The Rise and Fall of A Big Idea

About 40 years ago I designed Canada’s first Inflat­able outdoor board for Pacific Western Airlines. I was the creative director for West­Can’s Calgary office at the time. We needed a Big Idea to support a not so big outdoor media buy (one board each in Calgary, Edmonton and Montréal).I had read about the Inflat­able in AdAge where a fast food chain had attached a huge Hotdog to a super board. The fabri­cator manu­fac­tured hot air balloons, big ones. The first of the three was erected in Calgary at a busy high way junc­tion. The first morning we got tons of Free Air on drive time radio as the news,weather and traffic people had fun taking shots at it with bits of sexual innu­endo here and there. The Calgary Herald ran a story with a full color picture in the morning addi­tion. Things went on like that until it achieved a kind of Mascot status. Then came a harsh fall storm, rain, snow, hail and freezing temper­tures and power outages. Our inflataboard was kept upright by means of a ducted fan and with the power gone the darn thing collapsed giving the media yet another oppor­tu­ni­tyto crack wise. When the fuse­lage re-erected itself that got a mention to. The free PR was imea­sur­able and just goes to prove some Big Ideas are better off dead…than alive .

Jerry Huff, Geezer

More Goodyear

In 1964 we (Y&R, San Fran­cisco) had Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. John Emmer­ling, Ralph Price and I were assigned the Racing Tire Divi­sion, because it was a small budget. We were in San Angelo, Texas at Goodyear’s Oval Test Track with A.J. Foyt hoping to set an oval track speed record on Goodyear Double Eagle Passenger Tires. In those days, we had news­paper and maga­zine ads at every major paper and maga­zine in the country with one piece of infor­ma­tion missing…The exact speed if the record was made. Foyt succeeded at 204.6 mph, but called from a two way radio when he was out of sight. Soon, a pickup truck left to tow the race-car back, as we were told the car had broken down. Soon it appeared and the Double Eagle Tires were in excel­lent shape, and the record had been set. All the national media folks went imme­di­ately to phones to give their publi­ca­tions the correct speed record, and the next day the ads ran all over the country. The next evening (the day after the record was set) we were told over setup drinks at a San Angelo Bar that we should go out back and look in the pickup truck bed that was covered with a tonneau. We did and there were four Double Eagle Tires in shreds. They had been destroyed at the speed Foyt was driving. It was too late to stop the ads, as they had already run in all the major news­pa­pers. That year Double Eagle Tires blew out all over Texas where people drove their Cadil­lacs and Lincolns at very high speeds on the back roads.

Richard SomersRichurd Somers

Shoot in Nebraska

Well, there was this time in the late 1960’s, when I was in Omaha, Nebraska doing a T.V. commer­cial for that renowned product Bux Corn­root­worm Insec­ti­cide. This was part of the array of bene­fi­cial farm prod­ucts that were being produced by Chevron Ortho prod­ucts (and we wonder why the Autism rate increase so dramatically).

I was there with Larry Duke (a genius art director and later Levis Poster, etc. Illus­trator). Our chosen actor for our commer­cial was Pat Buttrum (Gene Autry’s former movie side kick). Mr. Buttrum was currently appearing in a T.V. series called Green Acres (star­ring Ava Gabor, etc.). It was about city folk who buy a farm. Their neighbor was Pat Buttrum. So we figured he was perfect to sell Bux to the farming community.

We went to dinner the night before the “shoot” and across the restau­rant Mr. Buttrum spies an old friend, singer “?” Robert Goulet — who was appearing at that great Omaha venue, The Aksarben Theater (that’s Nebraska spelled back­wards, get it?). So the two of them wander off to partake of way too many drinks.

Cut to the next day, when we stop to ask some farmer on a dirt road for direc­tions to one partic­ular corn field in an area of corn­fields as far as you can see in any direc­tion. As the farmer is pointing, Pat Buttrum opened the back door of the car and puked on that poor farmer’s shoes. We could only imagine how proud the farmer must have felt when he went home tracking vomit into the house and proudly announcing that Pat Buttrum from Green Acres puked on his shoes not more than10 minutes ago.

