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Leo Burnett - Marketing Master

CHICAGO -- Revealed: The man behind the world's most successful advertising campaigns.

Leo Burnett's "Red-on-Red" meat ad was his classic example for his killer "Inherent Drama" technique

  Web Sites
• Leo Burnett Ad Agency
• 100 Leo's
• Communications of an Advertising Man
• The Art of Writing Advertising by Denis Higgins
  • Charlie the Tuna
  • The Jolly Green Giant
  • The Keebler Elves
  • The Marlboro Man
  • "Maytag: The Dependability People"
  • Morris the Cat
  • The Pillsbury Doughboy
  • Tony the Tiger
  • United’s "Fly the Friendly Skies"
  • "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.

    Since I study all the great marketing and advertising gurus from the past for a living, you can guess I know what works and what doesn't . But there is only one that has made me serious money. Click here to see who.




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