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The Man in the Chair Ad – It’s Back and Better

November 12, 2009

Re-Innovating Your Marketing & Sales Communications

I started my business career as a young sales engineer in training back in the 1970s, in the San Francisco Bay Area. One of the most memorable lessons about the sales calls and customer credibility came from a classic 1958 McGraw-Hill, “The Man in the Chair” ad. I still use this ad’s message today and mention it to colleagues and clients. The ad was old when I first saw it, but so on target that it rings true today.

At the time, I was selling advanced manufacturing products from a well respected machine tool dealer that covered Northern California. Part of our territory included the burgeoning Silicon Valley. We sold, installed and serviced traditional and CNC machine tools and measuring equipment. We also represented Unimation, the first industrial robot company. Many of our customers were high-tech and established companies like: Lockheed, Westinghouse, IBM, HP, FMC, Atari and later Apple.

We sold expensive capital equipment and had to know our stuff, both technically and contractually. Credibility, reliability and long term relationships were critical to sales. I ran across crusty buyers on a regular basis. It was intimidating. So, “The Man in the Chair” ad really hit home.

The ad shows a cranky old purchasing agent type sitting in a wooden chair, glaring at the visiting sales guy and stating.  “I don’t know who you are. I don’t know your company, your product…” and a whole series of, who are you, and important creditability questions. He ends with: “Now-what was it that you wanted to sell me?” To see the ad…

The ad has been recognized as the #1 b-to-b ad of all time by Business Marketing in September 1999 as well as being chosen as an ad “I wish I had done” by Magazine News in 2002.

“Man in the Chair” Ad
Designed for The McGraw-Hill Companies in 1958, “The Man in the Chair” ad stands as one of the most effective and influential works in the genre. The ad continues to make the compelling case in the value of b-to-b advertising in the sales cycle.

The Business Marketing Association updated the ad in a video that delivers home the fundamental message, but in the era of social media. Great message then, better message today. Take a look.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Josh permalink
    December 1, 2009 12:53 pm

    This really does hit the idea home.

  2. prof sukesh permalink
    October 10, 2011 10:53 pm

    very good

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