Monday, July 18, 2011

Moog Liberation, Contemporary Keyboard 1980

Moog Liberation 1-page advertisement from page 43 in Contemporary Keyboard July 1980.

Update: added to the Moog interactive advertising timeline.

Let's face it - 1980 was the year of the Keytar. Sure, independent designs and ideas started popping up years earlier, but it was around 1980 when the gates really opened in respect to advertising and promotion.

Just how popular? Flip the page this ad appears on and you see a large photo of Roger Powell playing his custom-designed Probe (which, I still maintain is an awful name for a car, keyboard or anything for that matter). And earlier is this issue is another keytar manufacturer's ad.

Two keytars are top-of-mind for me, and probably for most keytar history buffs, when 1980 is mentioned: George Mattson's (of Mattson Mini Modular fame) wicked looking Syntar, and of course, Moog's very... er... Moogy-looking... Liberation.

Jump forward more than thirty years later, and we somehow get to a point where this advertisement has become almost as iconic as the Liberation itself. You see it everywhere. e-Bay auctions. Scans online. It's probably safety-pinned on to the back of someone's satin jacket somewhere in the world.

For me, this ad has both a lil' bit o' good and bad in it. No, seriously - since first coming across this advertisement, that open-mouthed look on Tom Shuman's face has been permanently burned into my cranium. And the chest hair doesn't help either. What was it with Moog and body hair back in the day?!?!

I personally would rather have seen an up-close photo of the front-panel controls, although marketing gurus would probably argue that because a user can control other synths with the Liberation, a control shot isn't as important as trying to communicate the unique performance aspects of the machine - ie: standing along side a guitarist at the front of the stage. And they would probably be right. :)

But, there is one aspect of this ad that is unquestionably spot-on: the 60's-psychedelia-inspired "Liberation" logo-type. In fact, the whole "Freedom" campaign theme (including ad-copy!) fits so well with what the Liberation is all about, that the photo of Tom in a sweater, collar and slacks comes across as a little out of place for me. Where are the flowers and rainbows :D

With regards to the Liberation, Moog really did use every vehicle possible to promote it. Magazine advertisements and promotional literature, NAMM promotions with the Liberation strapped around a mannequin (page 36 in Vintage Synthesizers by Mark Vail), and of course, their Moog Interface newsletter.

In the September 1980 newsletter (fresh back from Chicago's NAMM show), The Liberation makes multiple appearances, including the big front page article that introduces readers to the technical aspects of the keyboard, including a nice line drawing of the front panel. Interestingly, Moog also mentions that "the Liberation is definitely a performance oriented instrument although it will lay flat on top of other keyboards". What? Why dirty the waters? This thing is meant to play over the shoulder. Stay on message! Stay on message!

In addition, page 2 has a photo of DEVO playing Liberations, as well as a mention for "Moog Mobile Wizard" Tom Schuman (star of this ad) and another mention of Liberation user Ronnie Foster. And page 3 has a photo of The Motel's keyboardist Marty Jourard in the Moog factory with a Liberation leaning against a Moog Modular.

Moog keeps the promos going in the December 1980 newsletter with a photo of Ronnie Milsap and a mention that he is on tour with the Liberation on page one. Page two has a question asking which Bob in DEVO is playing the Liberation on their appearance on Midnight Special (answer: Bob 2). Page 3 has a photo of two member's of Kenny Roger's group playing Liberations.

With a lot of this promotion occurring within a three month period, it's safe to say that awareness of the Liberation was a success.

Nice work, Moog!

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