Advertising campaigns, or at least some of the ideas behind them, tend to be recycled. Agencies specializing in one or two fields (like car dealers or casinos) will pitch a campaign or spec creative to one client and then to a second client if it's bypassed. Sometimes campaigns will sit on the shelf for years before being resurrected, at times very successfully. Everything old is new again, or so it seems.
Clients are like employers in that they want to hire talent with experience in their industry, which is both positive and negative. It's beneficial because there's no learning curve for the agency, but it may lead to stale ideas due to a lack of perspective.
It's not too surprising that Ogilvy & Mather (part of the WPP Group) took an innovative campaign they ran in the 1950s for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and brought it back to life for the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC) 50 years later. Perhaps the nostalgia behind the success of "Mad Men" was a contributing factor. Maybe it's because the same photographer used a half century ago is still alive and now rather well known. Whatever the reason, Ogilvy & Mather, along with original photographer, Elliott Erwitt, have teamed up to create a tourism effort last seen when Dwight D. Eisenhower was in office.
The original campaign, which kicked off in 1954, was unique, running the first ads for alcohol to ever feature women. The print campaign was a success, highlighting Puerto Rico as a tourist destination for Americans while also putting a spotlight on the Island's rum industry. Today, Puerto Rico is known as the Rum Capital of the World, producing Bacardi, Don Q, Captain Morgan, Ron Rico, and other less-popular brands.
Back in the day, David Ogilvy wrote the original copy, and the ads portrayed one of his beliefs he later wrote about in his book, Ogilvy on Advertising.
"Since so few people read the copy at all," Ogilvy wrote, "why does Ogilvy & Mather recommend long copy so often? The answer is that those relatively few people who read the copy are prospects for your product or your service. If you aren’t in the market for a product, you are unlikely to read an advertisement for it, no matter how long or short the copy."
One of the David Ogilvy ads that ran was 961 words or about the length of a flash-fiction story.
Like the first campaign, the current one revolves around print ads, a suspect choice in a decade that has witnessed severe drops in newspaper-and-magazine circulation. Ogilvy & Mather's current effort does include online and cable components, both of which weren't available in the '50s. The print ads are copy-heavy, another puzzling decision due to shortened consumer attention spans.
The Puerto Rico Tourism Company labels the campaign "innovative," which is a huge stretch, considering the ads are lengthy, run in a dying medium, and are knockoffs of the first campaign (although most of us have not seen them).
This is not to say the copy or images are poor; they're not. The ads are compelling and bring to life the island's rich history and traditions (as a former resident, I have some insight that most tourists don't possess). While the original ads had the photo credit, "photographs by Elliott Erwitt," the new ads highlight the photographer's vision of Puerto Rico 50 years after his inaugural visit and are built on his point of view.
An original (first) and current ad (second) can be seen below.
If you're between the ages of 25 and 64 and live in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, or Philadelphia (huh?), look for the campaign at a newsstand near you -- if you can find one.