Remember the first time you and your partner made beautiful music together? There’s a website that does.

April 7, 2010

‘Bad Ad Time Machine’

Freelance producer, former copywriter and current photographer, Mark Tripp has created a nifty website that, by turns, is inspirational, humbling, surprising and just plain fun. It’s called Freshmenads and its primary conceit is to post the very first ads by copywriters and art directors, many of us with years gone by since having made them.

Not without some trepidation did I submit my entrée into this naïve collection of freshmen creations: a trade ad for Kellogg’s done a million years ago at Leo Burnett.

As you can see it’s not good. The ad features a big, dumb photo of a big, dumb computer made by the now-accomplished shooter, Chuck Shotwell. (Yes, that is his real last name! But not this time, Chuck. Here you’re as culpable as we are.) And then there’s my handiwork, the headline. In case you can’t make it out (as if), it reads “Space Age Space Management.” The idea was to convince the grocery store trade that managing their cereal aisle could be done easier and better via computers. Imagine that: Computers!

Forget the dated notion. By any measure, this ad is bad. Yet, I kept it. Christ, I even had it laminated! (Author’s note: before the digital era, we saved our ads by sealing them in plastic, often backing them in felt.)

I’m glad I did. To this day it reminds me of where I came from, how much I had to learn, and where I am now. Call it a ‘Bad Ad Time Machine.’ I recommend you do the same. As a matter of fact, when I’m interviewing prospects I often ask them to talk about their worst ad ever: how it came to be and what, if anything, was learned. If nothing else, it makes for great conversation.

No excuses other than being green. The art director, Mike Coffin (sorry to out you!) and I made the above ad under no duress. I actually remember concepting this together. We probably came up with over one hundred possibilities. I even recall our recommendation (as if anyone would’ve taken that seriously). The ad had a pail of money sitting in the cereal aisle. Over it the headline read: “Milk more profits from the cereal section.” One Show material, right?

If any of you want to cast stones at my first ad, I ask only one thing. Send me yours! Better yet, send it to Freshmenads. Actually I ought not be so cavalier. Many of the first ads on Tripp’s website are pretty damn good.

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