It seems to me a large measure of the world we live in waits for disaster to strike and then wrings its hands and wails, "how can this happen?" The latest incidence of such is the attempt by a suspected terrorist to blow up a plane on its way to Detroit. For the last few days, every third story on the news has featured some government spokesperson or some government-watchdog spokesperson saying "how could this happen?"
There's an easy answer, of course, to that question. Things like this happen because we attempt to do things on the cheap. As a nation we haven't put in place the people and systems it would take to truly prevent disaster from striking. TSA workers are low-wage and ill-trained. They excel at the banal, like confiscating hand-creme, but as far as the rudiments of real security, they are sorely lacking.
In fact, virtually every time there is a disaster of some sort, toxic dry wall, a mine cave-in, the collapse of a construction crane, the same thing happens. People wring their hands and say, "how could this happen?" The answer isn't that Snidley Whiplash loosened the supporting cables, it's that the whole operation was cheap and shoddy.
The same happens in our business of course. We get briefed on work. The brief sucks and is insightless. The work gets created, gets revised and revised and revised. Then gets tested and revised and revised some more. Finally, the work appears in the market and makes no mark.
Cheap in advertising is the unmitigated mitigation of risk. It's not granting the time it takes to gain knowledge of true product differentiation. It's an unwillingness to do something that doesn't look like everything else.
In short, we produce drivel and when it doesn't work we wring our hands and moan, "How could this happen? How could this happen?"