Part 1

Watch Part 1 of an interview with George Tannenbaum and answer the questions.

 Which other members of his family have worked in advertising?

 When did George start working in advertising?

 What wasn’t he allowed to do when the family was watching TV?

 Why does he think jungles are so memorable?

 What kind of ads were the H.O. Farina TV commercials?

 What happens in the story of Wilhelmina and Willie?


 His father’s brother / His uncle and his father

 In 1984

 Talk when the commercials were on

 Because they get into your head and you can’t get them out, and you sometimes hear them several times a day.

 Animated cartoons advertising cereal for children

 Willie trips over a rock every day, so one day Wilhelmina tells him to move it. When he says he can’t because it is too big, she says she will do it. Willie says she isn’t strong enough, but he is wrong – Wilhelmina eats H.O. Farina, so she is strong.


I = interviewer, G = George Tannenbaum

Part 1

I     What first drew you to advertising as a career choice?

G   What drew me to advertising was, actually, in a weird way, I had no choice – I’m a third-generation advertising guy. My father’s brother – my uncle – who was fifteen years older than he, was in advertising, believe it or not, in the 1940s in Philadelphia. My father kind of took the baton from him, was in advertising, and I grew up with it, so I’ve been making a living in the business since 1984. It’s a long time. It’s thirty years.

I     Do you still remember any commercials from your childhood?

G   So I remember a lot of commercials. You know, growing up in an advertising household as we did, TV was more of a social event in those days – there wasn’t a TV in every room, like, the family would gather to watch television. And, we were told not to talk, you know, during the commercials. We could talk during the shows, so I grew up kind of watching commercials. I remember a lot of commercials. I bet you most people of my…uh… generation would remember a lot of…I feel kind of guilty saying this, because they are usually decried as not very creative, but you remember a lot of jingles.

I     What do you think makes jingles memorable?

G   Among purists in the field, jingles are, you know, laughed at – scoffed at – but God, you remember them. You know they – what do they call them, ear worms? They get into your head and you can’t get them out sometimes, and you add that to, you know, almost everyday exposure six times a day – it’s going to get in there. I can do…There was a, you know, there was a… there was a…I could sing one for you; there was a kids’ hot cereal, a hot cereal for children called H.O. Farina, and it was an animated cartoon. It was very rudimentary. If you saw it today, you wouldn’t believe it was a national-broadcast cartoon. And it was a little story of Willie and Wilhelmina, and Willie trips on a rock and he goes, “Every day I trip over that rock, Wilhelmina.” And she says, “Move it, Willie.” And he says, “Can’t, too big.” And I bet you I’m getting this word for word if you could find it. And she says, “I will.” And he says, “Huh, you’re a girl.” And she picks it up and then the jingle comes up and it goes “Strong Wilhelmina eats her Farina.” Like I said, I probably heard that five hundred times, maybe more, when I was growing up, because it was…it was every weekend for about eight years.

Part 2

Watch Part 2. Complete the notes with one or two words.

 George says that a commercial is made up of three elements:

      1   ___________

      2   ___________

      3   ___________

 The acronym AIDA stands for:

      A   ___________

      I    ___________

      D   ___________

      A   ___________

 According to George, using a celebrity in advertising is a way of ___________, but he isn’t a ___________ of it.

4   George thinks that humor in advertising is ___________.


 1 impact   2 communication   3 persuasion

 Attention, Interest, Desire, Action

 getting impact, (giant) fan

 incredibly important


Part 2

I     What elements of a commercial are the most important?

 To me, a commercial basically is built in three parts. If you think of it as a pyramid, the top part of the pyramid I would say is impact. I have to intrude upon your life because you are probably working on your computer while you’re watching TV or you’re doing something, and when I’m talking about a TV commercial, it’s the same for a web ad or an app. So, you have to get impact, you have to intrude, you have to kind of knock on the door. The second thing is communication – what do you want the person to know?