I won’t go into the video camera­man’s concern with color adjust­ment saying, “there must be some­thing wrong with this equipment.…I can’t get that green cast out of Mr. Buttrum’s face”. It was that green of someone who’d been up drinking all night. And I won’t elab­o­rate further by discussing how many chickens Mr. Buttrum sat on when making himself comfort­able sitting on those bags of Bux Corn­root­worm Insecticide).

Todd Miller

The story of the Heir

The Heir ad for Bank of America by Jack Allen, photographer and Ad Taylor, art directorHere’s a little story about the creative process, back in the days when such a thing was possible.

One day in the 1960s Jack Allen and I were having one of our peri­odic, vinous, Friday lunches at Venetos, near his studio. After copious amounts of red wine, I mentioned the agency’s (Johnson & Lewis) urgent need to come up with a savings ad for Bank of America. our largest client.
Savings ads were noto­ri­ously and inher­ently boring, but I had the glim­mering of an idea.

Ad: “Jack, what if we had the reading of a will, with all the rich uncle’s house­hold gath­ered in the lawyer’s office? Maybe we could use Belli’s office.”

Jack: “We could cast it right now. Let’s get a phone.”

Between us, we came up with the cast:
The lawyer: Wally Brazeal, an ad rep, perched on the edge of Belli’s desk, looking lawyerly.
The widow: a very proper older model from Ann Demeter’s agency, with lorgnette and fox fur.
The heir: A young nephew, played by Tom Rice, an art student, in preppy horn rims.
The butler: Mr. Lancaster, formerly of the French Opera Company, tall, white haired elderly gent in full butler’s regalia.
The chauf­feur: Homer Welch in proper livery, carrying the widow’s Pekinese dog.
The mistress: Pat Mahan, model from Al Duartís agency, ravish­ingly sexy in bouf­fant blond wig, black dress, pearls, cigaret holder, and a fabu­lous fur from Roberts Brothers.
Everyone except the lawyer and the heir looked pissed off, including the Pekinese.

The heir was beaming, he was getting the money!
When we called to get permis­sion to use his office, Belli was enthusiastic.
We sched­uled the shoot for Saturday morning, the next day. Milt Halber­stadt signed on as lighting consul­tant. Belli came with his infant son, Caesar.
The shoot went well. We got the film rushed to processing. We took Pat, still in char­acter, to the Temple Bar where a boyfriend tended bar. He didn’t recog­nize her at first.

Sunday I wrote the copy.
Monday morning I sent out for a rush C‑print and spec­i­fied the type. Monday after­noon, I pasted up of the finished comp.

Bright and early Tuesday morning, I took the ad into Dan Lewis’ office.
Dan: “Where the hell did this come from?”
Ad: “Jack Allen and I ran it off over the weekend.”
Dan: “How much are you in for on this?”
Ad: “I figure about $3,000 in expenses.”
Dan: “I better take this up to the Bank myself.”

He did and presented it to Charlie Stuart, BofA vice pres­i­dent for advertising.
Charlie loved it. (Thank God!)
It ran a long time, won an award in the L.A. Art Director’s show, and I think everyone got paid.
Ad Taylor

Logo Legend


In the 1950’s I was the Creative Director for Bots­ford, Constan­tine and Gardner, San Fran­cisco office. My favorite account was Japan Air Lines. We had a very sound creative strategy to market the airline to Amer­i­cans, based on research from Doctor Dichtor (an early social researcher). Simply put: don’t talk about equip­ment, even though it was from Boeing and McDonald Douglas); don’t talk about the cockpit crew (even though they were mostly Amer­i­cans); don’t talk about Japanese effi­ciency. Do talk about Japanese arts, crafts and culture. And by all means, remind the Amer­i­cans that Japanese women were the most charming, well mannered and helpful in the world.

Japan Air Lines, through the influ­ence of Mike Sloan (the Bots­ford Japan Air Lines Account Super­visor), sent me on an Arts and Culture tour of their (then) desti­na­tions including Hong Kong, Singa­pore, Thai­land and Japan. I concen­trated on Kyoto, Nara and Nikko – three cities that did not suffer too much bombing that also are impor­tant reli­gious and cultural centers in Japan. What I learned on this trip had every­thing to do with my design of the Japan Air Lines logo.

