A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

Celebrity and advertizing

Marshall McLuhan (August, 1965, age 53).  You mean it’s all going to be fun?

Dr. Gerald Feigen and Mr. Howard Gossage the San Francisco marketing boys, you will remember them from the Off Broadway, topless restaurant caper – and no as I told Corinne, I did not leave my heart in San Francisco – insist in no uncertain terms that they’re going to make me a celebrity.  You know what a celebrity is don’t you?  It’s someone who’s famous for being famous.

In all seriousness, I don’t mind fame, but my goal in life isn’t to be Zsa Zsa Gabor, or is it Eva Gabor?   How do the tabloids keep all those blondes straight?  No matter the point is to keep charting the uncharted waters of “the medium is the message.”  For example, and more specifically, you must have noticed that what advertizing advertizes is advertising.

Me (December 2009, age 57).  On celebrity and advertising

I spoke with David Weiner, who is a senior partner at National Public Relations in Toronto, to get his take on McLuhan.  I was interested in finding out what if anything advertising and PR executives think about McLuhan today.  In the 1960s McLuhan’s celebrity was such that he was invited to speak to groups of advertizing executives at business conventions for fees of $5,000 and $6,000.  Today, the answer would appear to be that advertising people don’t think much of Marshall McLuhan.

I quoted David Weiner what David Ogilvy says about Marshall McLuhan.  (According to the blurb on the back cover of Ogilvy on Advertising, David Ogilvy was “the most sought-after wizard in the advertising business” (Time) and was the genius behind “the man with the eye patch for Hathaway shirts, Commander Whitehead for Schweppes, and the famous electric clock for Rolls-Royce.)  “I learned nothing from Marshall McLuhan.”

“Exactly my view,” said David Weiner who was a social activist in the 1960s, and told me that although he had never met McLuhan he had met quite a few of his disciples. “McLuhan was kind of flakey and meaningless.  [In the PR business] I don’t hear people speaking about McLuhan.  [But then] Few books stand the test of time.

Is McLuhan essentially forgotten today by people who work in and work with the media?  What can advertizing people learn from Marshall McLuhan?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

David Ogilvy.  Ogilvy on Advertising.  Toronto: John Wiley & Sons, 1983.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, December 8th, 2009
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Business, Communication, Technology, Vol. 1 No Comments

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