Thursday, March 10, 2011

Yamaha E-70 organ ad #2, Contemporary Keyboard 1981

Yamaha E-70 organ ad #2 from page 15 in Contemporary Keyboard Magazine March 1981.

This ad confuses me. And creeps me out a little. Okay- it creeps me out a lot. And not just because the dude looks like a project manager that I work with.

Luckily, like most of the E-series ads, this creepy one only ran a couple of times in the front half of 1981.

Looking through past Yamaha ads, they've always kind of hinted at a sense of humor, but it has always been really understated. A cute little catch phrase or tag line here and there, like this one about organs that do everything with music except dance. Queue the small chuckle.

But in my mind, the first two things that pop into my head when someone mentions "Yamaha", is "quality" and "sound". To me, that was, and still is, their brand. Yamaha will always be all about the serious musician in my mind.

With this in mind, I decided to see if I could find anything out about Yamaha's brand. The idea being that if Yamaha has been doing a good job of branding all these years, my "feelings" about Yamaha should come close to what they say their brand is.

One quick Google search later and I found the description of their three-tuning-fork logo:

"The three tuning forks of the Yamaha logo mark represent the cooperative relationship that links the three pillars of our business -- technology, production, and sales. They also evoke the robust vitality that has forged our reputation for sound and music the world over, a territory signified by the enclosing circle. The mark also symbolizes the three essential musical elements: melody, harmony, and rhythm."
Well, that's eerily similar. Good job, Yamaha!

So, then, what the heck is going on with this ad?

When I first looked at the ad, my eye was immediately drawn to the photo. A guy playing an E-70. But the image is just... not... right (is it just me?!?!?). My mind just couldn't process that weird image as a whole. So, I looked below the photo and started reading the rather serious ad-copy:
  • "You owe it to yourself..."
  • "Every sound is produced with the greatest authenticity...."
  • "Conduct a test.."
So then my mind needed to try and connect that weird photo back to the serious ad-copy, so I looked back at the photo and my eye was immediately drawn directly to that facial expression on the guy - which quite frankly borders on maniacal.

Then my eye started looking at the surrounding scenery in the photo. The wall paper. Curtains. Fake plant. Picture of fruit. Lamp. Not to mention the totally fake tree outside the window. All crammed into such a small space making this image look totally absurd on more than a few levels. Again - is it looking a little weird, or is this just me?!?!?

I showed it to someone else to see if I just wasn't "getting it". Luckily for me, that person agreed. In fact, the whole photo is so surreal that she said she "was expecting Chick Corea to peak through the window". She also said the guy in the photo's wife "was probably waiting for him to die so she can turn it back into a sewing room". Bazinga!

So - was the ad trying to be humorous? Or serious?

Three years earlier, CK had done a survey and found that the average age of it's readers was just over 25 years. They were also predominantly male. So, if you believe that Yamaha was trying to be totally humorous in the ad photo by showing an old guy rockin' out on an organ in his living room (and right now I'm leaning towards this point of view), then the ad may have "clicked" with this younger audience. Laughing at the older generation of organ players, etc... But, the serious ad-copy would not have reinforced the imagery, and in my mind, the ad may have failed in its purpose.

On the other hand, in the off-chance you think the photo wasn't supposed to be totally funny, then it also fails. Because I'm pretty sure no 25 year old wants to be this old guy playing an E-70.
They would much rather be this guy playing a Yamaha SY-2 (nice shoes):

Or even better, "the kids" would probably want to be like a famous musician... Avid E-70 user FlameTopFred tells me that Pete Townshend had both an E-70 and CS-80, and used an E-70 on Eminence Front and a few other Who songs. He directed me to a Web page on for more reference info (do a search for e70).

It makes me wonder why Yamaha didn't just take a page out of ARP's name-dropping book and start listing influential musicians.

Like me name-dropping FlameTopFred all the time. Thanks again for the info! :o)

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