Inventing Desire: Inside Chiat - Day: The Hottest Shop, the Coolest Players, the Big Business of Advertising

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Advertising is everywhere: the average American consumer sees over 3,000 commercial messages each day. But the world behind this $125 billion a year effort has been almost invisible - until now. From inside the ad industry's reigning creative "hot shop," Karen Stabiner reveals the big business of seduction, its people, its culture, and the high-stakes process of making ads. In a field where hunch and instinct mean as much as strategy and research, Chiat/Day has, for a quarter of a century, produced ads that take ...
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Overview

Advertising is everywhere: the average American consumer sees over 3,000 commercial messages each day. But the world behind this $125 billion a year effort has been almost invisible - until now. From inside the ad industry's reigning creative "hot shop," Karen Stabiner reveals the big business of seduction, its people, its culture, and the high-stakes process of making ads. In a field where hunch and instinct mean as much as strategy and research, Chiat/Day has, for a quarter of a century, produced ads that take the consumer by surprise and cross over into mainstream news. They are startling (the futuristic "1984" commercial for Apple Computer); they're clever (the Energizer Bunny); they're outrageous (a bungee jumper falls out of his shoes because he isn't wearing Reeboks). Chiat/Day has had a turbulent history, riddled with client defections and high-profile failures, but along the way they've elevated advertising from "ring around the collar" repetitiveness to miniatures of pop culture. Generations of advertising agencies - Leo Burnett, Ogilvy & Mather, Young & Rubicam, Doyle Dane Bernbach - had tutored the consumer in brand loyalty. Chiat/Day, the patriarch of a new, rebellious generation, taught the consumer about desire. Founder Jay Chiat wanted 1990 to mark the beginning of a new era at Chiat/Day - its emergence as a full-service marketing firm, to be run by men who shared his vision. He intended to oversee the agency's expansion into an international presence - but his ambition precipitated power struggles, and the recession hobbled his dream. For an agency where "Good enough is not enough" was a way of life, not just a tag line on a T-shirt, where the creatives had traditionally overruled the guardians of the bottom line, growth was not an easy, evolutionary process. Karen Stabiner spent a year at the Venice, California, headquarters of Chiat/Day - with total access. She sat in on client meetings, agency board meetings, pitches, and a variety of shouti
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Many critics of consumerism believe advertising ``invents desire'' for products we do not want or need--be they automobiles or presidential candidates. Stabiner ( Courting Fame ) investigated these allegations in this revealing account of the daily operations of Chiat/Day, the firm named ``Agency of the Decade'' by Advertising Age. Staffed with talented creative personnel often in conflict with the business side of the firm, Chiat/Day was unnerved by the recession, the loss of major accounts, administrative problems and fiscal constraints (often affecting expenditures for creative services and food for the office). Stabiner's candid coverage of the key players, along with material on television, print campaigns and market positioning, enrich this impressive study. While this book should appeal to the trade market and ``Madison Avenue'' types eager to learn about a competitor, it could be ``positioned'' as supplementary reading in advertising classes in business and communication schools. (May)
Library Journal
Stabiner finds out what makes Chiat/Day march to a different drummer in the world of advertising. Perhaps the most creative advertising agency in the United States, as evidenced by its work on the Energizer Bunny ads and its famous ``Why 1984 won't be 1984'' commercial that launched the Macintosh for Apple Computer, Chiat/Day rattles consumers, and often clients, who think they know what to expect from commercials. Stabiner spent 1990 at Chiat/Day's Venice, California, headquarters and had total access to all its meetings and deliberations. Her book reads more like a novel than a business history, with deft characterizations and plot turns leading to an exciting climax. Will the creative people reconcile their differences with the suits? Will the organization continue to refuse to grow up? The agency's creative genius, Lee Clow--the man to whom formal attire means long pants and socks--comes across as the hero of the saga, but all the players are memorable. This is the best book on advertising since David Ogilby's Confessions of an Advertising Man . Essential for all types of libraries.-- William W. Sannwald, San Diego P . L .
David Rouse
In 1990, "Advertising Age" magazine proclaimed Chiat/Day "the ad agency of the decade," acknowledging the firm's creative work for such clients as Nissan, NutraSweet, "TV Guide", MTV, Nickelodeon, Reebok, and American Express. Chiat/Day is also responsible for the clever but increasingly annoying Energizer bunny. That it is headquartered in Venice, California, and not on Madison Avenue, explains a lot about its corporate culture. Stabiner is the author of "Courting Fame" (1986), an in-depth profile of the women's tennis circuit. In 1990, for the entire year, she was granted total access to Chiat/Day's headquarters. She observed corporate power struggles, sat in on strategy sessions, watched attempts to woo and keep clients, and tracked the evolution of new ad campaigns. Reported in dramatic episodes, these events successfully show how the pressure-packed advertising business works.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671723460
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/1/1993
  • Pages: 352

Meet the Author

Karen Stabiner
Karen Stabiner
Karen Stabiner, whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The New Yorker, is the author of Inventing Desire, an acclaimed portrait of contemporary American advertising, among other books. She lives in Santa Monica, California, with her husband and daughter.
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