Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Getting 'Faced.

After disdaining Facebook from afar ever since my daughters starting obsessing over it 4 years ago, I joined up 3 weeks ago so I could disdain it up close.

I was not disappointed.

After I completed the signup process, the first person suggested to me as a Friend (as opposed to a l/c friend, who is someone you actually know and like and see from time to time) was my 75-year old former boss from the ‘80s, now living la vida loca in Boca. Facebook had clearly jumped the shark long before my sad 57-year old self signed up.

I went to my Homepage?/Room?/Place?/Wall? and gazed in wonderment at the spectacle unfolding before my eyes. I felt guilty and ashamed—but not enough to keep me from scrolling, mesmerized, through the idle thoughts of current employees, bikini photos of ex-employees and the minute-by-minute documentation of all these people’s lives.

It would be easy to think, Jesus, who cares? Except that each dispatch—“Just got back from the dentist.” “Psyched for the weekend!!!” “Having ramen for dinner.”—is greeted with a chorus of thumbs-up validating comments.

I felt like Shelly Duvall's character in The Shining when she discovers the bat-shit crazy stuff Jack Nicholson's been writing all this time. The horror!

Three weeks rummaging through this dumpster of compromising pictures, coma-inducing reportage and rampant narcissism lead me to these conclusions:

1. People have way too much time on their hands.

2. Facebook is an irony-free zone. It may be a relatively new medium, but it’s about as edgy and cynical as Lutheran Bible camp.

3. Using a Facebook Wall to talk to someone is like using a Predator Drone to conduct diplomacy.

4. When your client, regardless of category or target demographic, asks you whether they should have a Faebook “presence” (the word itself is a dead giveaway), say No.

Regarding the latter, I used to say No without having ever been on Facebook myself. Now I can say No with much greater confidence. And, because I’d never ask a client to do something I wouldn’t do myself, I’m de-Friending?Listing?Booking? myself today.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A challenging day.

Humankind cannot bear too much reality."
--T.S. Eliot, "Burnt Norton"

It's been a challenging day.

The weather has been challenging, the fraudulent use of my credit card in Madrid is a challenge, and my painting contractor's sudden, unexplained disappearance will certainly pose a challenge going forward.

My 3rd quarter mutual fund letters to shareholders make abundant use of the word "challenging," as do CEOs reporting missed targets on analyst calls. Having all their franchise players injured was certainly a challenge for the Mets.

The beauty of "challenging", as opposed to, say, "totally and completely fucked," is that challenge is noble and invites rising, whereas total and complete fucked-upness is depressing and invites sitting down or--even better--going to sleep.

Euphemisms have their place in civilized life. They grace the skids for little white lies meant as a kindness, and they minimize the gross factor in discussions about bodily functions. But I've never understood euphemisms that mask truths, fool no one, and leave neither speaker or listener feeling better.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Make yourself scarce.

Seeing these new Starbucks ads everywhere confirmed my feeling that whatever elan this brand once had, it has lost. In fact, the sheer ubiquity of the campaign added to the problem. I mean, here’s an ad that basically sells scarcity—we use only 3% of the world’s beans—and then they plaster the message everywhere!

Part of what used to make Starbucks cool was that they didn’t advertise. Yes, they did the occasional (and sweet) holiday effort, but they didn’t spend a lot, the ads didn’t sell very hard, and it all felt artisanal and small-bore...exactly what you want from makers of $3.00 cups of coffee. Dropping $100 million on an ad campaign says “We’re the Micky D of coffee” no matter what the headline is.

In a spectacularly misguided effort at social-network relevancy, Starbucks CEO Howard Shutlz laid out his thinking for the company’s “partners” (read: hourly employees) in this YouTube video:

If you’ve built your brand through advertising (as, for instance, Folgers did in coffee), then there are good reasons to keep advertising. If you built your brand as “the third place”—essentially, an experience rather than a bunch of product claims—then advertising ought to be a waste of money at best.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Bring back the dead guy in the fedora.

Let's say you were Lexus and you were introducing a vehicle in a new segment, somewhere between the ES and GS. Wouldn't this be an appropriate headline? Builds on their endline of the last 20 years or so, highlights a new entry, has the self-confidence bordering on swagger that Lexus has earned.

Too bad it's an ad for...Buick. What? You didn't notice that?

Friday, October 02, 2009

A new-business koan.

Which is worse: not getting past the RFP stage of a pitch and then seeing the hilariously bad new campaign from the winning agency? Or not getting past the RFP stage of a pitch and seeing the so-good-it-hurts kickass campaign from the winning agency?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Where the wild type treatments are.

One is for rebellious children of all ages.
The other one is for...rebellious children of all ages.