And…and that needs to be clear and precise. And the third thing is the hardest: it’s persuasion, because ultimately, you’re running a commercial to get people to do something, so it’s that amalgamation. Another way of talking about it – and this is old school – but there’s an acronym, that probably comes from Mad Men era, that is called AIDA – you know, like the opera: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.

   How do you feel about using celebrities to sell things?

G   Sometimes it’s a short…using a celebrity is a shortcut to…uh… intrusion, because people pay attention to celebrities. Hopefully, it’s a celebrity that has some bearing on the brand. I don’t think if I was working on a depilatory, I’d want to use Tommy Lee Jones, but, um, that would just be gross. But, you know, if you find the right person, they can have special, um, special meaning, I think, and we do live in a celebrity culture, and people, you know, their ears perk up when they see a celebrity. So, if you go back to that pyramid I drew, it’s a way of getting impact. I’m not a giant fan of it, but sometimes you do things you’re not a giant fan of.

   On your website you say I can make people laugh. How important is humor in advertising?

G   I tend not to be funny in TV commercials – I’m just…partly because I am a kind of cerebral guy, and I wind up having to use that more than humor, but I think humor is incredibly important in the business, and a lot of the commercials that really resonate with people, I think are funny – a lot of the movies, a lot of everything, you know.

Part 3

Watch Part 3 and circle the correct phrase.

1   He thinks that billboard and TV advertising will remain important / slowly decline.

2   He tends to notice only bad ads / well-made ads.

3   He thinks Nike ads are very successful because of their logo and slogan / because they make people feel good about themselves.

4   He thinks Apple’s approach to advertising was very innovative / repetitive.

5   Their advertising message was honest and clear / modern and informative.


 remain important

 only well-made ads

 because they make people feel good about themselves


 honest and clear


Part 3

I    With all the technology, viral advertising, etc., do you think billboards and TV commercials have had their day?

G   Have billboards and TV commercials had their day? You know what, I don’t think so. I mean, I can tell you empirically and I can tell you rationally that 75 percent of all media dollars is spent on broadcast, and I know it’s, like, current to say, “I don’t have a TV” or “I never watch TV,” but people do. The fact is, TV viewership is at an all-time high. So I don’t think TV is dead and I don’t think billboards will be – you know, something as kind of passé as a billboard will be dead as long as, like, the highways are crowded, because you’ve got a captive audience. And until we can kind of pixelize ourselves and beam ourselves to work, I think there will be billboards. I mean, they can be effective.

I    As a consumer, and obviously as an advertiser, does advertising influence the decisions you make?

G   Yeah, you know, I’m very…I’m very susceptible to advertising. I think ’cause I tend to notice it. You know, I think I am very sensitive…uh…to, um, I think I’m very sensitive to, um, stuff that isn’t true. But when I see something that’s well-crafted and appeals, I think, to both my head and my heart, you know, I think…I think I register those things.

I    Is there an existing advertising campaign you wish you’d come up with, and why do you think it is so effective?

G   Um. Is there an existing advertising campaign? Yeah, that I wish I did? There’s a few. Um, I think the stuff that is being done for Nike, just in general for thirty years, has been exemplary, you know. They tapped into a mindset, and they made everyone feel like they were athletic, and they became kind of the gold standard, and they rarely hit a false note. Same thing with Apple, though people are just stressed in the industry about the latest direction Apple has been taking, which seems less sincere.

I    Why do you think the Apple campaign is so effective?

G   You know, Apple took…I think Apple is effective because they looked at an industry and they said, “Here’s what’s wrong with the industry, and everything that that industry does, we’re going to do differently.” So that industry, for years and years and years and years, was talking about speeds and feeds, and they were talking about 690 megahertz and four megabytes of RAM or gigabytes of RAM, whatever it is, and Apple just said, “It works.” And they…what they did was say is that, “You want to be creative? This machine makes you creative.” And they simplified…they simplified, and they were compelling, um, and they never lied, yeah.


