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The Legend Will Live On
March 25, 2008 7:31 PM   Subscribe

Hal Riney, a legendary ad man, has died at age 75. Hal Riney has died of cancer. You may have heard his voiceovers for First Union's PBS sponsorship ads, chuckled at his ingenious fictional 'every person' wine producers Bartles and Jaymes or been blown away or utterly disgusted by his Reagan presidential campaign ad series Morning In America (rumor has it that Riney was a Democrat), worked with him or for him at Hal Riney & Partners or Publicis & Hal Riney in San Francisco, or marveled at how his agency made Saturn a major player in the auto industry (while obscuring it was just another GM product!). So long, Hal!

Whether you see advertising as a creative craft or just a bunch of hooey and manipulative psychological tricks, there is no denying that Hal Riney left a big mark in the world of advertising.
posted by kuppajava (35 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Wow. I'm amazed at how non-dated the Bartles & Jaymes and Reagan spots seem. transfer them to HD and they'd fit right in today (and probably get a disconcerting number of people voting for Reagan).
posted by Navelgazer at 7:36 PM on March 25, 2008


The "It's Morning" ads would have to be the most devastatingly effective political ads of all time. How to stay positive and kick the teeth out of your opponent at the same time.
posted by mattoxic at 8:07 PM on March 25, 2008


hal wasn't a democrat but he did like to fish. jeff goodby has written a long obit on adweek. I know a bunch of creatives who have gotten their start under him, though for the last few years he hasn't been working anymore.

there are also posts about him on ad age, agency spy and adcritic... I mean creativity.
posted by krautland at 8:15 PM on March 25, 2008


Bill Hicks said it best:

By the way, if anyone here is in marketing or advertising...kill yourself. Thank you. Just planting seeds, planting seeds is all I'm doing. No joke here, really. Seriously, kill yourself, you have no rationalization for what you do, you are Satan's little helpers. Kill yourself, kill yourself, kill yourself now. Now, back to the show. Seriously, I know the marketing people: 'There's gonna be a joke comin' up.' There's no fuckin' joke. Suck a tail pipe, hang yourself...borrow a pistol from an NRA buddy, do something...rid the world of your evil fuckin' presence.
posted by item at 8:22 PM on March 25, 2008 [7 favorites]


...and there's a two drink minimum, so remember to order a Bartles and Jaymes!
posted by not_on_display at 9:00 PM on March 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I always thought hicks was boring (and have so commented in other threads on mefi) but people like him are the reason I love working in advertising. it's so easy to get the nutters excited, especially the slightly off-balanced ones. I love watching them moan, jump, scream and complain, especially when it's about something I did in twenty minutes flat.
posted by krautland at 9:14 PM on March 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I always thought hicks was boring (and have so commented in other threads on mefi) but people like him are the reason I love working in advertising. it's so easy to get the nutters excited, especially the slightly off-balanced ones. I love watching them moan, jump, scream and complain, especially when it's about something I did in twenty minutes flat.

Make fun of him all you like, you're still in the business of manufacturing desire.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:22 PM on March 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


I'm sure all the stories I've heard of Riney over portfolios and cocktails aren't the kinds of things that belong in an obit, but it sure seemed like he lived up to the reputation that advertising is still trying to live down to this day.

He was the West Coast's Leo Burnett with a hearty helping of "Aw Shucks" that could make anything folksy, although I can't remember a single thing the agency's done since they put "Publicis" on the door.

But wow does it make me feel old to think that the big names when I decided to go into the industry are the retired and the dying off. Raise the martini at half mast over at Pier 23, I guess.

. for good measure.
posted by Gucky at 9:49 PM on March 25, 2008


Make fun of him all you like, you're still in the business of manufacturing desire.

You say that as if it's something people in advertising are afraid to admit. When I taught advertising, the first thing I taught was propaganda techniques. Joseph Goebbels was inspired by the PR man for Lucky Strikes.

I could make cogs all day. Or lattes. Manufacturing consent and desire at least comes with a lot more perks – and a pool table in the office.

