One of my first experiences in the advertising field was my stint at Stone & Thomas in Wheeling. I was the stat camera operator. My job was to make “PMTs” of any paste-up the designers put together. Seems archaic compared to the super-fast layout we now have on computers. Cutting and pasting with a “waxer,” using a roller to make sure the art was flat enough so shadows didn’t appear when the camera shot. Oh, those were the days.
As I said, I cut my teeth on the camera as I slowly worked my way into the design department. One of my first projects was to do one of the store’s “Wednesday Specials” – an ad we ran, believe it or not, every Wednesday featuring a product bought especially for a deep discount.
I got to work with Larry Cooper, the small electronics/kitchen buyer. A fun guy who, as I remember, dyed his hair deep black every three months and ate tuna and pineapple every morning.
That particular Wednesday, Larry had a special buy on Dirt Devil sweepers. A great price at $99.99. I liked Larry, so I took my time and produced what I thought was a great ad. I took the old feel of the Wednesday Special and reworked it. Crafting with my heart an ad that would go down in history at Stone & Thomas…one to be hung in the break room and admired for generations. It was my turning point. The ad, when presented to my colleagues, was highly praised.
“This guy is going somewhere!”
“This ad may be the best thing we have done all year!”
I was bathed in praise. I reveled in this and knew I had found my calling. I felt like a rock star when we called Larry to present this masterpiece to him. He sauntered into the office his usually contagious smile and looked at my Rembrandt.
“This is a beautiful ad!” he spouted. “A truly beautiful piece of work. I think this is one of the best ads I’ve seen come out of this department!”
I beamed in the corner. I had done it…I had created the greatest ad ever.
And then…it happened.
“A beautiful ad.” Larry continued. “It won’t sell any (expletive) sweepers…but it is a beautiful ad.”
The room went silent. A cold shiver ran the length of my spine. My ad…my beautiful ad…how could it not sell any sweepers?!
Larry argued his point with the head of the department while I sat numb in the corner. It was decided that the ad, the masterpiece of the sixth floor, would run as is.
Not one sweeper sold that Wednesday. The ad, though a thing of beauty, wasn’t on point. I didn’t emphasize the price point enough. The following week, we ran it again as Mr. Cooper wanted. The result – a sellout.
The lesson I learned that day…just because it looks good, it may not be on point.