"You’re In Good Hands with Allstate"
They all came from the mind of advertising pioneer Leo Burnett.
Burnett was born on October 21, 1891 in St. Johns, Michigan. He studied
journalism at the University of Michigan. And after graduating in 1914, he
worked as a reporter for the Peoria Journal.
In 1917, he later worked in advertising with the Cadillac Motor
Company, where he eventually became advertising manager.
He next moved to Lafayette Motors, then to the Homer McKee Agency in
Indianapolis and finally to Erwin Wasey and Co.
In 1935 Burnett borrowed $50,000 and founded the Leo Burnett Company in
Chicago. This was extremely risky, especially since it was the Depression.
When the doors of his agency were opened in 1935, the receptionist put
a bowl of apples to welcome every visitor. When the Chicago’s public got
the news that Leo Burnett gave away apples to every visitor, an issue in a
newspaper appeared: "It won’t be long ‘til Leo Burnett is selling apples
on the street corner instead of giving them away."
However, Burnett believed that "when you’re on your economic bottom,
then the only way to go is up." And every since, apples have been offered
to every visitor of a Leo Burnett worldwide office.
In 1945, Leo Burnett Company launched a memorable campaign for the
American Meat Institute, in which red, uncooked meat was placed on a red
background and the copy urged the reader to eat more meat.
This type of ad was original at the time because meat was always shown
cooked. But Burnett felt that the image of meat should be a virile one,
best expressed in red meat.
This "red on red" campaign became the classic example for Burnett's
technique of Inherent Drama.
In every product and service, there exists some inherent drama --
something inherent in the product, something that makes people continue to
buy it, something that made the manufacturer make it, etc. -- that makes
the product stand out. And every ad should emphasize it.
"Inherent Drama" became a cornerstone of Burnett’s Chicago School of
Advertising. Unlike the ad agencies of New York, Burnett wanted ads to
revolve more around the customer’s point of view, especially the down to
earth, wide-eyed perspective of Midwesterners.
He emphasized the use of popular archetypes and symbols, often drawn
from history and folklore, that easily penetrates prospects’ minds with
basic desires, beliefs and instincts. The Jolly Green Giant is partly
based on the Paul Bunyan story.
And when Burnett created the Marlboro Man in 1955, it’s masculine image
of a cowboy turned the minor cigarette brand with a predominantly feminine
image into a big seller.
Burnett also stressed the use of "earthy vernacular" words that project
a friendly kind of humanness that makes the ad fun instead of annoying or
threatening. Phrases like "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should".
He always referred to a folder on his desk labeled Corny Language
where he collected words, phrases and analogies which convey a feeling of
sod-buster honesty and drive home a point.
Burnett’s business philosophy was based on his famous quote: "When you
reach for the stars, you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with
a handful of mud either."
Burnett died on June 7, 1971 at age 78, at his beloved family farm in
Lake Zurich, Illinois.
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