New book on Bill Bernbach reveals the man behind the myth.
June 15, 2009
Apparently one of the few legitimate Gods of Advertising was more mortal than we thought. According to a new book written by a colleague of his at Doyle Dane Bernbach (former head of PR, Doris Willens), world famous creative director Bill Bernbach was often insecure and petty, and could be cruel and offensive toward his staff. At least that’s what I gleaned from the review given to the book by AdAge reporter, Rupal Parekh.
“Nobody’s Perfect. Bill Bernbach and the Golden Age of Advertising” is the book’s title. I haven’t read it yet. (Right now I’m plowing through John Updike’s “Rabbit” novels –a major undertaking!) Based on its Amazon number the book appears to be selling fairly well, which comes as no surprise. Bernbach was the Alex Bogusky or Lee Clow of his day. He changed the Mad Men era of hard sell advertising into the creatively driven apparatus most of us aspire to. I won’t go into all the creative highlights (Chivas, VW, Avis, etc) but like many of my peers I studied all of them as a newcomer in advertising. Anyone reading this post ought to as well. ‘Nuff said!
What I’m interested in here is the revelation that Mr. Bernbach may have been an insecure creep. We tend to elevate our heroes into sainthood (unfairly) and one imagines Bill Bernbach as an inspired guru, nurturing and kind.
Ridiculous. Not only was he a suit-wearing businessman interested in making money but it appears he had numerous character defects as well. Just like you and just like me. I’ve been writing about insecurity in the creative department since starting this blog. I’ve ruminated about our unfortunate tendency toward criticism and our inability to accept it. For better and worse, I’ve likened the creative department to Romper Room.
Yet even I put Bernbach and his peers on a pedestal. As far as the advertising his shop created it’s totally deserved. But as a human being I’m afraid he’s just like the rest of us. Finding this out does not make me sad. In fact I find the revelations freeing. Lord knows I struggle with the competitive nature of our business and dealing with all the egos including my own. Glad to hear old Bill did too!
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