Thursday, July 27, 2006

Darrin Stephens: Ad Man Extraodinaire

I know many in the industry are too young to remember "Bewitched" the TV series, ("In Color!" Elizabeth Montgomery would cheerily announce) but Darrin Stephens was my first inspiration to go into advertising. (When the "Brady Bunch" came along, I changed my career goals to architecture, but I soon found out that there's a whole lotta math involved there.)

Darrin worked for MacMahon and Tate, which as far as we viewers knew, consisted of Darrin, his boss Larry Tate, and a receptionist. Larry and Darrin would land the accounts and then Darrin always did the creative concepting, WITHOUT any help, he insisted, from his witch wife. He was determined not to practice the Black Arts when it came to advertising. Samantha was to stay at home in the suburbs and raise their two half-magic children. She sometimes got in the way, but only to help poor Darrin, who was beset on all sides by idiots, not the least of which was Larry, who was always mixing drinks in the office before lunch.

Darrin was that rare ad guy who was wasn't fully an Account Executive and not really a Creative either. He wore a suit, went out on the sales calls, then came back to his drawing desk to storyboard his ideas. He often worked in his home office, up late at night to come up with the winning campaign for some national soup or tuna brand. He never made partner, but did all the work for Larry, even though Larry was regularly throwing him under the bus at client meetings.

For the most part, Darrin kept the witchcraft out of his work, but he was sort of clueless in that regard. Even without Sam's help, advertising in the late 60s and early 70s was already full of deviousness and trickery. It really always has been.

It would be cool if advertisers didn't prey on fear, insecurity, jealousy, lust, greed, gluttony, envy, pride and laziness - but those are the routes into the wallet, we've discovered.

Which is why I applaud the newer wave of silly advertising, like the Burger King work currently going on down in Miami. Makes you laugh, without making you feel like your life will be hollow for not buying a sausage biscuit. Or the long-running "real men of genius" radio spots for Bud Light conceived up in Chicago . Great fun, and no attempts to make me feel like a loser if I don't drink Bud Light.

But here's the deal: I will never drink Bud Light. I actually had to look up "real men of genius" on Google to find out which beer the ads were made to promote. I'm a Corona Light guy. Has DDB failed their client if I don't reach for Bud Light the next time I'm at the grocery store cooler, the "Real Men of Genius" song going through my head?

Larry Tate would say yes - and would fire Darrin in a heartbeat.

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  • Bewitched was one of my inspirations as was Bosom Buddies.

    Then reality set in at my first agency job and I got out within a year. It's not like it is on TV, dammit!

    By Blogger Lesley, at July 27, 2006 at 5:28 PM  

  • big brand advertising is simply improving your disposition towards something. while that's's the truth.

    does A-B or DDB care that you're not going to drinnk Bud Light...probably...but they're OK with it because the next time you're at a party or bar and see someone with a Bud Light your going to think, "man, I those radio spots", smile, and think that Bud Light A-OK with you.

    Let me ask you...has modern advertising EVER led to a direct sell?

    By Blogger Raybacon, at July 27, 2006 at 5:41 PM  

  • Ray:

    Depends. Modern advertising could be Search Engine Marketing, which most definitely can end in direct sales.


    Don't forget Thirty Something. They made it look fun, too.

    By Blogger RFB, at July 27, 2006 at 9:58 PM  

  • Ray:

    And let's not forget - Larry Tate was a weenie. He'd have fired Darrin.

    I say DDB and CPB are keeping at leat the spots top-of-mind - if not the brand, which though not as good as a sale, is still great for image recognition, though I did have to look it up on Google to find the sponsor - and I hear the spots daily.

    Maybe it's a case of too many beers on the market.(Or too many beers tonight.)

    By Blogger RFB, at July 28, 2006 at 7:18 AM  

  • Great post! Funny, informative and smart. Endora would approve!

    By Blogger Trailer Trashlee, at October 9, 2008 at 6:29 PM  

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