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I saw something today that triggered me to again ponder on past jobs I’ve had and how things have changed.

When I worked in the advertising game, I wrote and art directed a number of television commercials among other things for Canon in the mid to late 1980’s. This was in the days when a fax machine was pretty cool technology.

It seems funny when you watch these TV ads now. Wow – we could send to ‘131 locations with the touch of one button’. – Tell that to kids today and they won’t believe you 😉

Don’t forget, you also had to program all 131 phone numbers into the machine – not as easy as you may think – and then you paid for 131 phone calls – but hey, it was automated!

Excuse the quality of these video files, I did these in Quicktime 2 (it was very cutting edge at the time.) In fact I actually put five of my TV commercials on one floppy disc using Quicktime – that’s how small these files were. (I remember them looking a lot bigger on my little MacIntosh). This is one of them:


No CGI back then, we made this globe and punched holes in it, putting a standard light bulb inside it and then tracked the camera around it to make it appear as though it was spinning. All very expensive and time consuming compared with today’s software solutions.

For those interested in the strategy behind this; we had already used the campaign theme for Canon, ‘The big gun in fax’ which clearly branded Canon as THE manufacturer of fax machines in the minds of consumers. It became a little trickier when we wanted to use the same branding (ie a Canon going off) to launch the colour copiers. Copiers don’t fire anything in the same way a fax can blast messages, and we already had a dalmatian as a theme on black and white copiers. This TV ad shows how I managed to blend the two messages together for the colour copier launch.


I added the dog nodding ‘in approval’ at the new colour copier, which was kind of cute and linked the old and the new.

You will notice that the copier ad ends with the canon, but it doesn’t go off – it didn’t make sense for the canon to explode as it did in the fax ad, but we did want the visual branding for brand recognition.

Are we better off today?

This campaign included many point of sale components, leaflets and specification sheets and other business to business campaign elements but as I think about how differently a strategy for a product launch is done today.

Gone are the days when you reach almost everyone in a city like Sydney by advertising on only 3 TV Stations. Look how much more expensive it is to try to reach the same number of people with all of these new TV stations, new radio stations, the Internet and other distractions.

It cost a lot less to make TV commercials these days, but now it costs a lot more to reach the target market because there is so much competition. So, are we better off now or not?