Sunday, February 19, 2012

Where the Suckers Moon

by Drew Martin
I just finished reading Where the Suckers Moon: An Advertising Story by Randall Rothenberg (Which I have also seen subtitled: The Life and Death of an Advertising Campaign, as pictured left). 
 I still have no idea what the title means but I do have much more insight about the trials and tribulations of an advertising campaign. Rothenberg follows the ups and downs of Subaru of America as they go through the process of selecting the Just Do It! agency Wieden + Kennedy to create a new campaign for them.

This was a slow, painful read for me. I renewed it several months in a row from my library after only turning a few pages. Finally, this month I decided to take the plunge and get through it. I am not interested in cars. I think Subarus are an ugly, boring product and Rothenberg's incredibly thorough detail of background, meetings and conversations was overwhelming for me even though I was impressed with his diligence and ability to weave it all into a cohesive narrative. What kept me going through the book were the advertising anecdotes, which I found relevant despite the 1994 publication date, and the image of Dan Wieden that impressed on me in the documentary Art & Copy.

Where the Suckers Moon does a good job in setting the stage for a modern tale in advertising:

The Industrial Revolution made possible the manufacture of vast quantities of identical goods, more than could be sold through the inefficient process of local-store distribution....The manufacturer had to distinguish his goods, give them brand names and make those names stand for something. He needed to bypass the retailer and make customers request his goods, so the grocer and the department-store magnate alike felt compelled to carry them....the number of newspapers in America, under pressure from the new communications needs, was soaring from 75 to 1,400 in the half-century after 1790...

Beginning in the late 1970s, agencies figured it out. If there was no longer anything to say about products, they would say something about the people who used them.

What worked about my suffering through this book was that it paralleled the trepidations of the campaign itself. I felt closer to the labors of the advertising industry - beyond the big idea kick-off meetings is the minutiae, ego, bad judgments and differences of opinions. I especially appreciated the idea that there exists the high-level thoughts about a company's image, which is often too removed from the demands of the locals, in this case the dealerships whose only concern is to sell cars.