949? Golden, CBS’s brilliant adman who also is credited with creating the CBS “eye” logo, died in 1959.

Back in 1949 there were about a million homes in the U.S. that had TV. Today there are about 116 million homes. Yet this ad is as truthful today as it was then. (And to answer your question as to why I’m acting as a shill for CBS this morning, I’m not. In fact, I collect old ads and recently came across this one in my collection.)

I’ve been interested in advertising pretty much my entire life. Back in the late 1980s I wrote some freelance articles for Adweek. Then I spent more than a decade working for two ad trades, Inside Media and Ad Age.

And it’s not just old ads that interest me. Recently a billboard popped up in my neighborhood here in Los Angeles. Here’s a picture of it:

Tillamook1

For those of you who do not live on the West Coast, Tillamook cheese has been produced, “with pride,” as they say, by the farmers of the Tillamook County Creamery Association in Tillamook, Oregon, for the past 105 years.

I first fell in love with Tillamook when I was a kid, and my stepmom would make an old family recipe of hers for spaghetti. I recall lots of garlic, fresh tomatoes and the coup de grace, baking the entire concoction under a layer of Tillamook cheddar cheese. Mouthwateringly delicious can only begin to describe how good it was.

Soon after I saw the billboard I arrived home and was about to tell my wife my reaction to it.

But as soon as I mentioned the billboard she blurted out, “My God. I couldn’t believe it. I actually pulled the car over and made Ellie and Schuyler look at it. Can you believe anything dumber. Can you believe someone actually got paid to say it’s “Tillamookier.” Hands down the most ridiculous billboard I’ve ever seen in my life.”

I laughed and said, ”Wow. You know how much I love that cheese. We haven’t had it for a long time, so I did something a billboard has never made me do. I stopped at Ralphs,” and then I pulled out the package of Tillamook I had just bought. Then I said, laughing, “You know, when it is thicker it really is Tillamookier. No other cheddar tastes like it.”

My wife — and our kids — could not believe I actually liked the ad and that it made me purchase the product. This debate went on for days at our house, with me being the butt of many jokes. “Hey Dad, pass the ketchup. You know, the one that’s tomatoier.” “Hey Dad, did you make me that tuna sandwich. You know, the one that’s fishier.”

Finally, in desperation, I called my old friend Bob Garfield. For a number of years Bob and I were colleagues at Ad Age, where his primary job was as our ad reviewer par excellence.

Nowadays, Bob is co-host of NPR’s “On the Media” and writes for MediaPost.

I explained to him what had happened and asked him, as an expert in commenting on ad campaigns, what he thought. Bob replied, “The expert says that the billboard broke through without being shocking, without being offensive, without being dishonest, but by being self-consciously stupid. And if you can do that in this ad-cluttered world, you have won.”

Feeling much better, I later went back to the TV to watch more shows on CBS. Can’t help myself. They’re Big Bangier.

One Comment

  1. Absolutely love this article.

    Chuck, you’re spot on about both the CBS ad and the Tillamook Cheese billboard. And, as usual, Garfield is right in his assessment.

    Your story goes to show that there is still good advertising being written and produced today. It just gets lost in the flood of “content” that surrounds us 24/7. An ad that can effectively break through the clutter and get its hooks into your psyche as you described is a rare and beautiful thing.

    Thanks for sharing.

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