A Summary and Review of Hey Whipple, Squeeze This by Luke Sullivan for Thinking Executives – and Those Who Want to be One

This summary and review of the book, "Hey Whipple, Squeeze This: A Guide to Creating Great Advertising,” was prepared by Jared Bentley while a General Business major in the College of Business at Southeastern Louisiana University.

Executive Summary

Within the book “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This,” author Luke Sullivan writes about every aspect of advertising that those in the business go through all the time.  Primarily though, this book is a helpful item for those looking to get into the world of advertising.  In it Luke Sullivan–an adwriter whose name was made famous for this book as there are no famous adwriters–details the methods with which those in the business use to come up with advertising, the many medium and media advertisers find themselves working with, a few hurdles and problems all of them have to face at some point, and finally the every growing requirements and competition of working in advertising.  With all this, the page should fill up quickly.
The first chapter opens upon thoughts towards the namesake for the book title, Mr. Whipple of Charmin toilet paper fame.  The author looks at how he hated this grocer as a child, and as he grew up, he still detested the man.  He thinks about why he hates Whipple so, and it leads to the writing of this book.  A conclusion is drawn of the idea of Mr. Whipple being a bad one, even though it sold so much toilet paper.  Sullivan strives, just like other adwriters such as Bill Bernbach, to prove to the world that advertising can be intelligent as well as sell products.  
As the next three chapters continue on, Mr. Sullivan goes over a great deal of generalized advice for adwriting in any media, simple ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s for coming up with ideas, expanding and improving on ideas, and editing ideas.  When the book goes into each subsequent chapter, Sullivan starts to narrow and specify his advice a medium a chapter.  He goes over and covers writing ads for television, direct-response TV, and radio.  He goes on to discuss what it takes to make viral marketing and vast advertising campaigns that have a chance at success.  A final chapter on advice for adwriting concludes that everything the reader has learned and gotten from the last chapters–forget all of it!  Now that the rules have been established, start breaking them.
After that short and sweet chapter, another comes along detailing the horrors an adwriter will face both from clientele as well as from within their own agency.  A few of these beasts can be avoided, but others have to be suffered through.  A few of the clients the book mentions are those who take no risks, those that take over the ideas, and those that believe they know all there is about advertising.  The chapter goes on to cover a few characters and things to avoid within the agency, from the guy whose only good idea was years ago, to the guy who tries to weasel credit from a suggestion he makes on another’s idea, and finally the board meetings held for no reason that do nothing but eat up time.  
The next chapter provides a stunning amount of advice for defending your ideas from being picked apart by critical clients.  This provides answers for such questions as “Why is the  logo so small?” to oblivious ones that ask “Why are you wasting my commercial spot to entertain?”  It also details when you know an idea is done for, and how to bounce back from disappointment.
The second-to-last chapter goes over how the advertising business, much like the rest of the business world, has improved, and how the qualifications he used to have to get into advertising  are no longer as lenient as they once were.  With the improvement of education came specialized schools that taught young adults the intricacies of advertising, and so Mr. Sullivan goes over what a young up and coming adwriter could do to give himself a better edge in getting hired to an agency.
The book finally comes to a close, and the author reminds himself that at the end of the day, the advertising business is good even if he is working in a business environment full of knuckleheads.  He isn’t out there saving lives, he isn’t doing anything important, just making commercials.  He beckons the reader never to forget that.

The Ten Things Advertisers Need to Know from “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This”

1. The simplest ideas are often the best.  Simplicity helps people to understand the idea.  One of the best examples the author gives to show the power of simplicity is a stop sign.

2. Be entertaining and with your advertisement.  The hardest part of advertising is getting consumers to pay attention.  TV commercials are the times that most people go to the bathroom,  magazine ads are simply filler for the uninterested, and radio spots interrupt those tuned into the station.  Make an ad the consumer will want to pay attention to.

3. Learn all you can about what you are advertising for.  The more details you know about the product you are writing for, the more ideas you’ll be able to come up with.  Do whatever you need–ask questions, buy and use the item yourself, compare it to their competitors.

4. Write down every idea you have when you first brainstorm, even the dumb ones.  Usually you’ll work with a partner, and both of you will brainstorm for ideas.  Let the storming occur without stifling one another, that way neither of you will punish the other’s creativity.

