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VOL. 44 | NO. 42 | Friday, October 16, 2020

A quick trip down one ad man’s memory lane

By Terri Schlichenmeyer

Updated 9:39PM
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Time to take care of business. You know you’ve got three minutes or more, plenty of time to leave the sofa, quickly run to another part of the house, cruise through the kitchen for a snack and you’re back before your program restarts. Unless your ads are running, you might otherwise grab the remote and zap past the break.

Read “60 Stories about 30 Seconds” by Bruce Van Dusen and you’ll be flush with information.

His parents wanted him to be a doctor, but young Bruce Van Dusen wasn’t interested in medicine. He’d spent his childhood messing around with an 8 mm camera, making short movies with his friends.

At 15, he offered to “intern” at the photography studio owned by a distant relative, further sealing his interest. While he didn’t actually do much that summer except read magazines and help with the occasional photo shoot, he was hooked by time he went back to school.

When it came to college, there were few choices then. Most of the “film schools” taught more critical skills, less hands-on, so Van Dusen chose to attend Boston University. There, he made movies but saw his future after witnessing the making of a TV commercial.

At age 22, Van Dusen started a film company and began hustling for work.

“60 Stories about 30 Seconds”

by Bruce Van Dusen

c.2020, Post Hill Press, distributed by Simon & Schuster

$27

320 pages

He worked for a pittance the first many months hoping that word-of-mouth and a great reputation would eventually pay his rent. He bid against competitors that he’d one day outlast, filming with big egos, small stars and people who were both.

Through the years, he’d work for himself, with a partner and with a big company that assumed the risk and worry.

To be successful, Van Dusen says, take responsibility for your people and never sue your biggest customer. As for TV ads, remember they’re trend-driven, and the best parts are often rejected in editing. When in business, don’t assume anything. Keep your family close and never stand behind a female lion.

Oh, my, but there’s a lot of swagger inside “60 Stories about 30 Seconds.” It shouts from nearly every page and sometimes is rather offputting. The one thing that’s worse are the short sentences. Short. Constantly short. Half-thoughts. Hard to read. Not easy.

If you can look past the fact that most of the 60-plus stories aren’t about TV commercials – and you don’t mind that the ones that are TV-related can tend to be dated – you’ll eventually find author Bruce Van Dusen’s biography, which is interesting and varied but also somewhat dated.

Van Dusen won awards for his work, and he made films with some of Hollywood’s best – 30 or 40 years ago. Ad-making technology has overwhelmingly advanced since then. Still, many of those short vignettes are enjoyable enough to seek out.

As for business readers, there are nuggets and still-relevant advice on TV ads, but you’ll have to search for both while you’re reading “60 Stories about 30 Seconds.” If you haven’t the patience for that, though, then just zap past it.

Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of business books are read in more than 260 publications in the U.S. and Canada.

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