Wednesday, March 27, 2013


For about 60 years now, or maybe more depending how you're doing your math, we have had "fast food."

For about the last ten years or so--again, depending on your calculus, we have had "fast fashion."

In each case, the long-term value of the product is sublimated to the desire for cheap, uniform and ubiquitous.

Until recently, I'd say, there was very little consideration paid to the real value of either fast food or fast fashion. Deleterious effects on one's health. Or environmental and socio-economic hazards.

If you want to characterize our present era in advertising and marketing, I think we could say that vast industry forces are compelling us to produce "fast advertising. Fast communications."

More and more often an agency's "edge" is their "speed-to-market" and their ability to produce cheaply.

Fast advertising.

What fast advertising winds up being, of course, is marketing fast food. It's advertising with no nutritional value. With empty intellectual or emotional calories. It is glib--it looks nice but has no substance. And it is undifferentiated.

I am always set back on my heels when I get to the "insights" portion of a brief or a discussion. Most often those insights are proffered by someone who's never used the product or who is 20 years distant from the target audience. Most often insights are simply verities. Things like "people prefer hot coffee (often with milk and a sweetener) in the morning. In warmer months, they sometimes drink iced coffee."

Just as fast fashion and fast food are the enemies of the intrinsic value of those goods, fast advertising is the enemy of effective communication.

It may look gleaming and delicious.

It may look "designer."

But looks alone are the barest and most shallow of facades.

Advertising if it's to be effective, must be real and true and extraordinary.

To get at the real, true and extraordinary takes thinking and time.

And you can't just supersize it.

By the way, Mark Bittman of "The New York Times," writes today about the aims of the "Slow Food Movement." Slow Food

Would that there were a "Slow Advertising" movement


Anonymous said...

My favorite has always been 'fast girls'.

Anonymous said...

You could call the agency SST — Snail, Sloth & Tortoise

Anonymous said...

Every aspect of the business world is succombing to the "fast" fallacy. Problem is, by not allocating enough time to think ideas through and by stretching ourselves too thin, we don't build anything to last - whether ideas, or campaigns, or companies. The cycle continues but can't be sustained. Your blog gives some of us hope.

William Charnock said...

Oh, so easy to blame the insight! That's a cheap shot!

When was the last time you got a brief from my team that was as bad as you describe? And if you did, shame on you for accepting it.

You know I push for substance and genuinely fresh thinking. Our understanding should not come from being the target personally, but rather a well framed investigation of what is really going on in the real world with real people. We have the potential to make things that do more than shape perceptions. We can shape the reality, real behaviors, real interactions, real experiences, real products and services.

This does not need to take time but it does mean getting out from the desks, away from PowerPoint and getting out from under our urban, liberal comfort blanket and hitting the real world.

George, I like the rest if this post. We are under increasing pressure to act fast, to not think and to just make the same old stuff with the same crappy ingredients over and over again. Many clients don't want to step away from the conventions and the status secures their position within it. As a result we get asked to come up with new ideas the way Taco Bell treats new product development - same ingredients, layered in a different order and given a catchy new name. We all have to stop doing that. Planners, Creatives...all of us.

I don't believe it's a matter of fast or slow. It is a matter of making the effort to find fresh rather than pre-processed, generic, off-the shelf, "Here's one I made earlier", no effort required ingredients.

george tannenbaum said...

You're right, William. I was more bemoaning the loss of meaning in the word insight.

I've never gotten anything brief that empty here.

I do however hear people--not necessarily planners, who call the most obvious observations "insights."

To me insights have always been deep human truths. They are rare and hard to come by. They take deep digging and thinking. said...

Amen George...

...Now, get back to the Taco stand!