Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Explaining the Super Bowl mess.

Fifty years ago, roughly 1960, the Mad Men era, the state of American advertising was woeful. It was filled with rules, dicta and junk. Ads were festooned with filigree, commercials were infested with acting, problems and mnemonic devices that were, at best, unreal, but more often downright insulting. The typical American as depicted in American advertising was June Cleaver without the ethnicity, who worried about rings around the collar and other banalities.

Today fifty years later, the state of American advertising is equally disgusting. If a Martian were to extrapolate what our world is like from our Super Bowl commercials, that Martian would assume we are a craven society of unshaven 25-year olds that care more for Doritos than anything, including sex.

As the world of 1960 was more dimensional than that depicted by advertising, so too is our world today. It's just agencies and advertisers don't get it.

What happened in 1960 is that Bill Bernbach came along and David Ogilvy emerged into prominence. They preferred to think that the American consumer wasn't a moron. That that consumer could be reasoned with. That that consumer knew when we attempted to gull them, and they resented it.

In 2011, no Bernbach or Ogilvy has emerged. The dominant complacency of the industry permits ageist affronts like Goodby's Chevy ad and assaults on civilization like Crispin's Groupon ads. And the end of civilization like Joan Rivers for Go Daddy.

Watching the Super Bowl made me want to retreat from humanity to the comfortable leather chair I have in my study that's there for the purpose of retreat. But then I realized, we aren't as callow and wretched as our industry depicts us. It's just those cliches are easy to buy, easy to award and so we take the easy way.


Anonymous said...

And the reason for that is no one having the balls to tell the client to take the ad they made or sod off. Because like all holding company owned ad agencies they're only interested in one thing: money.

Tore Claesson said...

I think it has a lot to do with the process. Back before Bernback and his single minded idea of the team, ads were "agreed" upon by a horde of people. All aimed at what were believed to be the wishes and aspirations of the population. And that is where we are today as well. Nobody trusts the small group, two people, or even on person, who has the talent and smarts to come up with and envision an ad idea that would resonate with a normal modern person. Nobody and nothing is left alone. It's a gigantic group bonk. Where the climax is anti. Smart and intelligent are out of fashion. Nobody trusts people with being smart and intelligent enough for that.