Masters Series: Amil Gargano

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Amil Gargano – An Advertising Legend

Before Amil Gargano stepped onto the stage — or rather, in front of the drawing board — the Volvo was just another standard automobile manufacturer. That was until Gargano dreamed up the brand’s iconic 1963 campaign ‘Drive it like you hate it,’ which introduced the Swedish car to America through a simple yet powerful line:

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The commercial featured the story of a retired teacher and rally car driver, Irv Gordon, who clocked nearly 2.9 million miles in his 1966 auto. Modern technology — social networking, GPS technology and online maps — allowed viewers to follow his car as it hit the three-million-mile mark. The campaign message was simple: The Volvo is durable, tough and reliable — and can handle being pushed to its performance limits.

It was advertising re-imagined. Within 5 years, Volvo sales had nearly tripled and the previously unknown import had became one of America’s most trusted car manufacturers. And Gargano’s creative ad campaign became legend.

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Amil Gargano is a Graphis Master, who has been represented in Ally & Gargano, a Graphis publication that chronicles 46 daring and iconic advertising concepts created by Ally & Gargano: what may arguably be the most successful ad agency of the last half of the 20th Century.

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Amil’s advertising career can really be traced to his early years, when his parents were encouraged by his schoolteacher to send him to an art school for exceptionally talented children, in Detroit. He would later continue his art education in Detroit, before moving to New York in 1959.

There, Amil met Carl Ally, and Ally & Gargano was formed. The agency quickly grew, an audacious group of creatives with a simple credo: “Be blunt, open and honest. Find the truth, and then hit people over the head with it.” Under Amil’s 24-year leadership, the agency’s billing quadrupled. By 1982, Amil was given a place in the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame, among such brilliant minds as Helmut Krone, Bob Gage and George Lois.

Amil would earn numerous eminent awards and accolades throughout his career, producing groundbreaking campaigns for companies like Volvo, Hertz, IBM and Vespa. He taught for 25 years in the Independent Study Master of Arts Degree Program. And when all was said and done, for Gargano, it always went back to the thrill of a good idea: “If you want to get people’s attention, do something that is evocative, that excites their curiosity to get them into this thing,” Gargano said.

For a further look into the man behind the Volvo campaign and the campaign itself, check out the following videos:

A copy of Ally & Gargano is available in our store, over here. To see more of Schwab’s work, click here.

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