Sun 27 Jul 2008
(The following is a commencement address given by Patrick Scullin, ECD of Ames Scullin O’Haire Advertising/Atlanta, to the graduating class of The Huckington School of Advertising Arts & Sciences & Whatnot in Stoneboro, Pennsylvania)
Greetings, graduating class of 2008. I am honored to be here and delighted that this P.A. system is working. “Check, one-two. Check. Ladies and gentlemen–– The Rolling Stones!”
Uh, just kidding.
(Silence envelopes the crowd. A cricket chirps. A mime slowly slashes his vocal chords…)
As I stand here today looking out at all you young, eager and energetic, hopeful people, I realize I am seeing our most valuable asset for the future. I am speaking of course not about youth, but about gold.
For I see that many of you are wearing glittering gold jewelry. Gold is our most precious asset because it gleams and people have always valued a good gleam. History is filled with stories of gold and its fantabulous value.
Take Midas. Everything he touched turned to gold, but remember that he made his fortune in mufflers and brake repair. Shocks, too. And never underestimate what you can get for a good alignment job.
Then there was that goose that laid golden eggs and that woman who spun gold–– both skills that look great on a resume and really help boost one’s popularity.
And what about the incredible story of Jed Clampett, a poor mountaineer who was shooting for some food when up from the ground came a bubblin’ crude–– oil, that is, children, black gold, Texas tea. I think we all know the happy ending of that story: swimming pools, movie stars. Yes, gold can change lives for the better.
Gold has always been worth its weight in gold, and now that you will be pursuing a career in advertising, gold will soon be yours. Next to advanced vinyl repair or being Warren Buffet, there’s no easier way to make BIG money fast than advertising.
I’d like to share some wisdom I’ve learned throughout my distinguished career. Wisdom I wish some learned person had told me when I was young and being thrust from the comforting incubator of academia into the cold reality of constant disappointment, bitter frustration and the awful agony that is this miserable hell on earth we must endure before our reward of a dirt nap and discovery if we’ve bet on the right religion.
In advertising, it’s our job to “communicate” with people in clear, concise words and visuals that leave no room for ambiguity or opportunity for miscommunication, which in and of itself would be a form of communication, but not the form of communication you originally intended and so would be bad because it is not what you set out to do when you set out to do what you originally set out to do. The communicating part, I mean.
To communicate clearly, I think language comes in handy. The importance of language cannot be expressed in silly little words, but the effects speak for themselves–– especially those energetic verbs shoving lazy good for nothing nouns around and forcing them pick up the pace.
We can also communicate with images. Someone once said ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ but try communicating that with just one picture. Can’t be done. You need words–– about seven of them should do: a picture is worth a thousand words.
In advertising, our job is to communicate in persuasive ways, making our clients’ products or services absolutely irresistible. How does one entice the public into buying? With psychology, or as I call it “mental tom foolery and tinker-majiggity-wiggity-woo-woo.”
All humans want love, security, sex appeal, power, soft gripped kitchen utensils, immortality, whiter teeth and X-ray vision. So pass your client’s product or service through the prism of potential consumer triggers.
A soft drink is not just carbonated sugar water; it can be the ticket to making someone irresistible. For example, take a picture of attractive people gathered around a soft drink smiling and looking as if an orgy might break out at any moment. Marry it to a provocative headline like, “Refresh all your parts.” Slap a logo in the lower right corner and you’ve got yourself a sure strong seller (logos always go in the right corner, unless your ad is running in the Torah).
Some say that the public is less susceptible to our messages. They claim a growing cynicism has made it nearly impossible to gain the trust of the public through paid media. To that I say, “Oh yeah?”
A suspicious public is merely one that needs more selling. Which means adding extra power to your messages. Watch how easy this is.
Before: Crest toothpaste fights cavities. After: “Crest toothpaste fights cavities. It really does, honest. Ask your dentist if you don’t believe us, you cynical soon-to-be-toothless bastard!”
Before: Nike. Swoosh symbol. After: “Nike represents wonderfulness in quality athletic footwear that gives one a sense of coolness. And now Nikes come in styles for your left and your right foot. Step lively, friend… step Nike!”
Before: BMW. The ultimate driving machine. After: “I care about the attractiveness of my automobile—mister, make mine a BMW!”
With the correct message, cynicism melts like ice in Satan’s tumbler.
There is much more I could say, but I see by your subtle body language— the closed eyelids and raised middle fingers—that perhaps you’ve heard enough.
Thank you. Remember one thing: don’t sell your souls for 30 pieces of silver. Hold out for 30 pieces of gold. Gold’s the cheese you want, people.
And one last thing–– could someone validate my parking, please?