Thursday, March 29, 2012

Oberheim OB-X "Evolution of a classic" 2-pager, Contemporary Keyboard 1980

Oberheim OB-X "Evolution of a classic" 2-page black and white advertisement from page 42 and 43 in the March 1980 issue of  Contemporary Keyboard Magazine.

Another awesome Oberheim ad. And, if you can believe it, I think this is Oberheim's FIRST two-page advertisement in CK - ever. But at least this got centerfold action. 

Looking back at Oberheim ads, "Evolution" has been one of their big themes.  Today, that word can unsuspectingly take on an uncomfortable tone and can be controversial just to include in ads - or elsewhere for that matter. We tried to use "Evolution" as the title for one of our recent annual reports and the discussion was long and heavy on whether that could work against the organization. In the end, we decided it was better to be safe than sorry, and stayed away from the word.

But back in the 70s/80s, "evolution" was still just a relatively innocent word that had a neutral or even positive scientific feeling to it, separate from anything to do with religion. No uncomfortable awkwardness around the marketing table wondering if someone in your audience may have taken their kids out of school because the teacher was going on about that myth of evolution.

Anyways, point being, this isn't the first time Oberheim made "Evolution" a theme in their marketing campaign.

They used the word to good effect back in 1977 in an ad that featured the SEM's evolution, from a tiny little box to what eventually became the dual manual Eight-Voice (even including a picture of it!!!!).

 And now they are continuing on with the theme in this two-page ad, this time starting with the Four Voice and Programmer. We don't get a cool diagram or flow chart, but the ad-copy does a good job of promoting Oberheim's continued technical progress into the OB-X and OB-1, and also throw in a mention of their Cassette Interface for storing patches/programs on tape.

Interestingly, Oberheim doesn't stop there with the ad-copy. In fact, they spend even more ad-copy real estate on another aspect that was becoming more important with polyphonic synths - durability for touring.

More technology = more that can go wrong. Great insight into the times.

I'm sure many musicians thought this was the ultimate polyphonic machine to take on the road, so Oberheim really tried to promote it's increased reliability and ease of repair.

This theme is magnified by the main photo too. The largest photo in this ad isn't a front panel shot - something that would look gorgeous in a two-page spread. Nope. The money-shot in this ad is an OB-X with its front panel lifted up, showing the ease with which you can get into the machine. In fact, this photo actually takes up more than 50% of the two pages. Bold move, Oberheim. Bold move. The best part is that you can easily shrink this photo down to that small space on the right half of the page, and the message is still there in a one-page ad format. Nice.

And, near the end of the ad-copy they take a small dig at the Prophet by including the line "Considering the musician who wishes to expand from a basic four or five voices...". Bolding is mine. Nothing like calling the Prophet "basic".

Another insight into Oberheim can be found in the first sentence in the ad. They mention that June 1979 NAMM show right at the beginning. I mentioned the NAMM show, and the CK article that followed, in the OB-X's introductory ad that I posted.  And the fact that Oberheim mentions it again in this ad must have meant that this particular show was *really good* to Oberheim. It was obviously a successful show for them and the OB-X launch, and I don't blame them for milking it for all it's worth.

Oh - back to the evolution theme for a second. The month after this ad appeared, another Oberheim ad looking at the evolution of their technology appeared in the April 1980 issue of CK that celebrated Oberheim's ten year anniversary.

That last one was a great summary of Oberheim's accomplishments too.Yum.

Good work Obie!

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