Thursday, October 27, 2011

Yamaha CS-80 "Finally" advertisement, Contemporary Keyboard 1977

Yamaha CS-80 synthesizer "Finally" 1-page advertisement from page 9 in Contemporary Keyboard December 1977.

I had originally posted this ad way back in 2009 before I had a lot to say. But now, after posting that well-received CS-80/60/50 12-page brochure, I guess I have a little bit to say after all.  And most of what I have to say is related to advertising vs. earned media, and in some ways, the CS-80 would have been a good study to test the effects of each.

CS-80 information began to show up in a number of mags pretty much around the same time period during the winter of 1977. Here in North America, Contemporary Keyboard and Synapse both started to run this CS-80 advertisement in December (well... for Synapse it was the November/December issue). This was probably around the time the CS-80/60/50 brochure started to appear, and I'm kind of surprised that Yamaha didn't sync up the design or ad-copy a bit more between the two. Sure, you can say a lot more in a brochure, so you don't expect the well-written ad-copy of the brochure to be identical to the ad. But I would have thought Yamaha in America would have translated some of the design elements of the brochure over to the ad.

Speaking of the design elements - there isn't much in this ad. But that close-up photo is awesome! I love seeing those four rows miniature memory panels in the foreground with the two rows of programmable panels running off into the distance. It's a little romantic  :)

As far as ad-copy is concerned, Yamaha did keep the general theme of the brochure at play in the advertisement - focusing on the creativity that can be expressed live through the CS-80. And the ad does at least give the CS-50 and CS-60 a final thought at the end of the text.

So, Yamaha clearly chose to focus on advertising in North America. Meanwhile, across the pond, the company took a different approach - at least as far as International Musician and Recording World was concerned. Not sure if it was the company's intent, but somehow they got the magazine to review the instrument, not once - but TWICE within six months.

The first write-up showed up as a "KeyboardCheck" review in the January 1978 (UK) issue of IMRW. Rod Argent took the CS-80 out for a test drive on page 46, where he managed to haul the 4,350 pound/220lb synthesizer into the studio for the recording of Andrew Lloyd-Webber's "new set of 23 Paganini Variations". Not able to save the best for last, in the third paragraph, Rod writes:
"I must say at once that the Yamaha passed these tests with flying colours. In fact Mr. Lloyd-Webber was so impressed that he bought one after three days of recording and by all accounts is now threatening the time schedule of "Evita" by insisting on lengthy demonstrations to everyone who comes to his flat!"
Most of the rest of the review is your usual tour of controls and functions, and Rod concludes that it is a beautifully constructed instrument with a good layout with an "extremely satisfying" sound. Nothing we didn't know there. :)

The second IMRW review showed up exactly six months later in the July 1978 (UK) issue (with the same 4,350 pound price tag). And this time Dave Simmons gave the CS-80 true "synth" status by reviewing it in the "SynthCheck" section rather than "KeyboardCheck".

Dave's introduction made it clear he didn't get as much time in with the instrument as Rod did six months earlier, but was just as eager to praise the synth right out of the gate with this introduction:
"Since I have been doing synthesizer reviews for International Musician there have been two pieces of equipment that have particularly impressed me. One is the Roland Guitar Synthesizer and the second is the CS80 from Yamaha. As with the guitar synthesizer, I could easily have played for weeks with the CS80, but because of large demand for this instrument, the only one available for review belonged to someone else and so I was unable to take it out of the warehouse, or try it out in a band situation."
Later in the review he states that the CS-80 is the best synthesizer he has ever played, and suggests that you actually can "throw away your other synthesizers" if you buy one. He prefaces these remarks by noting that he is NOT on Yamaha's payroll. :)

Interestingly, I can't find a CK review for the CS-80. In fact, it looks like very little Yamaha gear got reviewed before 1980.

So, in the end, I have to wonder. Did Yamaha think they got a better deal out of spending cash on a year and a half worth of 1-page advertising in Contemporary Keyboard, or by taking the chance of getting TWO over-the-top complimentary reviews by lending out the instrument to IMRW?

I know I would have taken the chance on the two great reviews. But then again, with the awesomeness that is the CS80, it's not that big a chance to take.    :)

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