AdWeek: Dig That Sound Everybody knows that a kick-ass audio system will blow your socks off. Anyone up for a little combustion too?

April 05, 2012

Dig That Sound Everybody knows that a kick-ass audio system will blow your socks off. Anyone up for a little combustion too?
AdWeek
By Robert Klara
April 5, 2012

As visually arresting as magazine advertising can be, it has its limitations. One of them is that the printed page cannot convey senses like smell, taste and sound. And if you’re in the business of selling audio equipment, that last one is a problem. The best way out of it is to create a visual metaphor—something to evoke the power of hi-fi even as the page lays silent. As the ads on these pages show, sometimes that idea works, sometimes less so.

In 1979, Maxell hired agency Scali, McCabe, Sloves to create an ad that would show how its UR Type 1 audio cassette tape outlasted the competition and delivered superior sound quality, even after 500 plays. That’s when, without quite planning to, art director Lars Anderson made advertising history. Anderson dropped a cool-looking guy into a Le Corbusier chair and, with the help of fishing line, showed what looked like him being buffeted by the tempestuous, high-compression winds from a JBL speaker. As a metaphor, it was flawless.

“For years, advertisers have tried to take an abstract idea and articulate it visually, and 99 percent of the time they fail,” said Thomas Ordahl, senior director of strategy at marketing consultancy Landor Associates. “This time, they knocked it out of the park.” Part of the reason the ad worked so well, Ordahl added, was its timing. Advances in speaker technology along with the introduction of Sony’s Walkman in June 1979 were making music listening into a more personal experience. The “Blown-Away Guy” ad, as it became known, “evoked the emotional pleasure of listening to music alone,” said Ordahl. “It was all about the sound quality and the experience, and Maxell was going to blow you away.”

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