Hal Riney put a human face on products. Sure, it was a plastic human face that just wanted to sell you stuff, but heck, if it's going to eat away at your life 30 seconds at a time, it better at least be entertaining.
posted by Gucky at 10:24 PM on March 25, 2008


you're still in the business of manufacturing desire.

you make that sound as if it was anything bad. or as if I actually cared whether some guy in a suit sells something. on good days I entertain myself, barely able to believe that someone is paying me to do this. I mean... who wouldn't like to play with photographers, directors, illustrators, actors, models and all that stuff? it beats bagging groceries. you'll never get anyone to admit to this on the record but a lot of creatives think this way. it's the account people downstairs who drink the kool-aid.

and btw: I actually like to think that I make cool cool.
I also killed the pixies, cobain and now I have my sights set on you.
posted by krautland at 10:31 PM on March 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


you make that sound as if it was anything bad

Note to self: shame is not an effective way of dealing with sociopaths.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:09 PM on March 25, 2008 [5 favorites]


I always thought hicks was boring (and have so commented in other threads on mefi)

Only because it's become hip in the last few years to like him and it's more hip to be contrary. Anyone who says he sucked or was unfunny is simply incorrect. If you can listen to Arizona Bay or Rant in E-Minor and not laugh at anything, you're simply a robot.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:51 PM on March 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


shame is not an effective way of dealing with sociopaths.
You're just now coming to that realization, PG?
If you're capable of shame, you can't survive more than a few weeks in the advertising business. At least that was how long I lasted and that was at the end of the '70s. I suspect the burnout rate for people with a conscience is even faster now.
posted by wendell at 11:55 PM on March 25, 2008


The problem I would have with marketing – the same problem I have doing anything else – is that I would never be able to sell/make/promote/improve something that I didn't like or wasn't excited about. On the other hand, I do like coming up with ideas and ways that people can position themselves in a market, when their product/service is actually not bullshit.

In any case, Diamond Shreddies is the best marketing I have seen in a very long time. They even redid the boxes!

Marketers are not the problem. They're just making stuff interesting. If you the consumer have some sort of psychological problem where you can't stop yourself from buying Acme Co's Air In A Tube (New, improved, fresher!) because you saw an ad for it, that's your problem. Media literacy is what to encourage, not killing marketers.
posted by blacklite at 12:29 AM on March 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


sociopaths

thank you for the compliment but you sound like a person who waits all day for the mail to come. that cheapens it somewhat. besides, you haven't read a press release lately, have you? if you want to talk shame, consult a public relations manager. alternatively, study an adobe EULA. or myspace.
posted by krautland at 1:29 AM on March 26, 2008


.
posted by dabitch at 5:27 AM on March 26, 2008


ps - can we autobahn anyone who drags that Bill Hicks rant into any ad-thread now? Or do we have to watch it being trotted out in every ad-thread for a few more years here first?
posted by dabitch at 5:57 AM on March 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


As a person working in the bowels of an ad agency (yes bowels, cos my job is to keep making and putting out stuff, alot of it being shit), the deep dark secret is that we mostly advertise stuff you don't need to buy. The more you don't need something, the more it gets advertised.

Ever seen an ad for wheat? broccoli? I didn't think so (An exception here is the milk marketing board, who have great TV ads, BTW)

The second secret is that only things with high markup (= high profit) get advertised, because there's room enough in the budget for the high cost of advertising. Again, this is a clue that you probably don't need it. As mentioned above, you don't see ads for wheat, but you will see ads for breakfast cereal, because someone in Battle Creek discovered that people will pay a whole lot for some crunchy thing made from a few cents' worth of grain, sugar and a pinch of salt.

Or cars... you don't need a new car, you just need a car (yes this too is debatable). Most people know that you can get the transport you need for alot less by buying a two or 3 year-old car. This is possible cos so many of you insist on having new cars every few years. (Thanks, BTW)

As long as the public has discretionary income, advertisers will help their clients troll for those loose dollars.

There is, unfortunately a growing market in brainwashing PR. The oil companies are one example, big agriculture is another, and of course politics.

The consumer of course can put the advertising world out of business tomorrow, by simply tuning us out, by not wanting that new car, by making oatmeal every day, by actually informing themselves about issues and their politicians. Easy.

Despite the fact that it's exciting, rarely boring, and pays absurdly well, I sometimes feel bad about being in the ad business. I do plan to get out. As soon as the mortgage is paid and I've bought that bigger boat I saw in an ad.
posted by Artful Codger at 7:03 AM on March 26, 2008 [9 favorites]


ps - can we autobahn anyone who drags that Bill Hicks rant into any ad-thread now? Or do we have to watch it being trotted out in every ad-thread for a few more years here first?

Yeah, I totally deserve to be banned for that. You are so right.
posted by item at 7:18 AM on March 26, 2008


You're right, who needs advertising? When I need a car, I just look in the yellow pages and write down all the car dealers in my area. Then I go, one by one, to each of them, to find out what their prices are. I call or write the manufacturers to get technical specs about the engines, safety features, materials, etc. (This takes a while, because the manufacturers have to go to their files of specs from their subcontractors to get the information.)