In 1957. Japan Air Lines asked Bots­ford, Constan­tine and Gardner to create a new logo and livery. It was unusual that a large corpo­ra­tion would go to their adver­tising agency for this kind of design work. This type of assign­ment was usually the purview of design firms like Raymond Lowey or Walter Landor. Many airplane manu­fac­turers offered logo deign as part of their contracts (Japan Air Lines used MacDonald Douglas as well). I was doubly pleased that it landed in my lap because I had a design in mind.

When I trav­elled in Japan I was impressed that the branding busi­ness had been going on there for hundreds of years, espe­cially for the Samurai fami­lies, whose crests adorned prac­ti­cally every­thing the family owned. The one I chose for Japan Air Lines was a crane attrib­uted to the Mori family. Working with my designer, Reg Jones, we modern­ized it and created a hand­some presen­ta­tion book with hard cover and French paper. The content of the book was the art of the logo and its appli­ca­tion to aircraft, ground equip­ment, stationery, docu­ments, point-of-purchase, etc. – twenty-four pages in all.

A meeting was sched­uled to show our stuff. I wish I could remember the month and day – all I recall is that it was very hot and humid in Tokyo. The meeting place was on the fifth floor in a rather dingy office building. The confer­ence room was in a corner of a large room packed with people, many women. When the door was opened, we saw a 12’ x 16’ room domi­nated by a long table at which sat about a dozen men who looked at us as if we had inter­rupted them. I remember there was a group hiss. The most striking feature, though, was the mass of logo sketches, draw­ings, paint­ings and even some plaster bas reliefs covering the walls and table, ending instantly our belief that ours was the only logo being considered.

Seats were found for us as the discus­sion continued, giving us a chance to study the designs. None of them were in any way outstanding. They mostly seemed to be versions of the Lufthansa speed bird. Finally the Japanese conver­sa­tion ceased and our contact asked us to show what we had done. It took about ten minutes. It all had to be inter­preted and I didn’t know anybody in the audi­ence or what their interest in the project was. Their expres­sions were, of course — inscrutable. Mike Sloan finished with thanks. We sat down — I was soaked!

The discus­sion continued for the rest of the that day into the late after­noon of a second day when the Japan Air Lines Pres­i­dent came into the room with a small entourage. There was much bowing. He seated himself and our book was laid before him and the inter­preter turned the pages for him and rendered the expla­na­tion. It took about eight minutes though by then I was unable to measure time. When the Pres­i­dent finished he said some­thing, stood up — more bowing — and walked out. The meeting was over. Everyone gath­ered their papers to leave.

Mike asked the inter­preter what the pres­i­dent had said. It was some­thing like, “America is our most impor­tant market. Amer­i­cans know best what Amer­i­cans like, so tell the men from our Amer­ican adver­tising agency we accept their design”.

The crane (Tsuru­maru in Japanese) flew for over forty years — almost a record. It was replaced in 1989 by a Walter Landor design, modi­fied radi­cally in 2002, again by Landor.

The big news was announced by Japan Air Lines’ pres­i­dent on January 19,2011, “ The JAL Group today will adopt a new corpo­rate policy and announces its deci­sion to change its logo from April 1, 2011” going on to say, “The motif that will be used is of a soaring red crowned crane with its wings extended in full flight, an auspi­cious icon repre­senting the high spirits of the Japanese people and their sensi­tive atten­tion to detail.”

Funny thing. The date they said the crane/logo returns would start on April 1st, 2011, my 84th birthday.

Jerry Phillip Huff
August 252011

Illus­tra­tion from The Way of the Samurai. Note the Crane design.

The original Mori Samari family creast the inspiration

The orig­inal Mori Samari family creast the inspiration

The original Mori Samari family creast the inspiration

The Japan Air Lines Logo design presented by Mike Sloan & Jerry Huff in Tokyo in 1957.

The final version used for 40 years -dropped for 13 and reintroduced in 2011

The final version used for 40 years ‑dropped for 13 and rein­tro­duced in 2011

A double page magazine ad appeared in Look, Life, Time, Newsweek and featured a real hostess in full kimono

A double page maga­zine ad appeared in Look, Life, Time, Newsweek and featured a real hostess in full Kimona.