||[17 Oct 2004|10:10pm]
The Nifty Advertising Agency
from “Hitweek”, probably late 60ies
Aside from being the leader of the MOI, Frank Zappa is also the president of an advertising agency, The Nifty Advertising Agency. For those who’ve always thought that this agency as well as its presidency was fake, the american paper Saturday Evening Post published a very funny article by a Mr. W.H. Manville in which an eyewitness account is given from a scene in the expensively furnished presidential office of Unicord Inc., a billion dollar company in the musical instruments and amplifier business for which FZ is advisor.
sleeping on the carpet
As Mr. Manville enters the scene, Zappa is lying on the thick carpet next to the mahonie-wooden desk at which the President of Unicord, Mr. Sidney Hack, is seated. Next to him on the carpet is Herb Cohen, vice-president of Nifty and manager of the MOI, and fast asleep.
A quote: “You should’ve listened to me, eh?”’, his finger pointed at the man behind the desk, who was playing with his reveres very selfconsciously. He said: “I’m sorry Frank. Perhaps I should’ve. When I started in this business, everybody wanted a clear sound, beautiful tones, small amplifiers that were easy to store and to carry around.” “And tomorrow you’ll go to that convention in Chicago”, the speaker on the ground continued mercilously, “and because you didn’t listen to me you’re going to show the smallest “beautiful tone” amplifiers that exist. And are you going to sell those “beautiful tone” amplifiers? No, you can rub your “beautiful tone” amps in your hair because they won’t sell, because the kids don’t want your “beautiful tone” amps. They want big, huge amplifiers, and the dealers know very well these kids won’t even come look at your “beautiful tone” amps.”
“I’m sorry Frank”, said the man behind the desk once again. “Everything changed so suddenly. Maybe I’m just an old sock.”
Asked for his opinion on marketing, Zappa replies: “Most companies are fooling kids”, “our ads are totally truthful. I’ve nothing against advertising, but I do have something against liars.” He paused.
“I hate liars”, he said suddenly. “Why would I believe that”, I asked. “Why would I believe anything of what you’re saying? Like the way you ly there, a businessman talking to his clients. Why do you wear those rediculous clothes? Is that a pose?”
Again that charming verocious grin. “On one hand I wear these clothes because I like them. On the other hand because they are my trademark.” He paused. “And especially to shock you.” I already liked him a bit more. “Come along”, he said, “I’ll show you the kind of amplifiers they used to make here.” He lead me into the factory through a hallway. I felt as if I were Alice in Wonderland, some childhood dream where kids make the rules and point the grown ups to their mistakes (…)
“When I first came here” Zappa said whilst pointing at an amplifier, “I had to explain to them that young kids don’t want beautiful tones, that’s more for the weak martini-drinking generation. Young kids want to hear noise. And if to you it sounds like screeching, beeping, howling, the sort of screaming that they spend millions to get rid off at radiostations? That to us is music these days. And the kids love it if you hate it. Just go to one of these concerts. To see what your daughter is up to. So you go there, get in and you go: these miserable amps are so loud I can’t hear the words. Young kids love that, because they already know the words, and they know that you don’t know them. The amplifier is their extermination device.”
Mr. Mersky, vice-president of Unicord, said “Be reasonable Frank. It’s not all that bad.” Zappa started to talk at a very friendly tone of voice. “Listen Bernie, why do you work so hard in the music-business, where you have to put up with people like me, and customers that you don’t understand? As far as you’re concerned it could just as well be shoes or chairs or nails. Why do you work so hard in the music-business?” Mr. Mersky smiles. “I have a family Frank. I have a wife and kids to support…”
Zappa pulled a leaflet from his back pocket and showed us an advertisement for an amplifier from a competitor. It looked bigger than anything I’d ever seen.
“Look”, he said to Mersky, “what do they call this machine? You know how well it sells. Do they call it the Mello-tone amp? Do they call it the Beauty-sound?” He pointed his finger to the name. The amp was called Exterminator. Zappa turned to Mersky again and said “Listen Bernie, you work hard and make a lot of money here. After your days work you go home and spend the money on your kids. Your son uses it to buy an Exterminator. And why does he do that? To outvoice you.” His voice got back to being soft and friendly. “So why do you all work so hard, gentlemen?”, he asked. End of quote.
At the end of the article Manville asks Zappa what he thinks of all “those young kids in San Fransisco that are talking about love all the time”. “If you have it, you don’t need to talk about it all the time”, Zappa replies.
“Do you talk about it?”
“Did you hear one word?”