5. Do not develop ideas, then edit them immediately.  Do both parts at separate points.  When you’re finished with idea development, leave it alone for a while, come back and then edit it.

6. Keep in mind that not all ideas are media-universal.  If you have an idea, and want to transfer it from television to radio, make sure it works.  A picture maybe worth a thousand words, but all those words will bore the listener.

7. Once you know all the rules, set out to break them.  The greatest rewards come from the greatest risks; once you have learned all the rules associated with advertising, set out to break as many as you can.  The only thing needed to be obeyed is relevance.

8. Be prepared to protect your ideas.  Not all clients will like the advertising ideas you come up with; be prepared to defend those ideas.  If you are well prepared, you might be able to counter most arguments that will be brought up.

9. Do not be disappointed if no one likes your ideas.  Not all ideas can be protected, but there are always more ideas.  Know that there will always be more work for advertisers, and if you can salvage things from previous attempts, or keep a list of ‘dead’ ideas to refer back to.

10. Do not let advertising become your life.  While it is important to work hard, at the end of the day, it’s just a commercial or radio spot.  Don’t let the business get in the way of family, friends, and your state of well being.

Full Summary of “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This”

Salesmen Don’t Have to Wear Plaid

Luke Sullivan opens the book talking about the figure that drove him to write the book, Mr. Whipple.  As a child Sullivan hated how Whipple always interrupted his sitcoms to chastise a group of women for squeezing the Charmin.  When he grew up, his research into the campaign revealed that he wasn’t the only one who hated Whipple.  The funny thing was that despite how much people detested him, he sold millions of rolls of Charmin and knocked Scott’s brand out of the top spot.  This leads to a man named Bill Bernbach who proposed that advertisements don’t need to suck.  They can be just as interesting and intelligent as the sitcoms and magazines they are interspersed in.  A pattern is then discovered where a flood of smart and entertaining ads happen, but then they dry up, only flood once again in a cycle.

A Sharp Pencil Works Best

Mr. Sullivan takes a portion of this chapter to muse about how good the advertising business is.  He discusses what it’s like working in an advertising agency and how even after as many years as he’s done this, he’s still unnerved when he’s writing an ad.  He then goes over the preparations of working on an ad for a client.  Do things such as gathering as much as can be learned about the product.  Go out and taking the factory tour.  Doing nothing is also acceptable, allowing you to keep the mindset of the everyman about the product.  Try anything as long as it’s simple.  Just remember that when the right idea comes to you, you’ll know it.

A Clean Sheet of Paper

The magic begins; now that Sullivan has asked all the right questions and taken the factory tour, he is ready to sit down and start coming up with ideas.  When he and his partner sit down, get all the ideas either of you have onto paper, don’t dote upon them, do that after you get all the ideas, even the bad ones.  He mentions how the adwriter must come up with a balance that not only appeals to the client, but also appeals to the adwriter himself.  Listed within this chapter are methods for finding a proper style to do the ad in.  Approach the problems you encounter during at different angles.  Do you find a villain for the product?  Do you tell the truth about the product and run with it?  Maybe you could do something provocative.  Is there s cliché?
If so, it’s over used, but get it out of the way immediately.  Give the ad an interesting visual.  

Write When You Get Work

Focusing on the written ad, this chapter gives advice on how best to work them out.  The first thing needed is a myriad of ideas to choose from.  That is why the first thing when it comes to copywriting is to think up as many as you can.  If you’re on a roll, don’t stop no matter what.  When all is done and your ideas are down, then you should walk away.  After cooling down, it’s advisable to return to edit.  Just like clichés, puns are just as bad.  The primary example used with this chapter was ad ideas for bourbon.  With just information provided by the bourbon’s label, they came up with 50 ideas based on age, brand history, location, and drinkability.  From there headlines are discussed; if you need one headline, think up 100 of them.

In the Future, Everyone Will Be Famous for 30 Seconds

With the advent of television, advertisement was changed forever.  In order to produce a great television commercial, you must first write one.  Before you can start to really get into writing, you must first know how much money your client will be willing to spend.  As television is a visual medium, a visual solution in the commercial would be best.  It would be good to take a single image and build a story around it.  Remember, simply is good, but thinking big certainly doesn’t hurt anything!  It should engage the audience within the first two seconds and solve itself in the last five, while remaining entertaining throughout.  Avoid the redundancy of showing and saying the same thing.