Then I put all the information into a big spreadsheet (don't even get me started about how I chose and bought the computer), work on it for a month or so, and make my decision.

Oh wait, they just released a new line of cars while I was doing that. Back to the drawing board!

Advertising is a nuisance until it's for something you're interested in. Then it's a service.

(Yes, I work in advertising. I help sell business services to big businesses. Since I'm a lying sociopath and need to kill myself, doesn't that also mean I'm sticking it to the man?)
posted by PlusDistance at 7:22 AM on March 26, 2008


Meta: Defend your ad honors here
And talk about Hal here.
posted by dabitch at 7:23 AM on March 26, 2008


you're still in the business of manufacturing desire.

So were the Surrealists.

I also killed the pixies, cobain and now I have my sights set on you.

Could you do something about Thurston Moore?
posted by octobersurprise at 7:26 AM on March 26, 2008 [1 favorite]




Not many people know that We've only just begun was the theme for Crocker Bank of San Francisco. Thanks Hal.
posted by dabitch at 7:46 AM on March 26, 2008


#:"I'm amazed at how non-dated the Bartles & Jaymes and Reagan spots seem."

Maybe they don't look dated because those are all the props of security that Reagan-the-Third (aka George W. Bush) has undone over the past 8 years?

{SIDEBAR: A Man in a Suit deigning to carpool to work!?! Wtf?1? The guy must be a Democrat, cause he sure as hell isn't a closer. }

Sorry, I generally try not to put my foot into these Mefi political threads, but that ad is one of the most acrimonious examples of visual Kool-Aid™ ever created.

I'll now have to watch 'Pleasantville' 3 or 4 times, just to purge the scent from my neocortex...
posted by vhsiv at 7:49 AM on March 26, 2008


you sound like a person who waits all day for the mail to come

I hate when the mail comes. Mainly because of all the fucking advertisements.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:54 AM on March 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


Ok, who let the Westboro Baptist Church into Metafilter?
posted by dakotadusk at 8:01 AM on March 26, 2008


especially when it's about something I did in twenty minutes flat.

that's exactly the problem; if you, and your brothers and sisters in scam, took a bit longer than twenty minutes flat to make the shit you make, it's probably stink a bit less. instead, you fill the media with derivative, unoriginal, lowest-common-denominator pablum that assumes all its targets are as dumb as you guys think they are (maybe you're simply projecting, who knows). people like Hicks have a legitimate problem with the naked -- even gloating, as your own comment proves -- dishonesty of your line of work; other people have a problem with its low, low, low quality. I'm one of them.


how non-dated the Bartles & Jaymes and Reagan spots seem

I was just thinking about how fucking corny the Reagan ad is; basically unwatchable. But then the flag-raising stuff, after 9-11, obviously works. I liked the YouTube comments, though.
posted by matteo at 8:32 AM on March 26, 2008


...if you, and your brothers and sisters in scam, took a bit longer than twenty minutes flat to make the shit you make, it's probably stink a bit less. instead...

Not to defend krautland, but you could make virtually the same comment about any line of work. (With the exception of prostitution and crepe-making.)
posted by PlusDistance at 8:44 AM on March 26, 2008


and btw: I actually like to think that I make cool cool.

If you think it's "cool," it's likely not.
posted by ericb at 8:57 AM on March 26, 2008


...but heck, if it's going to eat away at your life 30 seconds at a time, it better at least be entertaining.

Oh, how I love my TiVo (starting at just $99.99; free shipping with a 30-day money back guarantee and complimentary tech support).
posted by ericb at 9:00 AM on March 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


ericb has a point (see, that meta thread got me sucked in!)... life without sky+ (tivo, wtc) is an awful thing. When I actually have to sit through an ad now (at the cinema, usually), I make huge point of talking over it.

I had no idea who this guy was, but it's going to be hard to get me on board with how great a human he was if he helped Reagan out. Sorry, ad people.
posted by chuckdarwin at 7:08 PM on March 26, 2008


I actually like to think that I make cool cool.

Thank GOD you're around to tell us what to think - because I totally keep on forgetting what I actually like.
posted by Sparx at 5:43 AM on March 27, 2008


Hal Riney trivia: his office at Publicis & Hal Riney had a giant Bison head mounted on the wall.
posted by dabitch at 6:14 AM on March 27, 2008


This thread got incredibly tacky pretty fast. There's something sad about the 'golly I'm so authentic' dick-diddling that happens whenever any insufficiently 'countercultural' opinion is expressed around here. A man is dead. It's unlikely that more than a tiny handful of us will leave so much as a comment thread behind; if shame meant anything here that would be something to mull over.
posted by waxbanks at 2:15 PM on March 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


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