Half a Muffin With Warren Berger

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"David Ogilvy can't hold a candle to this."

During a recent 10-minute coffee break, ad journalist Warren Berger shared some insights about the business he covers in his new book -- as well as a banana walnut muffin.

Van Bakel: There must be hundreds of books about advertising. What does Advertising Today add?

Berger: About six pounds. The typical ad book weighs two pounds, but my book tips the scales at almost eight. Consider this: Ogilvy on Advertising only weighs a pound and a half. Yet people consider it an important work. Truth is, David Ogilvy can't hold a candle to my book.

Van Bakel: Why is it so big?

Berger: Originally, I was limiting it to great ads from the likes of Goodby, Wieden, Fallon, Chiat, Cliff Freeman, BBH. And at that point, it was still a pretty anemic book. Then we decided to include the work of Bozell, and it just became huge.

Van Bakel: Now, what's with the guy on the cover, who has a toilet seat for a mouth? Is advertising such a potty-mouthed business?

Berger: It's actually from a South American ad for mouthwash, and the image was not chosen to make a statement, but just because it's so visually striking. By the way, the original ad's headline, loosely translated, says, "Got toilet mouth?" Which I think is an even catchier phrase than "Got milk?"

Van Bakel: Who's your audience for this tome?

Berger: The 130 million people who watch the Super Bowl. They watch it for the ads, not the game. But if they buy the book, they'll have all the ads, which means they'll never again have to sit through another halftime performance by 'N Sync.

Van Bakel: But are they really going to spend upwards of $75 on a book that doesn't even come with its own Philippe Starck coffee table?

Berger: Philippe Starck? Publicity guy for Young & Rubicam? Defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs?

Van Bakel: You've covered the ad beat for almost 15 years. What attracts you to the business?

Berger: For some reason, I love to listen to 24-year-old copywriters as they talk earnestly about "the work."

Van Bakel: If you were to write a sequel in 10 years, what kind of advertising scene do you think you'd find?

Berger: In 10 years, I believe the wall between advertising and entertainment will be gone. The Coen Brothers will make Honda ads. Wong Kar-Wai will shoot spots for BMW. Rosie O'Donnell will shamelessly plug her own magazine on her own talk show. Golfers will sport corporate logos on their hats. It will be shocking to behold.

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