Julian Gratton

Recalling some of the great TV Adverts created by Ally & Gargano

There’s a huge book in the reception here at Red C. It cost quite a bit, and is bloody heavy. Mainly because it’s jam-packed full of great work by an advertising agency that is no longer with us… that advertising agency is Ally & Gargano.

Ally & Gargano created some of the most successful advertising of the latter half of the 20th Century (their words, not mine). As you look through the book and take a look at the work and read the case studies you end up discovering some sound thinking, excellent strategies and some beautifully executed work.

It’s an expensive book. And the postage costs are quite high too. So I thought I’d highlight some of my favourite pieces of TV work that the agency did for you below:

Volvo 1962-1967

Looking at these adverts now you’ll probably wonder what the fuss is about Ally & Gargano. To understand the importance of the work that the agency did for this Swedish car manufacturer, you have to understand that back in 1962 comparative advertising was not a tactic used by advertisers.

Ally & Gargano had just opened their doors and they needed a brave Client with a superior product that the agency could make their name with. The strategy the agency adopted was to not compare their product with other imports, they compared the Volvo to the domestic cars that sold 2 million units a year. And comparing the Volvo to inferior American cars meant that the Volvo could always win hands-down.

With killer lines like ‘You can drive it like you hate it’ the agency tripled Volvos sales between 1962 and 1967. Take a look at a collection of the Volvo adverts created by All & Gargano below.

Tonka Toys – 1972-1977

I had a Tonka truck when I was kid. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t break the bloody thing. So I can safely say that what is depicted in these adverts is true… these toys were built to last. In these series of adverts Ally & Gargano took some simple human truths (a toy shouldn’t break just because a child plays with it) and had some fun with it… an elephant standing on it, a car using a truck as a fourth wheel… all great ways to show off the durability of Tonka.

The result of these adverts for Tonka (who had a very modest advertising budget) was that their awareness was ahead of the likes of Mattel, Fisher price and Playskool. The industry norm set by McCollum/Speilman at the time for testing commercials was a score of 48. Tonka’s adverts regularly scored a 63 or higher. The last advert the agency did scored an 86… the highest score any toy commercial has received.

Pan Am 1970-1978

Ally & Gargano shared the Pan Am airlines account with J Walter Thompson. By 1971, Pan Am was in a little trouble due to an economic recession resulting in a more cautious American public. A result of this was that Americans were more likely to take cheaper domestic vacations rather than expensive foreign holidays.

To counter this, Pan Am had come up with a Fly-Now-Pay-Later strategy that wasn’t capturing anyone’s imagination. Ally & Garganop therefore began to work on an approach that was based upon the idea of not putting your life on hold. Of not cancelling the dream. Reminding the American people that life is too short.

The client loved the idea and so a deliberately stark commercial was created featuring actor Mike Road. The result was a notable improvement in Pan Am’s summer bookings despite the commercial receiving both extreme praise and criticism… one woman wrote a letter that said: “Your Pan Am commercial changed my life. I figure if you do things right, you only have to go around once”.

However, another woman wrote: “How dare you! I’ve been saving for years to put my children through college, and you come along and suggest I take my money and spend it on foreign travel!”

The advert resulted in the main portion of the advertising account moving away from J Walter Thompson to all & Gargano. The advert won significant praise from what is now The One Club.

Fed Ex 1974 – 1986

Having helped Federal Express become the industry leader in small package delivery Ally & Gargano created for them what is regarded as one of the best adverts in advertising history, as voted by Madison Avenue Ad Men in the 2008 edition of New York magazine.

The spot entitled ‘Fast Paced World’ is beloved by over four generations of Creative Directors. It’s easy to see why… a great concept, script, art direction and casting all combine to create what is also a very memorable advert from my youth and one I still love today.

It’s just one of many effective and creative executions created by Ally & Gargano for Federal Express. Fred Smith (the founder of Federal express) was quoted as saying that if it wasn’t for Ally & Gargano Federal express would not exist today.

Pentax 1978 – 1982

Sadly I can’t find any examples online of the TV commercial I want to share with you for Pentax. So I’ve scanned in a page from the Ally & Gargano book that shows the storyboard for the advert I want to show. When Ally & gargano began working for Pentax they were fourth place in market share. In less than three years they were number two in market share with 40%.

Back when I was a student I purchased a second hand Pentax ME from Jessops and I absolutely loved that camera. So that’s why this advert for the Pentax ME really speaks to me as I can wholeheartedly say that the images this camera gave were brilliant. It’s just one example of the great advertising done for this Client that was produced for a fraction of the cost of their competitors (less than 50%).

With adverts like this and the ones I’ve listed above it’s easy to see why Ally & Gargano have achieved legendary status. With sound thinking, strong personalities, talented creative and clear beliefs about what makes a great advert, they are a great lesson to everyone working in advertising.