But Wait, There’s More!

Stay with us viewer.  For the next few sentences we’ll be dealing with the fabulous world of direct-response television!  Now I know what you’re saying, “but Jared, how is there any way to make miserable advertisement mediums such as this entertaining?”  It’s simple thanks to “Hey Whipple,”  All you need to do is give me max points, and I’ll throw in this crystal clear call to action. Do it now!  With as crazy a deal this is, I’ll say that you should find a structure that allows you inform and entertain!  Simply reset your eyes and the next line down and you’ve got a logical mapping out of the reasons this product rocks!  You’re not convinced? I didn’t think so, but how can’t you be if I’m so passionate about this chapter!?  I’ve spoken clear and said “Hey Whipple”, all that’s left is to make sure a good director is calling the shots.  Simply e-mail the first address at the bottom of this paper and all this can be yours!

Radio is Hell.  But It’s a Dry Heat.

The biggest problem with radio is demonstrated in the beginning of this chapter, and is obvious for parents of children age five or under:

“Put that down.  No, do not draw on the dog.  Do not draw in the dog!  Didn’t you hear me? I said do not stick that crayon in the dog’s… NO!  Put that down.”

Radio writers have to talk to people who don’t listen.  The first rule given in the book is simply do not suck.  Despite radio being auditory, it is actually very visual.  Much like with other medium, think up load of ideas, specifically and simplistically that can be described in one sentence.  Make sure the radio spot gathers interest within the first five seconds.  Write sparingly for radio, and if there is dialogue, it needs to be done extremely well, this can be checked and improved upon by reading the radio spot out loud.  Don’t have your commercials stick to a formula.  Sound effects are great in radio, but don’t overdo them, and don’t waste time explaining things in the commercial.  Next you’ll need to hire on the people behind the voices, and don’t be afraid to rewrite depending upon the casting.  .  

“Toto, I Have a Feeling We’re Not in McCann-Erickson Anymore.”

By far this has to be my favorite chapter.  It’s short, and sweet, and to the point.  Remember all that stuff Sullivan discussed in chapters previous?  You understand those rules good?  Alright now that you do, throw them all away! That’s right! Time to start breaking the rules.  Yeah!  Take risks with your ad ideas!  The only way you’ll know if it works is if you try.

Only the Good Die Young

In an environment such as this, there are many great things about it, but there are also many horrible things.  This chapter looks at those things that all adwriters encounter at one point or another, and help you to recognize them and the problems they can cause.  Listed are groups of clients that should be steered clear of, as well as problems within the agency itself to look out for.  With each problem comes a method of avoidance, or if that cannot happen, the best way with which to get through the experience with the least bit of suffering.  One of the scariest examples given of a bad client is “The Bully”—a client whose entire knowledge of advertising is completely and utterly wrong.  He is crass will compare whatever you produce for him with his terrible advertisement while at the same time holding it over your head.  

Pecked to Death by Ducks

There comes a time when an adwriter should stand up for his ideas and this chapter is what that’s all about.  In dealing with clients, you’ll witness many of your ideas killed before they made it off the art board.  With preparation, there is the possibility of saving your babies from the oblivious and uncaring questions of the clients.  Simply by anticipating questions such as “Can you make the logo bigger?” you’ll counter with a response that will leave the client silent.  Of course at the same time, it’s good to also know how to pick your battles.  Some ads just can’t be saved, and when that happens, it’s better to pick up the pieces, salvage what can be recovered, and use the ad as inspiration for better ones, because there will always be more ads.

A Good Book or a Crowbar

With competition and multitudes of fresh college graduates vying for positions, this chapter looks at what it takes to be hired into an ad agency and gives suggestions of increasing your odds.  Over the years many ad schools have risen, and included within is a list of the top as of the book’s publishing if you have the capital and time to invest in this course.  It talks about constructing a portfolio book for prospective employers to look through to see if you’ve got the right stuff.  Do not just have great ads, have great ideas.  Study the ad awards annuals,, redo existing ads, do a variety of products, services and styles.  Cut away all the needless things from your portfolio.  After you have your portfolio, secure an interview by any means necessary, but don’t overdo it.  If you cannot talk directly to someone at the top of the agency, talk to someone lower and see if they can’t get you into a chat.

