Luke Sullivan's Mistake

When “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This” was published, Luke Sullivan was the best copywriter in the world. 

I had long admired Luke Sullivan’s work at The Martin Agency and Fallon, so when I heard that he had written a book on advertising, I knew I had to read it.  I didn’t plan on buying it though.  I figured I would just borrow a copy from someone at the office.  But then my friend and fellow copywriter Scott Corbett told me that it had one of my ads in it.  

As soon as I heard that, I went directly to Borders and bought a copy. 

I was so excited that my ad was published in a book that I didn’t care what kind of book it was.  I was like John Candy in Splash when he got a story published in the Penthouse Forum.  He was published.  And now, so was I.

When I saw it, I was ecstatic.  On page 25 in all its glory was Absolut Magnetism.  My ad.  But what I really wanted to see was my name.  So I quickly flipped to the credits on page 246.  I couldn’t believe what I saw.  I was listed as the art director.  I’m a copywriter.  What an insult.  What an oversight.  How could the great Luke Sullivan have made such an egregious mistake? 

I fumed about it for a while and then wallowed in self-pity for hours.  I wasn’t listed as the copywriter in the book by the greatest copywriter ever. 

Then I realized that the only people who check those credits are the guys who did the ads.  So I was the only one who noticed.

Since I really couldn’t do anything about it, my rationalizing continued.  If you work on the Absolut vodka campaign, it’s probably better to be known as the art director than the copywriter.  The campaign is one of the most famous print campaigns of all time and it’s art direction heavy.  It’s certainly not what one would call a copy-driven campaign.  There are only two words in each ad.  In this case, Absolut Magnetism.  Since the word Absolut is in every ad, what does a copywriter have to brag about?  “Hey, I came up with the word Magnetism?”  So maybe Luke actually did me a giant favor by listing me as the art director.

After I got over the initial shock of Luke’s gaffe, I decided that I might as well read the book since it was about copywriting and I was a copywriter even though Luke didn’t think I was.

Every page of “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This” is filled with nuggets that have stayed with me ever since.  “Never present an idea to a client that you don’t want to produce.”  “Choose your battles carefully.”  And my personal favorite, “Outlast the Idiots.”

What I found in Luke’s book changed my career.  No, I didn’t become an art director.  I became a much, much better writer.

Not that you can tell from this blog. 

Thank you Luke. 

And best of luck at Savannah College of Art & Design.  Wait a minute.  Aren’t you a copywriter?    

7 responses
Great story, David. I was in college when Hey Whipple was published. I was an English Lit major and had taken a copywriting course because it had the word 'writing' in it. Our professor made us read Whipple - and I was hooked. No longer was I going to teach HS English, but now I was going into advertising. Of course I was in Jax, FL at the time - not exactly the mecca of creative thinking. So I put a spec book together and shopped myself up and down the east coast. I actually received offers from two shops in NYC, one in Richmond and one in Charlotte. And that's how we know each other, you and me. So thank YOU for influencing me just as much as Luke did.
My favorite book written for advertising creatives by far! It inspired me so much when I was still a young whippersnapper and helped me develop my own process for generating ad concepts, ideas and strategies.

I buy a copy of it for every creative person that I hire at my shop and ask them to read it (if they haven't already)—no matter how long they've been in the industry.

To have your work included in that book is a huge honor—a well-deserved one.

So, wait a're NOT and art director??? ;^)

Kudos, friend!

- Kevin Flores

Couldn't agree more!

If an illegal immigrant came up to me and said, "Excuse me sir, I want to become a copywriter, but I can't afford ad school, because I'm a dishwasher at a taqueria--what should I do?" I'd tell them to read, reread, and ingest three books: Strunk and White's Elements of Style, Hugh McLeod's "How to Be Creative" manifesto, and Hey Whipple.

Speaking of which, it's about time for me to reread HW again. . . .

4 visitors upvoted this post.