I got an email the other day from Justin Oberman, a creative ad guy who conceived of an ad campaign for Dixon Ticonderoga, maker of the ubiquitous yellow-pencils-with-green-ferrules (via a class on advertising). His angle is that there isn’t much Dixon doesn’t know about making pencils, and features informative posters with the tagline, “We make the World’s Best Pencil. We should know.”
This poster reminds me a lot of Henry Petrosky’s book The Pencil: a History of Design and Circumstance about how wooden pencils are a perfect example of thousands of years of design and engineering, and I, Pencil, about how modern pencils are an achievement of globalization and the distribution of expertise and labor.
This is my favorite, and one I want desperately to be true. Gary Hustwit, creator of the documentaries Helvetica and Objectified (both of which I am a huge fan), would be perfect for a documentary about pencils. Perfect! Alas, upon asking Justin more about it, I discovered it’s purely a concept. As Justin said, however, “maybe he’ll see the poster and get the idea.”
Justin gave me a lengthy and highly fascinating story about creating this campaign. While I won’t share it all here in its entirety, here are some highlights.
In the end the campaign aims to tell you more about pencils then you ever wanted to know. (Unless you’re a pencil blogger — ASW) By doing this, Ticonderoga not only shows that they are very serious about pencils, but by getting really emotional about it they show that they are not just a pencil company but in far the world’s best pencil company. And by re-educating everyone about pencils they can remind everyone of that. Why? Not because people will actually read all the dizzying pencil knowledge they throw at them… people will get the point (pun intended). It’s simply that bad pencils give all pencils a bad name. In fact, the campaign reminds you that undoing the competition is not the same as undergoing it.
And something I’ve been saying for years:
Bringing to light the novelty of the pencil has the opportunity to make them en vogue.The pencil can benefit from its sense of nostalgia. If this campaign was successful one can imagine a hipster telling his wannabe hipster friends at a cocktail party that, yes, that is a pencil behind my ear and by the way I only use pencils. Pencils are cool etc etc etc…. and then I realized that this could be the voice of the campaign, turning Dixon’s “We Make The World’s Best Pencil” into the guy at the party who only talks about pencils.
As someone who is often that guy at the party who only talks about pencils, telling his hipster friends why the pencil is making a comeback, I can appreciate this ad campaign. They turn pencil trivia into an art, thereby making someone who is educated about it a connoisseur.