Memorable is Unforgettable
April 27, 2012 by JoBe Cerny
For advertising to be successful, it must be unforgettable. It must evoke an instantaneous reaction from the intended target audience. Just last summer, I went into an Italian restaurant I had not been in for over thirty-six years. As I walked up to the owner he remembered me. I shook his hand and his eyes widened in recognition and memories flooded back into his mind. I whispered into his ear: “The Magic Man”.
Then he smiled, and said: “Copperfield!” I nodded my head affirmatively. Then he turned serious and asked: “Maurice?”
I patted him on the back. “Morte! His head was severed by a butcher’s knife.”
And he said: “And then he ran around like a chicken with his head cut off!”
“Because he was a chicken!” I said. We both shared a good laugh.
When David Copperfield was eighteen years old, he starred in a play at The First Chicago Center Theatre. It was the springboard to his career. In the play, I played David’s manager, Mr. Pinchbeck. And I assisted David as he performed many of his original illusions. I signed a contract that year never to reveal any information about the illusions, and to this day I have honored that contract. The play ran for many months downtown, and the cast would frequently go to this Italian restaurant for dinner on Wednesday’s between the matinee and evening performance. David was eighteen, and he was always doing slight-of-hand and other amazing feats. When I did the illusions on stage with him, I always was amazed even though I knew what we were doing. I didn’t expect the owner to remember me after all those years, but some things you don’t forget.
One day David and I had been rehearsing all morning, and we decided to go to a Kosher Deli across the street from The First Chicago Center. The line was out the door, and inside people stood elbow to elbow. It was pretty claustrophobic. David didn’t change out of costume, and he was impatient to get back to work. One moment I was standing next to David, and then he disappeared. Then he started to levitate above the people, and when people noticed they started to scream. The owner of the Deli told him to stop it. In response, David produced a chicken out of nowhere and threw it into the air and said: “Is the Chicken Soup Fresh?” The next thing we knew, we were asked to leave and never come back. So we made another unforgettable impression on a group of people. By the way, the chicken was actually a rooster named Maurice.
But, my experiences working with David helped me get thrown out of other rooms in my life. Over the years, I worked with other magicians incorporating magic into industrial shows for corporations. I don’t design illusions. But, I do create stories that utilize illusions to make products more memorable. I let the magicians figure out how to do the illusions. I’ve had great success using Bob Higa. One year Dean Dibrito asked me to write the creative pitch for the McDonald’s annual meeting in the Shrine Auditorium in LA. McDonald’s wanted to do something memorable to introduce the president for his key note address. I suggested we make a McDonald’s restaurant appear on stage and then levitate it and move it over the audience and then set it back on the stage and let the president walk out the front door of the restaurant and give his speech. I was asked to leave the room.
The McDonald’s people thought I was crazy, but Dean convinced them that Bob Higa and I could pull this off. McDonald’s thought about it, and then they let me come back into the room. They decided against doing the illusion because we couldn’t fit a full-size McDonald’s on the stage, and the president would have to duck to fit through the door. So, instead we did a different illusion that fit their new product introduction better. It was a new package that kept the burger hot but the lettuce and tomato cold. So, we essentially created the package and did a musical number with singers, dancers and Higa. They filled the empty container with ice and then ignited it with fire. Then the box opened and the President of McDonald’s stepped onto the stage to a standing ovation. It became a very memorable product introduction.
Never one to not to push my luck, I suggested we do a live fireworks on the stage to end the show. I was asked to leave the room again, but we did the first fireworks display on the stage of the Shrine Auditorium. About a month later Michael Jackson tried to do live fireworks on that stage, and he had his famous accident. Oops! I guess he hired the wrong guy.