Monday, July 19, 2010

Sequential Circuits Inc. Pro-One ad #2, Keyboard 1981

Sequential Circuits Inc. Pro-One synthesizer advertisement #2 from page 53 of Keyboard Magazine July 1981.

When I first came across this Pro-One ad, I mentally filed it right up there with that sparse Moog advertisement I blogged about last September. In that post, I asked the question:
"Could you imagine any company BESIDES Moog trying to pull this off today?"
Well, Moog could today :o)

Back then, I guess SCI came close. And although they didn't go so far as Moog did in their ad - no logo, contact info, famous people or free stuff - they definitely knew they could create a minimalist ad that wouldn't confuse the audience.

This was the second Pro-One advertisement to be featured in the magazine, after the first 'Why would anyone build another monosynth' ad appeared during the first half of 1981. It ran sporadically until the end of 1981, when SCI replaced their beloved Ear-Force campaign with ads that featured artwork of a more realistic, but still comic-like Tolkien wizard-dude.

But even though the Ear-Force ads stopped running at the end of 1981, SCI recognized the popularity of the artwork and together with the Prophet-5 and Prophet-10 ad-art, created a set of posters that were still available for quite a while afterwards - and featured in SCI's 'accessories' ad that ran in the December 1982 issue. (Side note: One of my favorite pieces of synth merchandise history is my SCI belt buckle, also featured in that advertisement. )

The artwork of John Mattos is so distinctive and the wizard-dude became such a symbol for the company that you can still recognize the guy in this advertisement even though you only see part of his face, along with his boney hand and sleeve cuff.

Two questions quickly came to mind when viewing this ad - and I quickly came to the logical conclusions to both pretty quickly.

1. Why would SCI even have bothered with that first Pro-One ad when this one is obviously superior. That initial Pro-One ad had the logo and sky/cloud imagery typical of the Ear-Force look-and-feel, but it definitely wasn't a full-on 'Ear-Force' ad with the wizard-dude and cockpit/airplane imagery found in the Prophet-5 and -10 ads.

2. Why is that writing at the top of the ad so small?

But I quickly realized that unlike the Prophet-5 and Prophet 10, the Pro-One was still unknown to the public. A transitional text-heavy ad was required so that the audience could first learn a bit about the instrument - a monophonic version of it's big brothers. The Prophet-5 and -10 were probably instantly recognizable because they had been around for a while, but the Pro-One wouldn't be.

And maybe this is just a coincidence, but I think artist John Mattos and/or SCI must have realized this fact and you will notice that the image of the Pro-One in this advertisement has much less detail than you will find in the images of the Prophet-5 and -10 in their ads. The ad just doesn't need it. As far as the small print at the top of the ad is concerned, this was a necessary evil to make sure readers unfamiliar with the initial Pro-One ads would know exactly what the Pro-One is - 'a new standard in monophonic synthesizers!'.

On the other hand, one might argue that the audience's unfamiliarity with this new instrument would be precisely the reason why there should have been more detail in the artwork of the Pro-One - so that it could continue to become more recognizable. And maybe that ad-copy should have been larger for the very same reason.

But I'm such a fan of John Mattos that I'm tempted to say *%$# it - keep the print small and let that Wizard-dude speak for the company. He became the Jolly Green Giant of the synthesizer world, as was recently pointed out to me by my food-obsessed girl-friend.

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