Riffing on the new ad campaign for the Wall Street Journal.

April 5, 2010

Recently, the Wall Street Journal began a new multimedia advertising campaign, courtesy of their agency of record, McgarryBowen. The theme line reads, “Live in the know.”

This interests me on many levels:

1) It’s a new ad campaign
2) It’s for a famous media entity
3) It’s another salvo by newspapers to try and stave off irrelevancy
4) My father was a subject in “Creative Leaders,” the WSJ’s famous trade campaign!
5) I’ve always wanted to create a campaign for a magazine or newspaper

But first here’s the newspaper ad featuring my Pops.
I’ve also included the Advertising Educational Foundation’s site containing all of the creative leaders in this long-running trade campaign. Everyone who is anyone in our business is in it. Most, if not all, hail from the creative department of their respective agencies. The subjects wrote the copy themselves. Pretty cool considering what kind of copywriters many were. If you’re not familiar with “Creative Leaders,” have a look in the above website. It is a small but fascinating piece of our industry’s fun history.

Okay, but what about Live in the Know?

Well, I like the strategy, which suggests some news –a lot of news- is just too important to get via sound bites and tweets. This to me is the best argument periodicals have against the relentless jaws of the Internet. I won’t belabor the obvious. Vanity Fair’s editor, Graydon Carter argues the point beautifully in Adweek: Carter story

As for the creative executions, they certainly are in keeping with the WSJ’s no-nonsense, classical approach to, well, everything. In print, we get frank, mildly clever headlines up top with key argument and supporting data below. However, the photos feel like stock. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, per se, but I would have liked a wittier visual solution.

The TV commercial –if it is a commercial- troubles me more. I question it’s veracity because it plays like a “brand essence video,” which is, as most of you know, a short film made by ad agencies to sell an idea to their clients. By definition these films are not for air. If that’s what this is, fine. I get the strategy and, like I said, I like the strategy. But if it’s a TV spot, an anthem, it feels pedantic. Too much show and tell for my tastes. Have a look: TV Spot or simply a rip?

For years, I’ve coveted a top tier magazine as a client. Like my peers, I envied the beautiful work Fallon had done for Time magazine. And all copywriters are fans of the erudite work being done for the Economist. Both these remarkable campaigns are coffee table book quality.

Brilliant copy for the Economist

At Leo Burnett, my partner and I pitched Glamour magazine. We had a lot of fun doing it. And won…sort of. Within days, publishing magnate, Sy Newhouse put the kybosh on our campaign. And that was the end of that. Jerk. I still remember one of the headlines, for a billboard: “Read and repeat.”

Final note: Not too long ago it was considered a conflict of interest for agencies to create advertising for media providers. With all the issues surrounding mass media, it’s almost a non-issue now.

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