Ad Books: “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This.” by Luke Sullivan

One of my nearest and dearest mentors recommended this book to me a few semesters ago, but the title sounded weird so I didn’t read it. What the hell’s a Whipple anyway? If I had only picked up a copy and read the first paragraph I would have known, but to save you from falling victim to the same stigma, I’m going to educate you.

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Mr. Whipple was the star in Charmin’s “Don’t Squeeze the Charmin” campaign that began in 1964 and ran for TWENTY ONE YEARS. That campaign was old enough to drink. Most, like our good friend Luke Sullivan, thought the commercials were absolutely horrid, but Charmin was makin’ money so the Whipple ads kept runnin’ until 1985. And then, according to Mr. Whipple’s own personal Wikipedia article, he came back in 1999 before finally surrendering to the cuddly, still-annoying-but-less-intrusive Charmin bears.

And if I had only bothered to read the first paragraph, I wouldn’t have cared how silly the title was. I would have fully identified with it. In fact, I would have fully identified with the whole book. But as it was, it took two more recommendations for me to crack open the spine of the most honest, entertaining, and informative advertising book I’ve ever read. In fact, I’d even say it’s the most honest, entertaining, and informative nonfiction book I’ve ever read.

It's like the Bible for advertising, but better.

In Hey Whipple, Sullivan discusses anything you ever needed to know about ad agencies. He talks about the creative process, how to protect your precious ideas once you’ve got them, dealing with other creatives, breaking into the business, and more. One might say that’s too many topics for one book, but Sullivan, gifted writer as he is, pulled it off.

Because there is so much, I’ve compiled a list of the top ten reasons an advertising student should read Sullivan’s book.

10. He’s reassuring. “There has never been a time in my career I have faced the empty page and not been scared.” (24)
9. He challenges you. “You don’t get to great until you do a whole bunch of good.” (91)
8. He prepares you for work in an agency. (See Hallway Beasts #1-6, pp 224-234)
7. He tells you how to put together a good portfolio. (Ch 12, “A Good Book or a Crowbar”)
6. He’s honest. (No, I can’t say that enough, and sorry, way too many examples.)
5. There are lists of everything, from things to do when you’re stuck (“Read an old Far Side collection by Gary Larsen”(109) is my favorite) to how to handle clients that crush your ideas (Unless they have a Kermit doll, then you’re screwed).
4. It’s easy to read. Sullivan tells us to write like we talk, and he does exactly the same thing. It’s refreshing. I wish more people wrote like him.
3. He talks about working in different mediums, from radio to outdoor (Although even after Ch. 6, I’m not sold on DRTV, sorry!).
2. He encourages you to break the rules, including his own (p 204).
1. The ads, quotes, and examples he gives are all from people, concepts, and agencies that you should know about. You should be able to talk intelligently about the history of advertising, and not just about that famous Volkswagen ad. It’ll make you stand out and it’ll make your work better. My next book to review? Definitely going to be a recommendation from this book.

Happy reading!

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