The CA experience

Not only do I go to the washroom when the commercials come on, I take them with me.'Mommy, I want to be in advertising.'Better fate'Couldn't you wish for a better fate, my son? Like having your eyelids permanently sutured to your...

Not only do I go to the washroom when the commercials come on, I take them with me.

‘Mommy, I want to be in advertising.’

Better fate

‘Couldn’t you wish for a better fate, my son? Like having your eyelids permanently sutured to your forehead and then being forced to watch Roseanne Arnold model Fredrick of Hollywood’s latest line of lingerie.’

‘But, mommy dearest….’

That’s what I told my mom about 20 years ago. Why, I was just a baby. Of course, I couldn’t talk, but my mother could read my lips. Or gums.

I got a lucky break.

I got my first job as a baby copywriter for $55 a week. Yeah, 55 bucks a week. In those days, you could buy a lot of pablum with that kind of money. But nothing else.

Which brings me to what I was really weaned on.

It was an advertising publication that I could never get enough of. Or ever put down, even when nature called. It came with a blue cover, and with gold metallic type on it that simply read: ca. And two numerals signifying the year followed.

I tell no lie. I distinctly remember to this day the first time I opened a ca. It was CA69.

As I stood there (maybe I sat) looking at it, first my mouth went dry. Then, someone turned off the volume on all the sounds in the world. Adrenalin, or whatever the chemical is that makes your mind race at 100 miles per hour, rushed through my being. (Luckily, none of it went on the floor.)

I was riveted. Entranced. Enthralled. There, on every page, were ads like I had never seen before. They were so simple. They talked in a real language real people used. The messages were so clear. And so imaginative.

So exciting

They made the advertising business seem so exciting.

For example. There was an ad with a picture of a snowstorm with fresh car tracks on the road. And nothing else. It was an ad for the Volkswagen ‘Beetle.’ The headline underneath the picture simply said: ‘We finally came up with a beautiful picture of a Volkswagen.’

In those days, the vw Beetle was considered an ugly car, but a practical one. And this ad hammered home the point that a vw starts looking good when everything else starts looking bad. Like during a blizzard.

This ad was a breath of fresh air. You’ve got to remember that most North American car ads back then were saying: ‘The room you need, at a price you’ll like.’ Or something brilliant like that.

There was another great ad with a picture of a cop standing in the middle of a traffic jam looking rather sheepish, covering his crotch with his hat.

The ad was for Talon zippers. The headline: ‘Even a policeman can get stuck in traffic.’ The selling point? Quite simple. When you zipped up Talon, it stayed zipped up.

And you ought to have seen the commercial for gun control.

It didn’t matter what page you looked at, the ads in ca made advertising the kind of business you wanted to be in.

That was 20-some years ago.

Yesterday, I picked up a new ca that had just arrived at our office. The blue cover was gone. So was ‘ca’ in gold metallic type. The outside had been redesigned. But inside. Let me tell you about the inside.

Yeah, my mouth went dry, someone muted the volume on the world, the adrenalin rushed, the whole bit.

The 34 Communication Arts Advertising Annual, as it is now called, made advertising seem so exciting. All over again.

I love the ad on page 12. There’s a picture of a Penn tennis ball. And the headline: ‘If it comes back, you didn’t hit it hard enough.’

There’s a lovely ad for a bicycle marathon in Oregon. The photograph is of a bunch of cyclists coming right at you. The headline reads: ‘If you smell something burning, don’t worry. It’s just your legs.’


There’s a terrific campaign on page 59 for the Edgar Allen Poe Museum. One of the ads simply says: ‘Sadomasochist, drug addict, manic depressive, pervert, egomaniac, alcoholic? When did Poe find time to write?’

There are two great little ads for U.S. Bank on page 65: ‘Your bank is merging? No problem. Nothing will change. (Now let us tell you about the Easter Bunny.’)

There’s a great ad on just about every page (and not a pun in sight.)

But that’s no surprise. Every year, only the best creative from around the world gets into ca.

There’s something else I noticed in this year’s ca. Something quite remarkable. It’s a transit shelter poster on page 116. It’s by Franklin Dallas for the Metropolitan Toronto Ambulance.

And it’s the only Canadian ad (or commercial) in the 34 Communications Arts Advertising Annual.

The only one.

Jerry Kuleba is a partner and creative director at Kuleba & Shyllit, a Toronto ad agency.