Friday, March 28, 2008

Hal Riney dies at 75

Hal Riney died of cancer this week. He was 75 years old. If you’re not familiar with Riney's name, take a look at this commercial on You Tube that he produced a good many years ago.

Millions of Americans never knew who Riney was, but they recognized his voice. While his advertising firm was immensely successful, it was perhaps his subtle, low-key voice-over announcements that were most recognizable.

Riney employed “understatement” rather than “overstatement” in his advertising, and his strategy was usually to let the listener or viewer make a determination about the product or service, but only after having led them down a road where there seemed to be only one clearly logical choice.

Read Hal Riney’s obituary in the New York Times.

The San Francisco Chronicle web site posted Riney’s obituary and it attracted hundreds of comments. Disappointingly, many of them were postings that ripped advertising in general and Riney in particular. Too many folks with too little to do – and not doing it well.

I chose public broadcasting rather than commercial broadcasting as a career. That decision was based – in part – on my belief that there is greater creative freedom in non-commercial broadcasting than is available in commercial broadcasting. I still believe that.

Nonetheless, I recognize the value of good advertising, and few people did it better than Hal Riney.

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