Making Shoes versus Making Shoe Commercials

Sullivan’s final thoughts are echoes of how great advertising is, how it’s filled with knuckleheads all with great senses of humor.  He then goes on to share a few stories of humorous events he’s heard of or witnessed from agencies around the nation. He finished the book recounting an observation of hard laborers while he sat upon an airplane.  Those guys wait for the 15 minute break they so crave so they could rest, have a Coke, and smoke a Winston before getting back to work.  There he was, being flown back from a presentation where he’d get back to the company, prop his feet upon his desk, and get paid to think.  He concludes those lucky to be talented and lucky to get in the business should stay humble.

The Video Lounge

This Youtube clip is of the author, specifically him sharing a family joke of a “deadly” wobbly knife that has been in his family.  This video gives a little insight into the mind of the author, and honestly I would not expect any less from this man.  He seems like a fantastic guy to have as a friend, and with how he is with his son in the video, he is obviously a family man.  I am glad to have chosen this book.

This video features an advertiser who has a preface in Mr. Sullivan’ book.  The man is Alex Bogusky and this is a little entertaining video sharing the secret of how his agency comes up with such great ideas.  Turns out he uses bikes, and the best ideas are thought up on bikes with small tire sizes.  Another employee rides by on a comically small bike and Alex then congratulates him on his recent idea.

In a video that finally has something to do with the actual concepts presented in the book, Lee Clow and Alex Bogusky sit down and discuss the importance of internet in advertising.  Lee mentions how he used to go out, put the brand name out in public and hope for sales.  Alex on the other hand has been helping people communicate with brands as long as he’s been in the business.  They then show a series of advertising examples.

Personal Insights

Why I think:

  • With business conditions today, what the author wrote is true – because:

Nothing has really changed in the business world from when Sullivan wrote the first edition of this book in 1998.  The edition I read was the third, and he actually expanded the book with chapters looking at direct-response television, viral marketing and other new media.  Aside from dated examples, as far as I could judge, I couldn’t describe which parts of the book were originally included in 1998 and which were updated for 2008.  The author still clearly has his thumb upon the world of advertising.  Everything he talks about in this book can still be encountered today in the business conditions we have.

Then, all of the following bullet-items are mandatory to write about:

  • If I were the author of the book, I would have done these three things differently:

1. Even though this book was written with more traditional media in mind, the updates of new media aren’t as elaborate as the rest of it is.  Specifically I mean viral marketing and internet advertising–he actually does talk about campaigns and turning advertising into events, but he does not spend nearly as much time on the relevance of the internet.  He only mentions how viral marketing got its start online.  He should have made better mention of the growing importance of the internet.

2. Another problem I had with the book was with the separation between commercials and direct-response television.  To me both of those things can be obnoxious, but DRTV is supremely more obnoxious than commercials because they take up hours at a time as opposed to twelve minutes out of every hour.  My only real gripe is that I don’t see a reason to separate these two methods of advertising.  DRTV is one of the updates to the third edition, so I can understand his dedication of a chapter to it, as well as its placement right after commercials.  If it was me, I’d just lump commercials and DRTV together.

3. The only other thing I would do differently would be to remove the preface from the front of the book.  In it we have Alex Bogusky give a few written out concept scenes of infamous brand mascots getting their comeuppance for plaguing our televisions and meeting a rather grim end.  In all honesty these two pages seem totally out of place in the book, although they do provide some interesting reading.  If it was me, I would have cut the preface out because it really adds nothing to the book.

  • Reading this book made me think differently about the topic in these ways:

1. I never knew the rigors it took to sell ads.  I have had my eyes open about the gauntlets that adwriters have to put their ads-their children-through.  I always thought it was worthless for people to spend so much on advertising, but with the examples the author provided, I can understand the power good ads can have on sales.

2. Working at a good advertising agency sounds pretty cool.  In the book, the author mentions how the agencies he has worked at are filled with practical jokers.  I always believed the Hollywood stereotypes of business, how they always thought the job was more important and they were rock stars.  While he does indicate how important the job is, he also knows that he isn’t saving lives and remains humble.

3. Not all businesses require a highly professional atmosphere.  The author talks about how most of his days involve sitting in his office with his partner, feet high up on the table, talking about television and movies.  This is apparently their usual work day, that and the odd practical joke played throughout the office.  Clearly there are people in the business world that know how to have fun.

