August 28, 2005 People: The Madison Avenue Register

Yoko Ono: Marketer Of The Year


No, this isn't going to recap the story of John and Yoko. No, it's also not going to cast an adoring light of our greatest, fallen 20th century minstrel. A violent man externally; a man of war internally (with himself) and a man of peace intellectually; without Yoko Ono, John Lennon's legacy would be skyscrapers lower than it is today.

This investigates why Yoko Ono should be acknowledged as one of our great masters of communication of our time, even more than her celebrated husband and for her masterful use of Madison Avenue's tools of the trade, all for the good.

Begin by considering the platform she inherited when she joined Lennon as his mate, amid one of the most dizzying media circus's of all time. Today, a careful review of her work will shed light on what is lacking with many of today's communication programs and maybe why so much of what is plastered up in all media fades into the woodwork.


It began of course, in an art gallery with, YES, a simple word printed in tiny font on a huge white canvas that was bolted to the top of a ceiling; printed so small that Lennon and other gallery visitors had to climb up on the ladder there and use the magnifying glass also part of the art in order to see it.

With that, she won Lennon's heart and mind forever. Being a performance artist herself, only now can we see how she was uniquely qualified to use the "brand equity" that came with becoming the wife of a Beatle like a washcloth cleaning the bathroom. And how she scrubbed, with particular attention on the world's global leaders with a ferocity that made their (public) skin and tempers raw.
Yes, Lennon's fair petite artiste did it with the tiniest of voices and giggles that irritated most of the world.


She dealt with media with the same half distracted indifference most people give to the kid selling candy bars outside the supermarket for their schools athletic program... Like, "huh? oh yeah sure," or "sorry, no money," or "sorry, too busy" or...worst of them all, silence, walking by them like they're not even there.


Much to her credit, Ono's focus has always been on the ignored kid. She used the media to put the focus on that supermarket kid, much to the media's dislike. The media has/had no interest in focusing on ugly stories, that is, unless they have anything to do with "beautiful people."

All the media wanted to do was focus on the beautiful people, one of which was Lennon. Yoko's appearance was so decidedly un-western. When her make-over of John turned him from an endearing neighborhood comedian to a loudmouthed global activist, the change cut so many and so deep that the media glossed over the substance and focused only on the form. The media in turn made them out to be freaks.

Yoko Ono deserves our respect for so many things. When one looks at all the BS that the media covers and publishes today, from ET, to the weekly/monthly magazines, to Page Six, to the nauseating cable TV channels; other than U2's Bono, NONE of our global celeb-brands come even close to jackhammering, let alone even challenging convention, and subjecting themselves to ridicule "in the name of love" and/or in Ono's case, in the name of peace. Imagine, taking that kind of risk today without checking one's agent or at a minimum one's publicist.

Thirty+ years later, her edge has been filed down. The newsworthiness she covets today, given our national cultural A.D.D consists largely of mild curiosity.

However, back when the world first met her, she grabbed our attention with the same effect one gets when they accidentally stick their wet hand into an open electric switch box.


Lennon's band serenaded the world with silly love songs, projecting a fantasy esprit de corps that effectively hid the tension, venom and anger each grew to have for each other behind the curtain.

Their talent pervaded society then and today. Even now it makes us smile with a sentimental naive view of romance we wish we all still aspire to today if given the chance. You know the words, "when I am older, losing our hair, many years from now..."

Yoko then came along and snapped us out of the global "in denial" state we were all in. Then as now, she's maintained a remarkable consistency in staying "on message" as they say, calling all of us to aspire to the "good angel-ness" in each of us and in each other.


Then as now, many people had a problem with her tactics, though looking at her antics through a 21st century lens; and looking at the message they were attempting to bring awareness to, the headline grabbing activities she and her Walrus staged pale in comparison to the demonstrations of celebr-idiom today. Yoko never had a costume malfunction or was involved in a court case for depravity.

Unconventional for sure, John and Yoko's stunts were as outlandish then as Amadeus's were in his day; though they resonate in time like a fine wine we can only appreciate over time. Here are a few of her greatest hits:

Two Virgins - Issuing an album with full frontal on the front cover and full backside on the backside. They posed nude for the world as a demonstration that their love was pure and that they had nothing to hide.

Bed Peace - Staying in bed for peace... Back then, it was one of the outrageous things a couple did in their day. Today, its celebrated in the Apple Think Different campaign that no one disputes is in the same order as Gandhi, Myles Davis, Jim Henson and Albert Einstein.

Nixon's Enemies List - Being spied on by the FBI, being watched all the time, having the president of the US try to export him, John and Yoko were dealing with the Karl Rove's of the world when he was still wetting the bed... assuming he's been potty trained by now


BAGism - John and Yoko's "BAGism" idea of promoting interactivity among people without prejudice.

Give Peace A Chance - A song, a chant, a global movement. Enough said.


Happy Christmas (War is Over, if you want it) - one of the least commercial, most heart-moving Holiday songs ever recorded. One that has little to do with commercialism and more to the vulnerable kid in all of us, with a beautiful, young group of black choir students from Harlem, which brings us to tears every time we hear it...

Bullet Proof vests for NY City Police - with crime at an all time high, who would have thought two of the anti-establishment's biggest radicals would have been the ones calling attention to the "peace-keepers," who at the time were considered anything but.

Then, quiet for several years, starting a family

House Husband - Back from the kitchen baking bread, John and Yoko smashed the testosterone chain and came out saying he stays home while she goes to work, redefining the view of how we look at the roles we all play in our family

Just Like Starting Over - It was just like starting over, until it came to a tragic, shocking end

....25 years......

Well, he's back, or should we say, she's back. Promoting her favorite brand. She's smart enough to know, that to do something well, it really can't "be about you." So she's focusing on the one we always did and will love.

Never mind that most of everything Lennon did after he divorced Paul was based on her inspiration. Never mind that the caretaker of one of our global Strawberry Fields is the one that we all thought ruined him.

LENNON - Now this, the musical. Broadway's biggest smash hit in years.


Even today, they are referred to as John and Yoko. However, taking nothing away from our favorite Beatle, it was really more about Yoko and John all the time. It calls attention to Yoko Ono's genius and why Madison Avenue can learn eon’s worth of insight from her focus, determination and unwavering efforts to use the power of the media effectively.

In closing, Yes, we were upset when the Beatles broke up. Yes, we blamed Yoko. Yes, we found her strange, exotic, something completely different from our Campbell Soup culture that we were in admittedly at the time.

And now, we thank goodness that's she still here. Without her efforts, what other global leader do we have that still focuses on the things that have real meaning and hope in our lives. Let's NOT imagine where we'd be without her.


Email this

More in   People

MACVIDEONY Creative Work

Hey Google, Save the Curbs

Next-Gen Mobile Carrier: Magee

Sarah Fay in wwwLand, Parts 1 thru 3.

Alan Chapell Goes Public on Privacy, Parts 1-3.

800 lb Gorilla Fandango Makes Noise at App Planet

Agency Rich Media Lovers Boogie as Palm Gets "Flash-y"

Churchill @ the Mobile UpFront

Google's Buzz Gets Stoned @ the WMC

Don't Go Into the Bathroom!