United Technologies and Dick Kerr.

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As a kid growing up in advertising I was lucky enough to work on a piece of the United Technologies account. Comprised of Sikorsky helicopters, Otis Elevator, Carrier air conditioners, and Pratt and Whitney, this juggernaut was a fairly unknown master brand. And a master brand saddled with a pretty poor name.

To elevate the United Technologies brand they turned to a copywriter named Dick Kerr. They could have gone to Ogilvy or JWT but somehow Dick got his foot in the door and became the creative agency of record.

Dick wrote all-type ads. Wonderful ads. Ads not about helicopters and elevators, but about people. Places. Things. And behavior. At the time these ads ran – as full-pages on back covers of The Wall Street Journal — this type of corporate advertising was unheard of.  At the bottom of each ad, composed of a single top-to-bottom column of type, sat the United Technologies wheel logo. Captains of industry began to read these babies and understand that  holding companies could be much more than the sum of their parts and balance sheets.

At one point, readership studies showed that 7 of the top 10 “best read” ads ever to run in The Wall Street Journal, were penned by Dick. By United Technologies. UTC make a book out of the ads called Gray Matter named after Harry Gray, then CEO.

Dick is gone now but in its waning days United Technologies is still benefiting from his writing, his wit and his strategy.

Below is copy from the first ad in they series, as I remember.

Keep it simple.

Strike three.

Get your hand off my knee.

You’re overdrawn.

Your horse won.

Yes.

No.

You have the account.

Walk.

Don’t walk.

Mother’s dead.

Basic events require simple language.

Idiosyncratically euphuistic eccentricities are the promulgators of triturable obfuscation.

What did you do last night?

Enter into a meaningful romantic involvement
or fall in love?

What did you have for breakfast this morning?

The upper part of a hog’s hind leg with two oval bodies encased in a shell laid by a female bird
or ham and eggs? 

David Belasco, the great American theatrical producer once said, “If you can’t write your idea on the back of my calling card, you don’t have a clear idea.”