Dick Clark's Style Changed America
“It’s got a beat and you can dance to it.” That phrase summed up the brilliant career of one of America’s great showmen, Dick Clark. He passed away last week at the age of 82.
Clark took over a local Philadelphia teenage music television program, Bandstand, in 1957.
The national television networks were looking for programming and Clark pitched Bandstand to ABC. The network picked it up and changed the name to American Bandstand. The program first aired August 5, 1957.
Clark’s easy-going style harnessed the power of the young to change popular culture. He played a key role in merging television, advertising, music, dance and teenagers.
What can modern day advertisers and social media gurus learn from the media-savvy Clark? What did he do that made American Bandstand a national sensation?
Clark’s biggest plus was not to get in the way. American Bandstand was not about Dick Clark. He wore conservative suits, smiled oh-so politely and introduced new music and culture with a simple wave of the hand.
The show’s highlights were new music, new dances and new clothing styles. Teens in small-town America could see what was hip in Philadelphia and later Los Angeles. The show allowed teens to be interactive.
He asked for their opinions on music and dance. The “Rate-a-Record” segment allowed teens in the studio and at home to judge new music. The phrase, “It’s got a beat and you can dance to it” came from teens judging records that appealed to them.
Clark gave some advertising advice in an article he wrote for Advertising Age in 1972 that still applies today.
“Make sure commercials are believable.” One suggestion for believability he had was through the “judicious use of the vernacular of the day.” He warned not to be caught using out-of-date phrases such as “groovy.”Continued on the next page