Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sequential Circuits Prophet -5 and Prophet-10 "The Industry's First" ad, Synapse 1978

Sequential Circuits Prophet -5 and Prophet-10 1-page advertisement from Synapse Magazine January/February 1978.

A long time ago before I did much writing, I had scanned this ad and just popped it up as a post. But, as I was creating the Sequential Circuits advertising timeline last weekend, I realized that I've never really said much about this ad. And that is a shame, because this has some great historical significance.

The thing is, as far as I can tell, this was the first ad for the Prophet. And, although Contemporary Keyboard magazine was usually the first place that synth peeps back in the day would come across these synth ads, technically speaking this ad first appeared in Synapse magazine. In other words, this ad first appeared in the February 1978 issue of CK, but it appeared in the January/February 1978 issue of Synapse. :)

That's pretty good timing though. I kind of take it for granted that my different synth sites will pick up on gear news within *minutes* of each other, and all the different mags will pretty much report on a piece of new gear in the same month. But I would guess that back in the pre-Internet days, if gear news happened to get out to different publication sources within a month or two of each other, the Marketing Manager was probably getting a hefty bonus at Christmas.

And this ad, and the whole initial marketing/promo campaign around the Prophet, is probably a good example of some pretty good timing.

For example, the same Jan/Feb issue of Synapse that included this first Prophet ad also included a little blurb in the "What's Happening" section about this introduction of this new instrument:
"Sequential Circuits will unveil, at this month's NAMM Western Market Show, a new polyphonic synthesizer named the Prophet. The Prophet is available in 5 and 10 voice versions with 50 programmable pre-sets (programmed at the factory but re-programmable by the user). The unit is controlled by a micro-computer and features pitch and modulation wheels, programs modifiable in real-time, a memory power back-up unit allowing the instrument to be turned off without erasing the stored patches, and a 5 octave keyboard. the 5 voice version (10 oscillators) is expected to list for under $3000.00. Although no retail price has been committed for the 10 voice version, manufacturer's literature states that the conversion from 5 to 10 voices is literally as simple as adding one printed circuit card."
Meanwhile, although SCI's marketing peeps also got the Prophet ad showing up in the February issue of Contemporary Keyboard, it wasn't until a month later (March 1978) that the specs made it into CK's Spec Sheet section:
"Sequential Circuits Synthesizer. The Prophet is a polyphonic synthesizer with a micro-computer built in to control its operation. This computer automatically tunes all of the unit's oscillators. The Prophet is available with either five or ten voices. Each voice has two oscillators. The unit also has a computer memory to store patches. It comes programmed with forty different patches, each of which can be reprogrammed by the user at any time. Other features include a 5-octave keyboard, pitch and modulation wheels, live editing capabilities, sequencer interface for use with the Sequential Circuits Model 800 digital sequencer, volume and filter pedal input jacks, a final release foot-switch, and a memory power backup with a 10-year life. The unit measures 37" (94 cm) wide, 16" (40.6cm) deep, and 4 1/2" (11.3 cm) high. Sequential Circuits, 1172G Aster Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94086."
Still - only a month delay? Not too shabby for the time period.

Looking at these two descriptions, I can't help but compare them.

The Synapse promo contains quite a bit less technical detail, and it also contains a factual error - the number of patches is listed as 50, where the ad in the same magazine says 40. Now this might have been because Synapse received early pre-NAMM specs to help promote the NAMM show introduction, while the ad arrived for printing later on. Meanwhile, CK may have also received pre-NAMM info, but for one reason or another, the Spec Sheet write up didn't make it into CK until after the NAMM show - at which time there may have been more tech details available. All just guesses, but that's the fun part of blogging in hindsight. :)

Yah, I know that it's not really up to the company on when they get promo'd in these sections, but just the fact SCI is organized and connected enough to get pre-NAMM news into a mag is pretty good marketing work in itself.

Side note (more of a question): Would I rather have my new gear info fed to me early on, with an increased chance of errors/changes? Or later, with full, correct specs? Tough one...

Anyways, again - not too bad in terms of timing. Within two months, both the ad and the specs could be found in two highly respected mags.

The ad continued to run in Synapse pretty regularly right into the January/February 1979 issue. While in CK, the ad ran only until July 1978, after which SCI decided to take break from any advertising in that magazine. Then, in November 1978, SCI ran this "You'll look at it's features" Prophet ad just once in CK (and never appeared in Synapse as far as I can tell - see my blog post and my guess that this was just an interim ad), and then this longer running "No excuse" ad in February 1979. This ad didn't start running in Synapse until mid-1979.

So, a little bit of a campaign transition issue when you look at the two mags, but again, three months ain't too shabby for the time period.

Could you imagine if there was this type of timing issue online?

InterWebz - you rock. :D

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