Wednesday, May 22, 2019

I don't believe you.

Image result for popeye sez whoMaybe the world has always been this way and these days I'm just noticing it more. It seems that today, in the wise words of Bob Hoffman, is the"The Golden Age of Bullshit."

During a time when there is more content than ever before, there is correspondingly less accountability than ever before.
There's so much crap being propagated, so many "services" being trumpeted, so many drums being beaten, that no one has time, or the energy, to examine the truthfulness of anything.

I half feel I could create a website that says this: 

George Tannenbaum
The world's only Nobel Prize-winning copywriter

And I could get away with it. Who's gonna check? Before long people will be contacting me and either trying to get me to pay them $199 to be included into some spurious edition of "Who's Who," or asking me for advice on how they can be nominated for a similar honor.

A friend, Claudia Caplan, just sent me a putative suicide note. Claudia's despondency can be attributed to a solicitation she just received. It's on something called Evidence-Based Creative and includes not a single shred of evidence despite its name. 
Evidence-Based Creative
In a world in which media and creative are converging, "Evidence-Based Creative" is an ethos that ________applies to everything we do. This guiding principle is rooted in the notion that digital media and creative perform best when data insights inform not just media decisions but creative decisions as well. These insights should be timely, not 6 weeks post-campaign buried in a half-read wrap-report, but live, in real time where it really counts. 

Join the evidence-based creative webinar and hear from ____________l, Head of _________, on how to use a range of tools to accomplish this type of live feedback, from facial coding analysis to establish the emotional impact of video ads, to multivariate testing models offering deep audience specific insights about creative performance, to fully automated machine learning enabled Dynamic Creative Optimization making personalized messaging truly scalable.
I spent four minutes on LinkedIn just now (actually LinkedIn could be called BlurtOut) and found the following four assertions. They're sales calls, really, posing as "journalism" or worse, statements of fact.

"Why Millennial And Gen Z Employees Are Really Leaving You"

"85% of consumers made in-app purchases last year, which makes mobile integration more critical than ever. Does your brand have the right tools in place?"

"Attention all recent grads and folks updating their resumes here are some tips and tricks from yours truly!"

"Internet Marketing Company, ________, Explains the Benefits That A Community Engagement Plan Can Offer Your Small Business"

The constant inundation of statements like the above ruins people. Because they're repeated so often, and with such assertiveness, people not knowing any better start repeating them as gospel.

In an age where we can't even agree on things like measles vaccines and climate change--despite overwhelming scientific proof and overwhelming scientific consensus--we all of a sudden find ourselves being sold marketing folderol, balderdash and hokum and we're buying it.

Here are a few of the sort of baseless assertions that besiege me virtually every day.

"A more prominent logo will help our brand."

"No one reads copy anymore."

"Sending out reams of content influences people."

To quote the great philosopher, Popeye,"sez who?" In other words, when people start blathering, or pontificating, or getting up on their soap box, question everything.


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Thanks, Rob Schwartz.

About a year or eighteen months ago, a guy I never met started commenting on this blog. The internet being what it is, I did about two-seconds of digging and found out that the guy, Rob Schwartz, was the CEO of TBWA\Chiat\Day New York.

Flattering, right?

We flirted back and forth for a couple months, then about a year or so ago, we met for non-alcoholic drinks. We seemed to hit it off.

A couple of weeks later, along with another friend, we did what older New Yorkers do. We met downtown at a communal table in a dingy Chinese restaurant and we shared soup dumplings and stories.

We laughed. A lot.

Since then, Rob and I have become friends. We trade stories, emails, and jokes when we have them. We have a good time together. As New Yorkers, as dads, as writers. As people who love the business and, for all my grumpiness, life itself.

Around the beginning of May, Rob asked me to appear on his Podcast: The Disruptor Series. Rob's kept up the podcast for nearly 40 episodes and going on three years. On "PodBean" alone, the series has been downloaded nearly 40,000 times.

Here's Rob's blush-inducing blurb on me:

George Tannenbaum is Disrupting The Youth

May 17, 2019
George Tannenbaum is a true Disruptor. In a business where the average age is 31, George, at twice that age, is thriving as a working ECD and creative leader. You can read about his experiences in his wonderful blog, AdAged. A Business Insider “Most Influential” blog, AdAged chronicles the daily life of advertising today and occasionally reminds us of the magic of yore. Sometimes sardonic. Often incisive. Always heartfelt. Listen in as Rob and George reveal the secrets of longevity and relevance in advertising and life.

Click here to hear it. If you have an hour and a pair of headphones, you might like it.  

At the very least, you'll hear a couple of new friends, who act like old friends, having a nice chat.

Thank you, Rob.

And thank you, dear readers.
Hopefully for becoming dear listeners.

BTW, for all my negativity about the silliness of social media, blogging has worked for me. I am more popular and well-known than ever-before in my life. And it's because of Ad Aged.

That said, Ad Aged has only become popular because I have worked at it relentlessly. Writing on average more than a post a day for nearly 12 years. And generally speaking, those posts have been qualitatively pretty good, at least in my opinion.

My conclusion from this is fairly simple. Social media can be worthwhile if you have something worthwhile to say and say it with regularity. 

Like most things, it doesn't just happen. You have to work at it.

On the other hand, if like most social media, you're banal and sporadic, in the words of my old man, you're just pissing up a rope.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Arthur Miller, hot dogs and Times Square.

