The Care and Feeding of Ideas

Bill Backer has been a top name in the advertising business for forty years. He has created some of the most successful campaigns of all time, including “Millertime,” “Soup is Good Food,” and “Tastes Great, Less Filling,” a campaign for Miller beer featuring celebrities from sports and other fields which was the national favorite with male television viewers for fifteen years. Backer’s greatest triumph was the creation of the Coca-Cola commercial based on the song whose lyrics became familiar to millions of television viewers in the U.S. and overseas: “I’d like to buy the world a home And furnish it with love, Grow apple trees and honey bees And snow white turtle doves. I’d like to teach the world to sing In perfect harmony, I’d like to buy the world a Coke And keep it company.” The effectiveness of this commercial was shown by the fact that the song by itself became a hit single.

Throughout his informal, anecdotal book, the author uses the history of this phenomenally successful Coke campaign to illustrate “Backer’s laws of ideas.” He asserts that good ideas are not sufficient: they must have the support of what he calls an “extended family” in order to survive the many negative forces that throttle ideas in infancy. These negative forces may include envious coworkers, unimaginative superiors, parsimonious clients, and bureaucratic inertia.

Often the idea’s parent receives acknowledgement only if the campaign fails, while someone higher up grabs the credit if it succeeds. Backer, who is currently vice-chairman and executive creative director of Backer Spielvogel Bates Worldwide, Inc., possesses corporate infighting experience as well as creativity; he does a first-rate job of explaining the secrets of developing advertising campaigns at the highest agency and client levels and how to get “The Power Who Can Say Yes” to say yes.