  • I’ll apply what I’ve learned in this book in my career by:

1. I will always try to keep my ideas simple.  After having read this book, his simplest pieces of advice were usually the most beneficial.  I understood what he meant and I wasn’t bored by reading too much on the same subject.  Interestingly enough he reiterates himself throughout the book, and still I found his simple statements entertaining.

2. I will take my time on big things I have to do.  Oddly enough, I find myself doing the same thing as always, having plenty of time and putting something off till the last few days.  Its stressing, and the work is tedious if I have to do it all in one sitting.  I envy how he lets time pass until he has a bit of pressure before getting to work.  I plan on starting work after a while and getting it done in a timely manner.

3. I will start retaining all the ideas I have.  He mentions how he draws upon old ideas that were turned down by his old clients.  I need to start doing that.  All I’ve ever done is dispose of ideas that never turn out well.  I’ll start keeping my ideas in order to avoid accidentally coming up with the same ideas more than once.

  • Here is a sampling of what others have said about the book and its author:

“What others (scholarly and magazine reviews – along with on-line reviews – not simply reviews off the back of the book) have said about the book and its author?”

The general consensus for reviews I have found are all positive, and delightful reviews of “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This.”  The readers are grateful to have a book that gives humorous insight into the advertising world.  The book includes numerous examples of ads both good and bad.  As of 22 reviews 19 of them rate it four stars or above, saying how his book was both engaging and entertaining.  Two of the low score reviews admit Sullivan makes some good points, but says he neglects the importance between the brand, the advertisement and the consumers and his only experience is in the big New York advertising scene.  One such reviewer, ED, claims that the book had become legend in his ad agency, leading him to ask people at interviews “Have you read Whipple?”  He is also glad that the book has a chapter on how to enter into the business of advertising, something four year colleges don’t teach.
Another reviewer, Angela Natividad, was initially unwilling to read this when it was recommended to her.  She did, and now her walls are covered in ideas and doodles.  She has been allocating more brain power towards ad ideas than she previously had been thanks to this book and tells of how regular eight hour work days will lengthen into ten to eleven hour work days.  Jake Cornelius, another reviewer, said that thanks to this book he figured out what he had been doing wrong with all his previous ads and have since been doing better work.

Bibliography

Book Review – Hey Whipple, Squeeze This (2008, June 3). In EightTrails. Retrieved April 7, 2011, from
http://eighttrails.com/2009/06/03/book-review-hey-whipple-squeeze-this/  

Burn, D. (2010, July 28). The AdPulp Interview: Luke Sullivan. In AdPulp. Retrieved April 7, 2011, from http://www.adpulp.com/the_adpulp_inte_9/

Cornelius, J. (2009, August 13). Book Review: Hey Whipple, Squeeze this. In The HBS Blog: Empowering You and Your Business. Retrieved April 7, 2011, from http://blog.delawareinc.com/2009/08/book-review-hey-whipple-squeeze-this/

Grolleman, J. (2010). LUKE SULLIVAN. In jackmancer.com. Retrieved April 7, 2011, from
http://jackmancer.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=32%3Aluke&catid=6%3Aqaa&Itemid=21  

Natividad, A. (2008, May 1). ‘Hey Whipple, Squeeze This’ Will Add Four Hours to Your Workday. In AdRANTS. Retrieved April 7, 2011, from http://www.adrants.com/2008/05/hey-whipple-squeeze-this-will-add.php

Sullivan, L. (2008). Hey Whipple, Squeeze This: A Guide to Creating Great Advertising (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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Contact Info

To contact the author of this article, “A Summary and Review of ‘Hey Whipple, Squeeze This’ by Luke Sullivan for Thinking Executives – and Those Who Want to be One,” please email jared.bentley@selu.edu or bentley_sweet_a@yahoo.com.  

Biography

David C. Wyld (dwyld.kwu@gmail.com) is the Robert Maurin Professor of Management at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. He is a management consultant, researcher/writer, and executive educator. His blog, Wyld About Business, can be viewed at http://wyld-business.blogspot.com/. He also serves as the Director of the Reverse Auction Research Center (http://reverseauctionresearch.com/), a hub of research and news in the expanding world of competitive bidding. Dr. Wyld also maintains compilations of works he has helped his students to turn into editorially-reviewed publications at the following sites:

   

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1 Comment
  1. Posted December 11, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    Wonderful summary of Sullivan’s book. Thanks so much.

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