Isherwood Blends Advertising and Entertainment

MIAMI When Bob Isherwood started at Young & Rubicam in London in the ’60s, one of the agency’s clients, Wrigley, professed the following ad philosophy: “To advertise without being seen to advertise.”

Many of today’s clients appear to be taking the same “invisible ad” approach, Isherwood said in his Clio Festival talk, “Let Me Entertain You.” The presentation featured musical interludes, including Isherwood playing a didgeridoo, an aboriginal instrument from his native Australia, to emphasize the power of entertainment.

Isherwood is worldwide creative director of Saatchi & Saatchi in New York and chaired the TV & Radio Clio awards jury.

While he said he spent most of his career creating ads “designed to suck the viewers eyes out,” he now says the Wrigley model of advertising might be the future of the industry. Increasingly, he said, advertisers and agencies are blending advertising and content in a way to make ads seem nearly invisible. Isherwood cited BMW Films, Fay Weldon’s novel The Bulgari Connection and a remix of an Elvis song that was made for a Nike commercial and then released as a single, as examples.

Isherwood mentioned Vance Packard’s 1957 book, The Hidden Persuaders, which portrayed advertising as a mysterious industry that tricked people into buying goods against their will. He contrasted that scenario with today, when brands have become a part of culture and people walk around with Gap and Old Navy logos emblazoned on their T-shirts. People are also knowledgeable about media—they know about and take part in the focus groups and research that goes into advertising. Because of this, he said, advertisers must entertain consumers, or they will be shut out by an ad-savvy public using technology such as DVRs.

“Viewers are gaining the power to say, ‘Entertain me, or I won’t entertain you,’ ” Isherwood said.

The 45th annual Clio Festival closes tonight with the TV & Radio Gala at the Eden Roc Resort and Spa in Miami Beach.

Adweek and the Clios are both properties of VNU.