My 50 years in Advertising, Larry Postaer

In my father’s recently released memoir on his career in advertising, Pickett, Plunkett & Puckett he mentions a test he had to take in order to qualify for a job as copywriter on the Sears’s catalog. In the early sixties Sear’s Roebuck (and its iconic catalog) was literally the textbook for retailing in the United States. Called the “Wish book,” anything and everything could be found in the Sear’s catalog (even houses!) and it was a staple in every home, kind of the Amazon of its day.

Yet, the job was hardly glamorous and wasn’t supposed to be. Sears Roebuck was about as old school as it got: dress codes, pneumatic tubes, and a cafeteria.

All his pages detailing the inner workings of Sear’s marketing department are fascinating but, for me, it was the test he took that stands out. Anachronistic now, back in the day, psychological profiling was used at companies all over America to determine whether an applicant was the “right fit” for the job and company. Back then folks entered into a career hoping –nay expecting- to work at a given firm the rest of their lives. The companies’ wanted that too and so standardized tests, however futile, were developed to insure its likelihood.


The “Wish Book.” You know you want it!

My father singles out one question from the test: Would you rather write the play, star in the play, or sell tickets to the play? My father rightly guesses they are not looking for big creative egos at Sears and answers “sell the tickets.” However, like any writer, what he really would like to do is write the play. These days, I’m guessing that’s what every aspiring writer would like to do. Honestly, the way things are now, I’m betting quite a few young creatives would just assume star in at as well.

It’s easy making fun of this archaic test, so corny and out of touch. But the question is pretty damn interesting when you think about it, as I have. From day one copywriters have wrestled with their urges to be creative versus their mandate to sell. Even now the challenge is still a major aspect of the job. Whether one works at a conservative shop or some rogue boutique, all on staff struggle with it. The lame rejoinder “well, you gotta do both” is generally where everyone nets out. Sears had no such dilemma, which makes my father’s anecdote provocative nostalgia.

In the end my father writes he faired poorly on the test but somehow got the job anyway. As I said, the stories around this are fascinating and, like many others in the book, well worth reading. It’s available in paperback or on kindle, via Amazon.

The Sears Catalog stopped printing in 1993. Regardless, the company struggles to remain relevant.

Authors Note: This is an updated version of a previous post.

coronaCorona by the light of the moon.

Given the grim climate in Chicago (the weather, the economy, the government), I’m thinking it might be high time we celebrate the unheralded but quality work coming out of our city’s many agencies.

We hear a lot about what’s wrong with the people, places and things as it relates to the Chicago advertising community. I want to go another way. Hold to the good, as our pastor likes to say.

In this spirit, every day this week, I’m going to feature a campaign from a local shop that deserves praise… not punishment.

Cramer Krasselt has a lot to be proud of. Fiercely independent, they’ve been showing we holding company heifers how to do good advertising for years. Though not a new commercial, I’d like to single out a spot that does what few commercials ever do: it doesn’t get old.

I’m talking about the Christmas commercial for Corona Beer. You know the one. In it, a palm tree is lit up like a Christmas tree. Super over picture: Feliz Navidad. Nothing much else happens in the commercial. Which is precisely it’s charm. I think it’s a holiday classic, maybe even iconic.

When it comes to beer advertising in Chicago, our attention understandably goes to DDB and their popular, sometimes famous work for Budweiser and Bud Light.

Yet, CK has been delivering exceptional campaigns for this stalwart Mexican import for years. The advertising is consistently good, understated and charming. Qualities we don’t often associate with beer advertising. They deserve a little credit. Cheers to them and to this lovely campaign.