In­side Angle

In to­day’s PC world, the au­thor chal­lenges boat­builders to bring brav­ery back to their ads.

Power & Motor Yacht - - IN THIS ISSUE - By Bill Prince

To­day’s boat­ing ads would be con­sid­ered tame com­pared to the Mad Men era, with its slo­gans full of fire and over­promise.

Igrew up read­ing Power & Mo­to­ry­acht in the ’80s. In those days, ads from boat­builders were a lot more fun than some of the bor­ing, mil­que­toast stuff you see to­day. The boat­builders of my youth had bold, mem­o­rable ad slo­gans. The key word here is mem­o­rable. These ad­ver­tis­ers wanted to make an in­deli­ble im­pres­sion on a po­ten­tial boat buyer’s psy­che. Striker, the de­funct builder of big alu­minum sport­fish­ing yachts, had a great ad in the ’80s. Picture this: an el­e­gant cou­ple in for­mal­wear sit­ting in the lux­u­ri­ous sa­lon of a 70-foot sport­fish­er­man, drink­ing cham­pagne and eat­ing caviar. Be­hind them, the win­dows have been black­ened by 10-foot seas drowned by a dark sky. “Live well in some of the world’s worst neigh­bor­hoods,” it read. Fan­tas­tic! Ex­pe­ri­enced boaters knew this whole scene was com­pletely im­plau­si­ble, but it got the in­tended mes­sage across.

South­ern Cross, the now de­funct Aus­tralian builder, threat­ened to “Blow Bertram and Hat­teras out of the bloody wa­ter.” This would be called hate speech on Face­book to­day.

Four Winns had an ad for its 27-foot Lib­er­a­tor fea­tur­ing an, ahem, very well-en­dowed woman splayed across the sun­pad in an ex­tremely re­veal­ing swim­suit. It sure made impressions, but that ad might be con­sid­ered soft porn com­pared to to­day’s tame vi­su­als. I’m sure my kid would be in trou­ble if he took that is­sue of Power & Mo­to­ry­acht to school to­day, like I surely did in 1986.

Bertram, how­ever, did it best. The builder pur­chased two-page spreads in the front of the mag­a­zine and set a tone for mas­cu­line Amer­i­can fish­ing boats that res­onated around the world. It started out sim­ply enough. The copy for a 58 read, “Do us a fa­vor. When you get it, don’t flaunt it.” And then there was the clas­sic “Old Ber­trams Never Die” cam­paign, with slo­gans like, “They’re too tough to kill, and too good to re­tire.” Another ad fea­tured a 46 speed­ing past the Rock of Gi­bral­tar un­der 3-inch tall print: “Solid As The Rock.” Awe­some. Now this is ad­ver­tis­ing.

Once Bertram grew fully into its britches the tune changed to “The Sun Never Sets on the Bertram Em­pire.” In­deeeeed.

And then Bertram pulled off the great­est boat­ing ad­ver­tise­ment of all time. The en­tire left page of a spread was a paint­ing of a 42 Con­vert­ible fly­ing off a 40-foot wave. The bow pul­pit was de­picted hov­er­ing 60 feet off the wa­ter, while the full-page tes­ti­mo­nial on the right hand side of the spread went some­thing like this: “Hi, this is Dorothy. I’m just writ­ing to let you know that my hus­band, En­gle­bert, and I were cruis­ing in Mex­ico on a calm, sunny day when out of the blue came this forty-foot rogue wave and we both yelled shit! Then we were fly­ing through the air and when we landed my gin and tonic was miss­ing an ice cube, but the boat was fine.”

Where were the cor­po­rate lawyers on this one? There was no small print any­where. I’d like to see West­port sell its 125s this way. But alas, we have some yawn-in­duc­ing ad­ver­tise­ments to­day. One ad­ver­tiser’s head­line is “Built To Last.” Well I should hope so. “Geez, Marge, this boat is—it says right here—built to last. Sold!” (“Built To Last” is as mil­que­toast as Toy­ota’s “Let’s Go Places.” Re­ally? In a car? You don’t say.) Another builder gives us “Feel the Spark.” (Yeah, only if I wire the bat­ter­ies wrong. No thank you.) One builder sim­ply pitches “Time­less” (...zzzz).

Come on, builders! Step it up. Your cus­tomers are well into the self­ac­tu­al­iza­tion tip of Maslow’s hi­er­ar­chy of needs, so sell the fun, sell the siz­zle. Go find some ad agency with a cre­ative depart­ment that still drinks and smokes all day, as they did in 1982. Any­thing’s bet­ter than copy­ing Toy­ota.

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