Is Anyone Listening?

Recently I was reminded of one of the most successful ad campaigns of all time, which those of a certain age will instantly remember, “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.” For those who are not familiar with E.F. Hutton, it was once a venerable Wall Street brokerage firm. The ad campaign was brilliant in its simplicity and absolute consistency and adherence to the brand. Each ad featured a set of people engaging in different activities, at a cocktail party, traveling, running, etc. Typically, people begin talking about investments, and one says “my broker is E.F. Hutton, and E.F. Hutton says…” At that point all motion and all noise ceases, all of the surrounding crowd leans in, and it is clear that everyone wants to know what E.F. Hutton has to say. Cue the famous line, “When E.F. Hutton talks…,” well you know the rest.

Benton & Bowles was the ad agency that produced this campaign. But what many people don’t know is that the E.F. Hutton individual who worked with the agency to develop and produce this campaign was not a traditional advertising or marketing person. William Clayton, who died in 2013 at the age of 83, was first and foremost a money manager. In fact, he¬†remained at the various successors to E.F. Hutton until his retirement in 2009, continuing to manage a book of business. A member of the board of directors at E.F. Hutton, he served for a time as the director of advertising, bringing with him a knowledge of the investment business that a traditional marketing professional may not have. His informed views gave him the perspective and vision to help develop concepts that truly resonated with the target audience. He was also somewhat visionary in his approach, recognizing the importance of women as a high potential segment back in the late 1970s, when client segmentation was in its infancy.