The 1976 Xerox TVC for their 9200 copiers is iconic and very famous, since its Superbowl launch. The ad, called ‘Bother Dominic’ (or Monks) was a clever spin on ‘spreading religious manuscripts’ and using the copier to do the trick, fast! ‘It’s a miracle’, exclaim the other monks!
The backstory of how the thought came to Allen Kay, creative director from the agency Needham, Harper & Steers, is interesting! From AdAge:
Laying in bed that night I continued the chain of thought. What were the first printed pages? Written by Egyptian scribes in Sanskrit on papyrus. Pictured an ancient Egyptian sitting on the bank of the Nile scratching words with a reed on sheet after sheet. Then what? Damned if I know, so I fell asleep. Then my mind went into auto-pilot. I tossed and turned somewhere in between being asleep and awake. Thinking about that scribe quill in hand. Pretty picture but he was going nowhere. Slipped into semi-sleep again. …. All kinds of images like sugarplums danced in my head. Joan of Arc. Was she a reader? King Richard III, “A book, a book, my kingdom for a book!” What kind of book? He’s on the battlefield. Of course, a bible! Who made the bible? A monk. Working on illuminated manuscripts In the catacombs of a monastery. Whooo. I knew I had it. It was 4:00 AM. I picked up the phone and called my beloved partner Lois Korey as I often did at all hours of the nite. She answered, “Hello Allen,” sounding annoyed as she always did when I woke her at an ungodly hour. “A monk!” I said. “Great idea,” she whispered, “See you in the morning.”
It was a fantastic pitch (though I don’t understand how Kay thought sanskrit was spoken in Egypt!)
See the ad.
Xerox made a new, updated version of the same script in 2017.
See: Xerox Launches with a Modern Day Version of the Iconic Brother Dominic Commercial. (for some odd reason Xerox has removed the new ad from YouTube! It is only available in the copies—pun unintended—other people have uploaded!)
It features a similar monk who has been tasked with a similar project. But, instead of merely copying the manuscript, he now uses a Xerox machine to translate his manuscript in multiple languages and also send them electronically to assorted devices (tablets, mobile phones, computers etc.) in one-click!
The new ‘Brother Dominic’ ad by Y&R, New York looks interesting, but in my view, lacks the magic of the original despite being perfectly functional and expanding on the current Xerox’s many additional features beyond just copying.
Is it possibly because we associate sharing multiple copies of something more with email/communication technology these days? And translation with Google… than a photocopying company?
The older ad had a simple, linear plot – a seemingly impossible task, and one specific solution that seemed like a miracle! The new one has the same impossible task, but the solution is multifaceted. And unfortunately for Xerox, in the current times, some of the other features are best associated with other brands.