Did someone say Howard Gossage? – By @Aaron_Furman1

By Aaron Furman


Did someone say Howard Gossage? 

Disclaimer – includes one free coupon valid until 31st December 2019


Howard Gossage was a maverick, renegade and visionary of 20th-century advertising. The great and wise copywriter David Ogilvy described him as “the most articulate rebel in the advertising business”. His influence extends far greater than this discipline and had a hand in creating ‘Friends of Earth’ and counter cultures ‘Woodstock’.



He was obsessed with the notion of information loops. A pragmatic conversation with the audience, essentially getting them to participate in every advert he constructed. Gossage envisioned Facebook before Mark Zuckerberg took his first breath out of the womb. In doing so, invented interactive adverting in the 1950s.



Before technology reared its sleepless head, two-way communication came in the form of the humble coupon. This piece of extraordinary paper was Gossage’s gateway to the masses and perpetuated his unique style. Even when the advert had nothing to comment on, he insisted on the coupons’ participation and asked his audience how their day was. 



To quote the man “You do one ad and see what happens; then you do another one”. A simple premise, but in his time revolutionary. It would take another two generations before anyone signed up for this course. He was unequivocally linked to the audience via one inclusive information loop, and the feedback that came around that loop enabled the adman to write ever more interesting and involving communications. 



I’ll highlight two notable campaigns born in San Fransisco’s best advertising agency housed at ‘The Firehouse’. The first is the Paper Airplane competition. It started when the publisher of Scientific American magazine asked Gossage to attract big-spending airline companies to advertise in the magazines’ pages. Essentially, asking him to create an advert to sell advertising. A complex problem tackled with an ingenious solution. 



He came up with the ‘1st international paper Airplane competition’. They bought 2 pages in The New Yorker and below is the actual advert itself. 


By 11am on the day of the launch, Scientific American had calls from Eastern Airlines and American Airlines placing adverts in the magazine. After, the ad ran in 3 publications and feedback was immense, attracting over 11,000 entrants. It went so far that a book entitled The Great International Paper Airplane Book. The book sold over 10,000 copies even before it’s publication. This campaign was talked about for years and the estimated cost was only $40,000.



His next breakthrough campaign was for Fina petrol and again broke conventional advertising. He began by researching all there competitors and concluded that all brands of petrol were identical. Therefore, he created a campaign so absurd, it was adored by millions. The ‘pink air’ adverts insisted that Fina couldn’t add anymore addictive in their petrol because you couldn’t improve upon their winning formula.  


With this advert came one of the most well-regarded piece of copy to ever grace adland. “If you’re driving down and you see a Fina station and it’s on your side so you don’t have to make a U-turn through traffic and there aren’t six cars waiting and you need to get gas or something please stop in”. 



I hope I have engaged you with the tremendous work of Howard Gossage and spurred you to read Changing the world is only fit work for a grown man by Steve Harrison. A book dedicated to his life and times. 



In Gossage fashion, I will offer a free coupon to write YOUR SCAB to all my classmates. However, terms and conditions do apply. 



  • It expires on 31st December 2019
  • You must present it at least 7 days before the SCAB is due
  • We must be in a pub
  • You must buy me a drink 

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