Thursday, October 21, 2021

Cliff Freeman: creator of Doonesbury strips, who once killed a ‘white knight’

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Often compared to the voices behind Andy Warhol’s iconic pop art, Cliff Freeman and Partners became a signifier of irreverence, creativity and pioneering attitude when they were created in 1984.

Freeman, an extremely successful adman was, according to one report, often described as the “King of Perpetual Sandwich Promotion.” His legendary campaigns were peppered with questions in voice-over like, “Doesn’t the hero always come back for seconds?” and, “Doesn’t the girl always come to him?”

Freeman, who was 79, died earlier this month following a heart attack.

The famously unserious Freeman worked on accounts like Warner Brothers for nearly three decades, especially his part in connecting Marilyn Monroe with the “Great White Shark” in the Smurfs animated movie.

Hiring Howard Johnson’s in 1986 and AOL for its famous “Come and Take It” Super Bowl spot, Freeman set the company apart from its rivals and helped redefine a logo that had been strictly black and white.

The chief creative officer grew the company to a position as one of the largest independent advertising agencies in the country.

He was working on a brief for a very small client when he noticed the company still had framed copies of their negatives.

Freeman bought up the negatives and, believing that a second-hand Nikon camera could do much better, began filming his clients living in unique ways. He believed this made the work much more interesting and enticing.

He compared it to classic short films and called it his “blue period.”

Freeman’s clients included Pepsi, which worked with him on the “Pepsi Ad” series (sound familiar?), Burger King, which was also a frequent client, IKEA, Boston Market, and Howard Johnson’s.

In 1988, Freeman published A Graphic History of Advertising and engaged Andy Warhol to star in a parody of his “Radiant Idea” campaign.

“You’ve Got It” at the time was considered one of the biggest online sensations of the time, spawning numerous parodies, memes and more.

It was an influential book. However, a few years later, the dust was started from the initial success of “A Graphic History of Advertising” by introducing the “Size King,” who was supposedly 6 inches tall but turned out to be about four inches tall.

He spoke openly about the fact that people of all shapes and sizes had been used for advertising campaigns.

He admitted that he had to rerun several ads, including one for Sealy from 1996 in which the model was also called Chris.

Freeman, who has been described as the King of his own bar. left his mark on the advertising industry and seemingly in every area, including fashion.

For his work in the field, he won a Clio in 1985 and created “Million Dollar Legs” for Prada. He was the recipient of multiple Spikes worldwide awards, the Clios in the three decades he worked at BBDO.

As part of the British black creative movement, Freeman also created the British black male fashion brand, Prince of Whales, which had designs modeled by Benjamin Button actor Brad Pitt.

As a prominent member of the black community, he wrote a book in 1998 about his work, titled “Why White People Fear Black People.” The book discusses his unique brand of humor, and his “PEP QUEEN” tagline at the time he was killed.

Freeman also helped found one of the first art school workshops to be organized in fashion and advertising. He left an immeasurable mark in advertising and had a deep, deep effect on the current style of advertising and branding.

The firm, Cliff Freeman and Partners was founded by Freeman along with VP of Advertising Ray Caiazzo and Ad Practitioner Jonathan Layard. Cliff Caiazzo passed away in 2010.

The advertising and marketing industry has lost one of its giant. This was no doubt for countless of us who have played their role in advertisements and branding. Clients had many of the creative projects under which he worked, but the company is also quoted as saying they had the biggest laughs with him and he was one of the best (and funniest) laughers.

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