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Forget 'Harlem Shake' -- Watch Ogilvy Sing 'Fame' Back in 1982

The Great-Grandaddy of Embarrassingly Awful Agency Videos

By Published on . 9

All you ad agency kids thinking your "Harlem Shake" knock-offs and "Call Me Maybe" lip-syncing is so original, think again.

Ogilvy & Mather beat you to the punch by about thirty years with this amazing promotional clip it made back in, it seems, 1982. It begins with a swelling Broadway-style tune, in which a few agency newbies wonder songfully what this next step in their career will bring as they take lunch in the agency cafeteria.

Sample lyrics include:

"I'm not trying to be cute/But what's the research institute."

Or:

"When I came here they said to me/you will love Ogilvy/But I don't know what's in store for me/here at Ogilvy."

Then, at 2:23, the agency's hirsute and headband-donning rank and file pour into the lunchroom to break it down, with a reinterpretation of the Irene Cara's 1980 hit "Fame" that its COO would be proud of.

Fame!
We're gonna sell more coffee
We're gonna Shake n Bake
We're gonna sell more make-up
Oh how much money we'll make.
Then:
We're gonna get those billings
We're gonna cut overhead
We're gonna get new business
We might even make more bread
And Playtex
And Kotex
And QTips
And AmEx…
It really has to be seen to be believed. We're not sure how many of the performers are real staffers and how many are actors, but we really really hope that at least some of these folks were real live Ogilvyians.

Hat tip to Facebook friend Gareth Kay, of Goodby Silverstein & Partners, who rightly opined, "I wish I got into advertising a decade or so earlier."

And if anyone has any details on the singers, dancers, or cafeteria, please email or let us know in the comments.

UPDATE: Faith C. Norwick, who was director of music at Ogilvy & Mather from 1977 to 1995, got in touch. Here's an edited excerpt from an email exchange:

We shot in the O&M cafeteria on 48th Street for the Xmas show that we had every year. All the people you see in the spot are people who worked there. That was the whole point. We wanted to show as many Ogilvy people as we could. All the performers doing the solos were real and they sang live to a piano track. . . . The girl in the silver suit was lip-syncing to a professional singer and the musicians who played on the track were professional musicians -- all of these people (and the recording studio) donated their time and talent to do this. Obviously we didn't have tons of money to throw around.

Just so you understand, this was not a promotional piece. It was a piece made by Ogilvy for our annual Christmas meeting [in 1981]. The idea was to have as many of us featured [as possible.] In between the speeches by the brass, they would play a film made by us for us. And people loved being in it and seeing themselves on the screen.

We did lots of them over the years -- and always used staff people.

You might think it was embarrassingly awful -- but it wasn't. You have to remember it was over 30 years ago, and it was never meant for public consumption. It was meant to celebrate Ogilvy, its people, our clients, and the work we all did to make the agency such a successful and fun place to work. You might be interested to know that while the idea came from the creative team, a lot of the people in it -- including all but one of the opening singers -- were account people, media, secretaries.

We were all so incredibly lucky to work at such a great place.

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