Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ensoniq Mirage "This is a Mirage. This is not." ad, Electronics & Music Makers, 1985

Ensoniq Mirage "This is a Mirage. This is not." page and a half black and white advertisement from page 66 and 67 in the July 1985 issue of Electronics & Music Makers magazine.

No.  It's not an April Fools post. I'm just late. Was supposed to post yesterday and ended up having to work and the post never got finished.

Then, tonight when I got home (late... again...), I got on my stationary bike to blow off some stress from the day but found it had a flat tire. WTF?!?! How does that happen? But it was flat.

And then I remembered the post. So, I pulled up an Ultravox concert on YouTube, Chromecasted it to my TV, and decided to finish the post.

And so here it is...


While doing some background research on the Ensoniq Mirage for a different project, I was reading through the product review for this cute little sampler in the July 1985 issue of E&MM. But as I was flipping through the magazine to find the review, I was startled when this Mirage advertisement popped up further on in the magazine. I don't recall ever coming across it.

It's startling for a few reasons.

First - it's black and white. At a time when most of the ads appearing in E&MM were taking advantage of the magazine's glossy pages through the use of saturated bright colours and classic 80's designs, Ensoniq darted in the other direction with a very stark, black and white advertisement.  Ballsy? Or did they just not have the cash for a colour ad? Who cares... it stands out.

Second - Ensoniq took a page (knowingly or unknowingly) out of Moog's 1979 marketing playbook and kept the ad concept simple. Very very simple. If you don't recall those particular Moog advertisements, here's a refresher (click to view blog posts and larger versions of the ads):

http://retrosynthads.blogspot.ca/2010/12/moog-minimoog-ad-2-contemporary.html http://retrosynthads.blogspot.ca/2009/09/moog-minimoog-contemporary-keyboard.html

Both of those Moog ads, and this Mirage advertisement that came six years later, don't even sport a logo.

But, what the Moog keyboard itself has that the Mirage doesn't is a distinctive design. Most readers of this magazine would immediately recognize a Minimoog. But, remove the logo from an Mirage keyboard and it looks a lot like the other digital keyboards that were around at the time.

Another company that got away with this type of advertisement is E-mu with its Emulator. It too, became a classic in my books (again... click on the link to view the blog post and a larger version of the ad):


The only reference to the name of the instrument in this E-mu advertisement is glued to the keyboard itself. But the Emulator was distinctive like the Minimoog, so they can get away with it. As quickly as the Ensoniq Mirage gained fame, it was too generic not to point out what the instrument actually was.

Aside: Ultravox concert from YouTube. The Thin Wall just started. Amazing. I had to stop writing and dance a little - no joke. Look it up - Ultravox Concert 2010 - Return to Eden Full Show. Okay - back to the blog post...

Third - although not really "startling", is the theme. Ensoniq used a nice little play on words to get across the best thing the "Mirage" had going for it - the price. But the "optical phenomenon" theme didn't end after the price tag in the bottom half of the ad. If you read the fine print, you get to "Rush to your nearest oasis before it's gone!" and then the ad directs the reader to the previous facing page.

There on that facing page, the reader will find another 1/2-page long list of dealers for the sampling keyboard. E&MM managed to sell the 1-1/2 page advertisement spot a fair bit, and it was very effective.

And that brings up to the forth thing - and definitely back into the range of "startling". Even on this page, the company logo is only in small print at the bottom of the column. This ad is all about the synth, not the company. Not sure why this is, but my best guess is that the distributor or dealers were paying for this ad. And it was the Mirage that was the darling of the show. Not Ensoniq. But that's just me thinking out load.

Anyways, if you ever get a chance to read that Mirage review from the same mag, don't pass it up. The review gives an amazing account not just of the instrument itself, but the history of sampling up to this point as well as Mirage's debut at the February 1984 Frankfurt music fair.
"One factor contributing to this chaos [of the music fair] was the presence of two stunning German girls giving out glossy brochures, but the main reason was superficially rather more mundane. Three extremely dull-looking electronic keyboards, similar in size to a DX-7 and obviously in a just-finished production state, wouldn't ordinarily command such universal attention.

But these instruments were different. Even withe the help(?) of an unflattering speaker system struggling to make its presence felt in the face of strong competition from some triffid-like potted plants, the keyboards sounded good. Lots of strings, brass and piano sounds being reproduced with uncanny accuracy by electronics were not, of course, a novelty. But when the girls told us the keyboard would be selling for under 2000 pounds, our mood changed from one of mild pleasure to one of uninhibited astonishment."
The review also explains how six months later, the orders were coming in so fast to America, that Ensoniq set up production in Italy where Mirages were made under license.

That's enough blogging for now. Time to get back to that Ultravox concert.

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