My wife of 35 years does her best on the weekends to remove me from my near-hermetic tendencies and she tries myriad tactics to get me out of the house. To be clear, I have no problem getting up at 6:30, piling into my still-spry 1966 Simca 1500 powered by a three-liter BMW straight-six engine, but when darkness descends upon the city, the comfort of my quiet three-bedroom in Manhattan’s quietest neighborhood is hard for me to leave.

Can you blame me really? My week is filled with so many hours, so many demands, so many people pulling on my limbs for moments of my time and my particular and peculiar felicity, that it’s all I can do, when the weekend comes to tear myself from an ancient book, like “Don Quixote,” or “L’Morte d’ Arthur” or a more-recent history that attempts to explain the concussive and destructive world that's currently (and always) spinning off its axis.

These books, and the time to read them, are my escape from the all-too-present present. They are help me traipse away from a world, in Wordsworth’s words, “that is too much with us.”

But on Saturday night, my ever-loving twisted the bulk of my right ear and dragged me out of the apartment to see Annette Benning in Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons.”

I have always loved Arthur Miller. Ever since as a 14- or 15-year-old I read “Death of a Salesman,” and saw in the lead character, Willy Loman, traces of my father, I’ve always loved his work. Any person who can write, as Miller did in “Salesman,” “You can’t eat the orange and throw away the peel. A man is not a piece of fruit” is ok with me. Miller has figured out the universe, and for half-a-century I have loved his work. Attention to his work must be paid.

But still, leaving the friendly confines of my apartment for the mayhem, noise, filth and Elmos of Times Square, let’s just say I wasn’t quite as tractable as my wife wished I were.

We made it finally down to the American Airlines Theatre. You know, if you read this blog, how I feel about ostensibly public institutions named after corporate sponsors. Not only, from a marketing point of view do I believe such corporate narcissism to be a colossal waste of money, I actually wind-up despising the sponsoring brand more than I even had before.

Benning played across from the wonderful, Pulitzer-prize winning Tracy Letts. And while the show wasn’t exactly a laff-riot, it was well-acted, wonderfully-written and not nearly as dated as I feared. I guess clothing styles go out of business, but a moral system like Miller’s endures.

The play, however gloomy, was not what depressed me, however. What gets me every time I’m forced to walk through it is the Mall-ing of Times Square. The half-dressed tourists who walk about half-a-mile-an-hour, stop indiscriminately wherever they please, are unable to look up from their phones, except to say, “There’s a McDonalds,” or stop in one of the 97,000 Starbucks in the small radius around the Great White Way.

I’m never far, to be honest, from being a full-blown misanthrope, and walking through Times Square accelerates my descent into meanness like nothing else. In fact, every time my wife forces a Broadway show on me, I tell her “this is the last time I’m ever coming to Times Square.”

What really gets me is the bland-over-commercialization of the area. There's not a store that isn't part of a national chain, and the Disneyfication, the Mall-ing, the mogul-ling of New York is all-but complete. We have met the enemy and they are in real estate.

I remembered as I walked through the human cacophony an obituary from slightly over two decades ago of a man called Fred Hakim. Hakim ran a hot dog stand, the Grand Luncheonette, in pre-Disney Times Square. He ran it for something like 50 years. I found a short documentary on the last days of Hakim's seven-stool lunch counter. In that four-minute film, Hakim hopes he'll be allowed back to the crossroads of the world.


Like Arthur Miller might have written, 70 years ago, or 70 seconds, "Fuck the little guy. He just gets in the way of money."

Thursday, May 16, 2019

A (Brief) Modern Advertising Lexicon. #2 in a Sporadic Series.

An agency in the top 95% of all agencies.

Brain-storming: 52 minutes of caveats, eight minutes of unexecutable ideas.

Brand mission statement: A concise declaration of things a brand will never do or values they'll never uphold.

Brave: A client who approves an ad with fewer than 14-seconds of product shot.

Customer-centric: A focus on a customer’s centricity. 

Customer-engagement: Junk mail or commissioned salespeople.

Data ethics: A surveillance state oxymoron.

Deck: The sole deliverable for 97% of all people in advertising.

Engagement: Any contact with any sentient creature, whether they want it or not.

Experience: A word appended to other words to complicate communications and confuse the viewer. (ex. ‘How was your bathroom experience?” “How was your GoGo experience?” “How was your medical test experience?”

Future: A time that will never arrive. And no one will be there when it does.

Humble: Modern boastfulness.

Hustle: Vaynerchukian synonym for flatulence.

Influencer: A ubiquitous loudmouth.

“It's awesome”: How to say, “It’s been three days and I haven't had time to look at the work you sent” without admitting that it’s been three days and you haven't had time to look at the work that was sent.

Linked-In: A job-hunting site for people who will never get another job.

Narrative: Random language, usually laden with jargon, containing no discernible meaning or practical purpose.

Raise: An increase in pay. A relic of advertising’s Golden Age. Eliminated by holding companies delivering shareholder value through the undervaluing of their own employees.

Robust: Expensive banners or websites that no one will look at and are hard to produce.

Rockstar: What’s needed for any and every open hire.

Scrum: 14 people in a conference room for no apparent reason.

Vision statement: The first 51 minutes of an hour-long presentation.

Views: The number of people who accidentally click on your pre-roll.