I thought I’d change tack in this rant and write about some of my favourite advertising fiction. Although I have it from a good inside source that the second one may not be entirely fictional.
I read The Space Merchants on my last trip up to New York just recently. It’s a tale of a copywriter who’s made it onto the board. Set 100 years in the future it describes a world in which two advertising agencies run everything. They are large corporations and its interesting that two of the agency holding companies are now in the Business Week Global 500. The premise is that their power comes from their ability to control the mass’s mind. Set against them are the consies, which I imagine derives from conservationists, who are in subversive defiance of a purely materialistic and consumption driven culture. It’s a fun read even if it were only because there is not a lot of fiction about advertising. I had no idea that the authors were famous for science fiction, but thought instead that they were themselves copywriters with the way they laxed lyrical about the poetic ability of copywriters. In all, quick and fun.
This book is gripping from beginning to end. It’s an account of an agency pitching for a piece of business written as a series of e-mails. The characters are bordering on stereotypical 80s agency – larger than life and indulgent in their vices. The creative director at one point is caught with his pants down in his office. There’s a nerdy CEO from Oslo offering his advice on the pitch. Even more bizarre is that I hired a planner who worked at the agency during the time in question. I reckon the book should be banned, at least to clients.
I wept when I read this. This is a true account of a pitch for the Subaru business. There are four very different pitch strategies. The author was given unusual access into all of the agencies and the client to write this book. But the book doesn’t stop there, it goes on to tell of Weiden & Kennedy’s tortured
relationship with the client up until they lost the account. That such an iconic agency would expose its underbelly to the author and thence to the world was refreshing in a world where agencies are agressively defensive of their image. Read and learn.