Howard Gossage, Where Are You Now?

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January 10th, 2011

He lived in San Francisco, not New York City. He hung out with artists, philosophers and scientists, not ad people. He was an ad man, but might have been its greatest critic. He created non-traditional advertising when most people still hadn’t fully figured out the traditional kind. He inspired ad greats like Hal Riney, Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein, as well as a host of ad unknowns like me.

He said things like, “If you have something pertinent to say, you neither have to say it to very many people–only to those you think will be interested–nor do you have to say it very often. How many times do you have to be told that your house is on fire?”

And, “Our first duty is not to the old sales curve, it is to the audience.”

And, “I like outdoor advertising. I just think it has no right to be outdoors.”

And one of my favorites, “The real fact of the matter is that nobody reads ads. People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad.”

He talked about creating “conversations” with consumers almost 50 years before social media was invented.

He convinced a gas station chain to promote an imaginary pink additive in their air pumps and stodgy Scientific American magazine to sponsor a paper airplane contest.

Howard Luck Gossage was an advertising visionary who would have been a lot more famous if he’d taken a more traditional path. And just think how much better the business would be if there were a lot more like him today.

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