The Ordinary Timex Ad That's Actually Pretty Extraordinary

Nothing revolutionary, but they got it just right

When you're asked to write about a creative obsession, naturally you turn to 1980s street art. Or beat poets. Or Spaghetti Westerns. Or at the very least, some obscure B-side that will afford you a small dose of credibility with your peers.

Anything but an ad. It can't be an ad. 

But let me tell you about this ad. I know, I know, believe me, I wish I was writing about a novel that changed me, but you're reading an ad column so let's not judge each other. 

First let me describe it, because it's completely unremarkable in almost every way. Headline, picture of product, logo. Nothing a million people haven't done a million times, but this time they got it exactly right. Nothing is wasted. Nothing superfluous is added. 

It's right on the verge of looking slapped together, but everything is there to do a job. Just enough words and pictures to say, definitively, "We are Timex, and from this point forward we claim as ours the entire concept of time and the responsibility for its accurate measurement." 

That's a lot for an ad to do, and they didn't even need an assist from a tagline. 

I'm surprised how often I reference it, and on which types of projects. It's never been to say "Make an ad like this," but "Look at what they did here." Not just the writing and art direction, but the ambition. The territory they claim. 

Another headline in the campaign says, "Our research shows that there are, in fact, enough hours in the day." Timex owns time, and now no one else can. At Carmichael Lynch, we believe in creating Unfair Ideas, the kinds that make your competitors say, "Damn I wish we could do that." This is what we're talking about.

A few years after the campaign was released, I had the good fortune of working for Rich and Andy (the ad's creators) when they were partners at Fallon London. I probably should have written down all the smart stuff they said, but in a way, they did it for me with this ad. Because their good ideas are right there on the page, for anyone to take: simplicity, clarity, an aversion to the usual BS, and giant ambitions for what our work can do. 

CREDITS
Client: Timex
Agency: Fallon London
Copywriter: Andy McLeod
Art Director: Richard Flintham
Account Supervisor: Robert Senior
Advertiser Supervisor: Alyson Green
Creative Director: Andy Mcleod
Photographer: Coppi Barbieri
Typographer: James Townsend

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Marty Senn
Marty Senn is chief creative officer at Carmichael Lynch.