A. Watch the conversation. What do they all conclude by the end?

B. Watch again. Mark the sentences T (true) or F (false).

 Syinat thinks we recognize certain brands because we are surrounded by advertising.

 Joanne says her children don’t see advertising at home because they don’t have a TV.

 Simon sometimes buys things without realizing that he’s been influenced by advertising.

 Joanne says her children don’t understand the power of advertising.

 Simon thinks it’s a good idea to restrict advertising to children, like in Sweden.

 Syinat thinks advertising doesn’t really affect children.



They conclude that everybody is influenced by advertising campaigns whether they want to be or not.


1 T   2 F   3 T   4 F   5 T   6 F


I = interviewer, Sy = Syinat, J = Joanne, S = Simon

I      Do you think everybody is influenced by advertising campaigns?

Sy   I think it is impossible to not be influenced by advertising these days because it’s everywhere − it’s on the buses, it’s on the taxis, it’s just on buildings…

S    Yep.

Sy   …so just by going outside you are seeing these advertisements and you’re being influenced, so, for example, we, we, we all know certain brands just because they’re everywhere around us. It doesn’t mean that we’re going to buy from them…


Sy   …but you know them and you can recognize them, which is kind of the point of advertisements.

J      It is.

  Indeed, yeah.

J     I mean it’s, it’s, you know, exposure, over and over again, and gradually that sinks in. You know, we barely, we really don’t really watch TV and we have a TV, we just don’t watch it very much, I thought, “Well actually that’s some advertising out of the way of my children,” but inevitably the radio’s on, you hear jingles…

S    Mhmm. Yep.

   …and that sound gets into your brain and they recognize things. And like you say, they see films on buses and they know “That’s the film I want to go see” because it’s everywhere.

S    And sometimes I find that you, you go to a supermarket and you buy a product and you think, “I haven’t bought that before, where, why am I suddenly buying this product?”…


  …and it’s because you’ve either seen it somewhere, someone’s talked about it, it’s been in a magazine and it’s just in your head, and that’s super subtle advertising. I mean, um, I never thought I was being influenced, but I think I am. I’m, I’m normally quite specific about what I buy − but suddenly, suddenly buying, I don’t know, a different brand of blueberries or something for no reason, well, it’s like, well, why did I do that? You know, so, there’s definitely, you’re definitely being influenced.

J     It is, it’s that recognition, isn’t it? And subliminally, I think, if we recognize something, particularly if you’re in a rush, you think, “Oh yeah, I know that one,” and you might buy that one.

S    Yeah.

J     I actually try to − because I have young children − I try to actually teach them a little bit so that they become more aware of what the advertisers are trying to do, um, because…

Sy   Wow.

J     Which is hard actually, you know, but you see pictures in magazines and they’re starting to be − my eleven-year-old, is starting to become a little bit more cynical about what he sees, so he’ll look at things and say, “Mummy, that’s not very good, they’re just trying to get me to spend my money, and I don’t like the way they’re doing that”…

S    And I know…

J     …and I think, “Yes, well done!”

S    …apparently in Sweden they’re not allowed to advertise to children under 11 at Christmas, so they’re not allowed to target children after a certain time of day, which is a great idea because remember in the UK they just target you all the time with the latest toy and so forth, so that sort of advertising is blatant.

Sy   Yeah, especially for children, I mean I, I have, I have younger siblings and it’s kind of like “Ooh, all of my friends have this toy, so

I     must have it as well,” …

J     Yes.

Sy   …and actually I think if, if we were to remove that in England, that would be very good to kind of to teach them that self-worth comes from something else rather than from material possessions.

J     That’s right, it’s part of this whole consumerist society that, that we live in, really.

S    Yeah. So, I think, um, I think definitely I think that the answer to the question is yes, we are all influenced in different ways by advertising, I suppose. Yeah. What do you think?

J     I agree. Whether we want to be or not.

S    Yeah, sure.

J     Sadly.

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