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Then We Set His Hair on Fire: Insights and Accidents from a Hall of Fame Career in Advertising Hardcover – September 8, 2005
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Partly a memoir, partly a textbook on classic advertising campaigns, and partly one man's discourse on the complicated art of persuading people to do a simple thing--"buying more stuff"--Dusenberry's work will satisfy different audiences. Most obviously, eager business students wanting to learn the behind-the-scenes details that went into the creation of world-famous advertising campaigns will find a trove of rich anecdotes. Dusenberry describes the epiphanous moment that led to GE's two-decade slogan, "Bringing Good Things to Life." He then weaves an entertaining narrative around the clients and campaigns that defined his career: HBO ("There's no place like HBO"), Pepsi ("Generation Next"), Cingular ("Raising the Bar"), even President Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign ("Morning in America"), and others.
Dusenberry pays brief lip service to the science of advertising, describing the kind of background research that underlies great ad campaigns, but he admits a greater faith in gut instinct and the all-important insights that drove his clients' success. The alternative? Dullness and failure. According to the opinionated and colorful Dusenberry, overly careful reliance on empirical data leads to copycat advertising, which in turn produces the worst of all situations: a "parity economy" in which goods and services are relatively commoditized, without the kind of special differentiation that creates lasting businesses.
Instead, Dusenberry exhorts his readers proverbially to "move the needle" in non-trivial ways, to get "sauce on your sleeve," to "stand for something," and every once in awhile, when circumstances warrant, to make the boldest of all moves, "betting the farm." These axiomatic phrases might seem trite from another author, but somehow, Dusenberry makes them seem trenchant with his never-ending stories. In one of the newer stories, for example, he recounts how BBDO staged a pro bono campaign for New York City shortly after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, using celebrities such as Henry Kissinger, Robert DeNiro, Billy Crystal, Ben Stiller, and Barbara Walters to illustrate the power of the dreams that draw so many young people to the city, even today.
It's those powerful dreams that have become lost in so much advertising today, and which Dusenberry recalls in spades. While his playfully titled volume cannot be taken as a comprehensive, scientific manual for better advertising, it does well in reminding us of the qualities from advertising's origins that remain ever-relevant. --Peter Han
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Top Customer Reviews
This process can occur in any human enterprise and invariably requires effective communication, cooperation, and collaboration involving several different people. However, everything begins with a need to be filled, a question to be answered, or a problem to be solved. Then extensive research must be conducted, with the results rigorously analyzed. Hopefully, what Dusenberry calls a "salient fact" will be revealed which should lead to a compelling insight. Then there must be a strategy which will "drive" the insight during implementation. In advertising, Dusenberry claims, "if you have a great insight and strategy, great ads practically write themselves." He would probably be the first to concede, however, that mass production of automobiles (e.g. Ford), creation of feature-length animation films (e.g. Disney), and splitting the atom (e.g.Read more ›
Having worked with Phil for 7 years as a client, it is refreshing to revisit his charm and wisdom. Of which he had plenty. I found the book to be mostly accurate. Two mistakes pop out: 1. The Jay Leno/Doritos theme line was Crunch (not munch, that's a Frito's term) All You Want, We'll Make More. That was penned by Tracey-Locke's top creative guy and he should have been mentioned for that insightful creativity. 2. A MAJOR creative force at BBDO, Harvey Hoffenberg, isn't mentioned once. Harvey was responsible for MANY of Pepsi's incredible TV spots in the 80s. He and Phil had a falling out and considering the sizeable ego involved, that's apparently the price of friendship lost. But it's unfair and inaccurate, as if US History had been written without mentioning Ben Franklin. There were other people suffering the same fate but Harvey's omission REALLY stands out.
And for those of you who are interested in how advertising worked (note past tense: the heydays of great advertising are GONE in the US; just turn on your set to see the ample evidence) I believe Phil gives too little credit to the myriad of people who are involved (for better, and, sometimes, worse) in that complex dance. Think of it as the ultimate "telephone game" where one person tells the next a short message with the hope of getting it to the end intact. Great advertising people enhance that message at every step.Read more ›
Dusenberry actually steps back a level and talks about life managing the creative and marketing strategy behind some of the world's best-known brands such as Pepsi and Dupont. This book isn't so much about advertising and marketing as it is about the "ah hah!" moment that leads to insight into a product or service that then forms the platform upon which a successful campaign is built. In other words, years of marketing effort can be driven by a fleeting moment in time and Dusenberry talks about how these fleeting moments come to be.
Dusenberry doesn't talk about Madison Avenue really nor does he pretend to be anything other than the creative filter for BBDO through which the good ideas get through. He tries to instill a sense of wonder and engagement in the reader to bring out the best and wildest ideas that might help to launch a new product or service. Although he didn't say as much, I suspect his ideas and insights are as valid for a 1-person startup company as for a 10,000-person conglomerate.
If you're a marketer or advertiser, internet or not, you'll really enjoy this book. I would also recommend it to budding entrepreneurs who are looking for some enlightenment and guidance on trusting their instincts about launching their product or service.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a great, quick read for anyone in the industry. Great insight (you'll laugh at this after reading the book) and lots of laughs. Read morePublished 20 months ago by TJ Bean
I have always admired those in the advertising industry and thought I would give this book a shot. It wasn't what I had expected, but still an enjoyable read.Published on December 27, 2012 by Brian Jensen
You can read this book for the entertainment factor of the many stories or for lessons on how to recognize and use insights - those thoughts that represent a shift in the way you... Read morePublished on December 16, 2008 by Amazon Customer
I was asked to read the book for an advanced advertising class at the Ross School of Business (Michigan). I was skeptical because I couldn't find it nearly anywhere. Read morePublished on February 8, 2008 by David Ward
And I've read A LOT. This one, however, goes behind the scenes on how a product lets the consumer know it's here by a "memorable" campaign, not the the 24/7 onslaught of pop-ups... Read morePublished on April 24, 2006 by Susan Reimers
What an amazing book. I loved it! I'm in the advertising industry so I expected the book to be relevant to my career - but the book offers so much more to anyone from a small... Read morePublished on January 5, 2006 by M. Lamb
The book's content is easy going and refreshing in its tone and what I would classify as a good read which at times I found hard not to pick up and try to finish at any spare... Read morePublished on October 11, 2005 by Stevie Carter