Friday, August 25, 2006

Whatever you do, don't talk.

This morning’s Stuart Elliot column in the NYT is grisly/funny evidence of what happens if you try to talk about advertising to journalists (even careful, knowledgeable ones like Stuart). You wind up saying things like this:

“I didn’t pop my head out of a focus-group room in 6 weeks.” And: “This audience doesn’t want to be advertised to.” (Others do?) And besides: if this audience has a particular loathing for advertising, grilling them in focus-group rooms for six weeks about which “concept” they like will teach you what, exactly?

This: “[This audience] doesn’t want to be told what to do. ‘Free to be’ says ‘you can be anything you want to be and you’re welcome at the CW.’”

(“Free to Be,” by the way, is the CW network’s new theme/strategy, and is yet another great instance of David Nottoli’s Tyranny of Consumer Insight point discussed in my last post.)

I have this vision of this guy’s PR handler sitting in the office, pleading with his eyes for the guy to stop, please stop, omigod please stop, while Stuart calmly sits there, writing down these bon mots verbatim.

Because here’s the deal: talking about advertising to civilians makes you sound like an idiot. That doesn’t mean that advertising is idiotic per se, although all manner of stupid things are said and done in our business every day. It just means it doesn’t translate well to people who are not compelled to drink whatever flavor of Kool-Aid you’re chugging.

While talking about advertising can make anyone look like an idiot, it seems to take its heaviest toll on client marketing execs like this guy from the CW network. Creatives, in general, are too introspective and paranoid to say anything ridiculous, although the ECD on this CW campaign waxed pretty poetic about the color green in the same article. Senior agency account managers don’t want to commit career seppuku by being more quotable than their client.

So that leaves poor Mr. or Ms. Sr. VP-Marketing to tell us why their new ad campaign will rock our world. Some cautiously opt to utter something unoriginal like “We felt we needed to cut through the clutter” in order to try to at least containthe damage.

For those desiring to go beyond the old clich├ęs, the temptation is to put on that new-media-pioneer hat: “We wanted to find innovative new ways to engage our consumer” etc. etc.

And if that’s too tame, you can actually try to explain, as the hapless guy from the CW did, why your new advertising is a great idea. But if I were you, I wouldn’t. Nothing good can come of it.

Instead, I would do what generations of creatives, faced with the absurdity of articulating why they picked this typeface or that color, have done: gesture to the layouts or the roughcut or whatever, and say:

I think the work pretty much speaks for itself.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Garbage in, garbage out, garbage all around

Sidewalk Life: The Tyranny of Consumer Insights

David Nottoli makes a dead-on observation in this post from his excellent blog. For any creative who ever wondered why the briefs for the new deodorant, the online banking service and the fast-casual restaurant chain all have the same consumer insight, this is why.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

63%? I'll take it.

Advertising Age - New Book Reports 37% of All Advertising Is Wasted

Well, I know everyone is riffing off this news as confirmation of Wanamaker's old crack about advertising, but for Chrissakes--63% of advertising works? I'll take it.

30% gets you to the Hall of Fame in baseball. Success of new product introductions? Around 10% or less. Marriage success rate in the family-values lovin' U.S. of A is around 50%.

Think about it: 63% of all the ads you see--mere images and words about foot odor and insurance and hamburger joints, competing for your attention with other unsought commercial messages as well as whatever content you're actually trying to look at or what they're supposed to do.

If our industry wasn't so drenched in self-loathing, we'd view this as vindication, not embarassment.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I know nottink!

I’m guessing that Dieter Zetsche is smart, down-to-earth and charming in person. I’m also guessing that becoming his company’s spokes-mensch was not his idea.

But turning him into an alternately terrifying and clownish Teutonic tool—whose idea was that?

Sometimes, the best thing a creative can do for the work is to just get the hell out of the way.