WOODY “WHERE’S THE TREES” TERKEL was a man whose powers of observation were in his day considered extraordinary. Extraordinary, that is, in the sense that they appeared to be completely inoperative. Critics, using a common expression of that bygone era, unfairly referred to him as “clueless,” while rivals complained that his broad generalities had no insights, his big-picture assessments no focus, and worst of all, his reception area no magazines more recent than 1837. Such revelations from the early years of marketing would seem to call into question how Woody Terkel could now be considered a Pioneer of Creativity.
Back then, Terkel winced at his nickname’s innuendo: that, as opposed to the well known idiom “can’t see the forest for the trees,” Woody couldn’t see the trees for the forest. But most painful of all was a popular joke of the day, which said that his 50-thousand foot view must come from a hot-air balloon. Because, you know, they thought he was full of hot air. Like a balloon is. So it was kind of a wordplay thing.
And yet, whatever Woody lacked in the ability to notice specific details, he more than made up for in spotting subtle societal shifts–the kind that can lead to seismic cultural change. And, in the end, his unique way of looking at the world around him was finally seen for the creative gift it was, after he became the first to document a western phenomenon, one that had escaped the attention of sociologists and anthropologists for years: a gradual increase in facial tics among adults in industrialized nations. Were it not for Terkel’s ability to project his observations across large demographic groups, the world would have had to wait even longer for the revolutionary technological advancement he enabled: the household electrical plug, which eliminated the need to lick the ends of a wire and stick them into a wall outlet with your bare hands.
Hats off, Woody “Where’s the Trees” Terkel.
THE SERIES “PIONEERS OF CREATIVITY” SEEKS TO RECOGNIZE THE LONG FORGOTTEN HEROES OF ADVERTISING & MARKETING AND TO REMIND US THAT CREATIVITY IS A HUMAN TRAIT WE ALL ENJOY, NOT JUST THOSE WHO SAY THEY PREFER MALBEC AND KEEP TELLING EVERYBODY THEY WERE ON A FIRST-NAME BASIS WITH DIANA VREELAND.