The guy who did most of the passing down was the late W. B. (Brod) Doner. As founding father, Brod had a fair amount to say on what makes good advertising. And around here, what Brod said stays said.
From Day One, Brod favored a certain kind of advertising with few ideological variations. Basically, its purpose was to charm, disarm and deliver. Heavy emphasis on deliver. Brod wanted to make advertising that people would be eager to be with and even more eager to act on. He called it likable advertising.
His philosophy (Brod would have called it "common sense") was forged during the heart of the Depression. He was 22 years old. He'd just been pink-slipped from the Milton Alexander advertising agency in Detroit and quickly realized there was only one person in town who'd hire him: Him. So he announced the formation of W. B. Doner & Co. and started looking for clients.
Most of his early clients were as hungry as he was. They didn't ask for results, they were desperate for them. Most of them were one bad headline away from a soup line, and Brod knew if the advertising he created failed to deliver, he'd be in line behind them.
There's a story Brod liked to tell about a client in those days who called to complain about an ad:
Brod (over telephone): How are you, Lou?
Client: Not so good, Brod. Not so good.
Brod: What's the problem?
Client: Well, you know that ad you made for us?
Brod: Of course.
Client: It doesn't work.
Brod: Doesn't work! Are you sure?
Client: Sure I'm sure! It's been running a full hour and nothing's happened yet!
Results were everything to Brod, but he didn't believe advertising had to wham people over the noggin to get them. He had an unusually high respect for his audience and a keen appreciation for what it took to attract their interest.
At one point in his career Brod was asked what's worse: to be ignored or to be dismissed. He replied that in advertising they're both unforgivable sins. If you're ignored, it means you didn't accomplish even the most basic thing-getting noticed. On the other hand, If you're dismissed, it means you got them to notice you, but you didn't get them to care about you.
Brod wouldn't tolerate advertising that was ignored, dismissed, forgotten or even half-forgotten.
LOVE OF CREATIVE
Brod Doner instilled in his agency a love for great creative. But not just creative for creative's sake. To him, that offered only fleeting satisfaction.
Brod wanted creative that would truly persuade and motivate. Creative that would make something happen. For him, that was the only kind of creative worth doing. And for his clients, the only kind worth having.
And that, I suspect, has been the secret of our success for 60 years. John