“My AHA! Moment” by Ron Anderson

1958 NY Art Directors Annual

Opening this book opened my eyes and my mind

It was Wichita, Kansas.
It was my first job.
And it was the first time I’d ever seen an award annual.
This is that book.

It turned out to be the first textbook in my post-graduate education in advertising. Because it provided me with the education, the inspiration, and the challenge that I could get nowhere else in Wichita, Kansas.

I call it “education by emulation.”

I learned to do Helmut Krone layouts with Ron-Rosenfeld-like headlines and Howard-Zieff-type photos. When I specified type, I chose Herb Lubalin’s favorite font. I became so proficient if I didn’t have a budget to hire Jerome Snyder, I drew a Jerome-Snyder-like drawing myself.

I had become the consummate copier.

In time, I realized the ads I was creating were simply facades—a camouflage of sameness. Basically, irrelevant graphics with contrived headlines.

While I had achieved the Doyle-Dane-look, I’d missed the point. The heart. The idea.

No matter how brilliant the execution, an ad is nothing without the underpinnings of sound strategy. A clear expression of a consumer benefit. A presentation of an idea.

I also discovered part of what makes an ad unique is it addresses a specific problem for a specific client at a specific point in time.

Today, young practitioners of advertising have a somewhat bigger library. True, there’s still the NY ADC Annuals. But there’s also a rich collection of inspiration that wasn’t around when I got started. The CA Annual. The One Show. The Andy. Print Casebooks. Even important references like D&AD from London.

New shows. New annuals. New heroes.

A lot of great work to study and a lot to learn from emulation—as long as we keep in mind what Benjamin Franklin once said:

“There is much difference between imitating a good man and counterfeiting him.”

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One comment

  1. Thanks for sharing your success secret 🙂


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