Ok. Let’s get this out to the way right now. Yes, it was like Mad Men in the ‘60s. No, it was not like Mad Men in the’80s. And the ‘80s were nothing like now.
But, surprisingly, without the Internet (invented not by Al Gore but by the U.S. Department of Defense in 1983), without PCs without e-mail, cell phones or Apple’s Graphical User Interfaces and a mouse to move them, we managed to turn out some pretty damned good advertising in 1980. (True confession: Not everyone thought the mouse was going to become popular. Competitors didn’t immediately embrace it. We actually created an ad for an HP client that boldly screamed, “HP Kills the Mouse!” Yeah, well you’re probably not right all the time either, pal.)
The decade of the ‘80s spawned some memorable ads: Motel6’s “We’ll leave the light on for you.” Lying Joe Isuzu. Brooke Shields’ young butt prominently employed to sell Levi’s 501 Blues. Wieden+Kennedy’s “Just do it” for Nike. Wendy’s “Where’s the beef?
Good ads then and now start in the fertile minds of talented creative people. (Yes, we did have minds way back then.) Getting the ad from concept to production did require some special skillsets in 1980.
Artists, hunched over their lighted drawing tables, could actually hand draw illustrations, design powerful logos and stay on brand without even knowing it. They could specify fonts from a limited selection or, as often happened, create a new font by hand. Ads were “pasted up” after client approval and sent on their merry way with everyone keeping their collective fingers crossed that none of the type came unglued and fell off.
Television was videotaped and manually edited. Ditto with radio. In 1980 the only thing digital was an obscene gesture thrust into the air when someone cut you off on the road.
Media buyers had to be skilled in putting together campaigns that included print, TV, radio, outdoor and direct marketing. That was about it. No one had heard of the almost limitless options available now because they didn’t exist. Facebook, YouTube, cable, apps, Google, online banner ads, digital radio, analog radio, online radio, home page ads, email, junk mail. Spam was that crappy ersatz meat that came in a can. Hell, in 1980 the only people who “tweeted” or “twittered” belonged to a weird sub-culture of bird watchers.
As I look around our agency at the unbelievably talented and gifted people I am privileged to work with, I realize that a lot of these brilliant kids weren’t even borne yet in 1980. All this “new” technology is old stuff to them. They’ve mastered it and make it work for them. And no matter how many technological new things are added to the mix they just absorb them and keep on doing what they love to do – create.
The creative revolution isn’t over. It’s still growing. And it’s in good hands. But let’s remember the good work turned out by the hardy souls who walked to work in ass-deep snow in 1980 to lay the ground work for where we are today.
Congratulations to Media Inc. for weathering the storms.
Tiger Branch is CEO and senior writer at Hallock & Branch in Portland.