Heartwarming Promotions

BBDO New York President and CEO John Osborne talks with Bradley business students after he gave the McCord Lecture. (Photo by Duane Zehr)

Matt Hawkins
April 4, 2016

With a backdrop of celebrities, humanoid creatures and heartwarming stories, advertising executive John Osborne shared wisdom from two-plus decades at BBDO New York. Osborne, the firm’s president and CEO, gave Bradley University’s 40th McCord Lecture.

Commercials and advertising campaigns with Marilyn Monroe (Snickers), “Puppymonkeybaby” (Mountain Dew Kickstart) and Barbies (“Imagine the Possibilities” campaign) played as Osborne demonstrated creative methods to make a positive impact in advertising despite a “perfect storm” of information saturation and electronic methods to skip over and block advertising.

“Tell great stories that captivate and pull you in,” he said. “Consumers aren’t rational like Spock. We’re actually like Homer Simpson. We have innate desires to tap.”

While humorous spots such as “Puppymonkeybaby” or Footlocker’s internet campaign featuring NBA star James Harden could generate buzz, Osborne found messaging aimed at people’s emotions would best stand out and spark consumers’ action.

He cited AT&T’s “Close to Home,” produced by Bradley alumnus Matt McDonald ’98, as an example of this. The commercial tugged hearts to caution drivers against distracted driving.

Even though advertisers face a marketplace in which 84 percent of consumers skip advertisements and 1 billion devices have ad-blocking software, Osborne suggested the profession needed risk-embracing innovators to join its ranks.

“If you like solving tough challenges, the advertising industry is a great career,” he said. “When creativity is done right, it can have a tremendous effect that makes the world better.”

Sponsored by Illinois Mutual Life Insurance Company, the McCord Lecture Series features top business leaders discussing the challenges of leading major enterprises.

Illinois Mutual also established the Robert A. McCord Endowed Professorship for Executive Management Development in 1990 to honor the late Robert A. McCord when he retired as Chairman of the Board and CEO of the company.

The professorship, currently held by Dr. Joshua Lewer, recognizes a Bradley faculty member who teaches students in the Foster College of Business with creativity and passion and supports that faculty member’s research and professional activities.