Friday, June 28, 2013


Earlier this year I was asked to teach a portfolio class at New York's School of Visual Arts. For whatever reason, it didn't work out. And on reflection, I think that's a good thing.

In thinking about the course I would teach, I planned one that would be about the primacy not of ornamentation but of a simple idea (or truth, if you're a planner) that would be interesting and useful to the viewer.

I was planning to spend a fair amount of time talking about clarity. I would show how through the decades (through millennia, actually) forms have changed, but the basic precepts of strong communication haven't.

I would also talk about surprise. How doing something unexpected attracts attention and wins converts. And when we got down to the nub of it in class, I would probably talk a bit about writing. About simplicity in word choice and sentence structure.

Finally, I would talk about the greater goal of advertising. That is, to make a promise to a viewer--a promise they might care enough to act upon.

I thought about all this and I realized that none of these skills are needed any longer in advertising.

If I were to teach a course it should follow a different tack.

1. Buzz-word slinging. Specifically how to use words and phrases like "story-telling," "big data," and "conversations about brands" as if they have meaning, relevance and import.
2. Shiny-object adulation. Here we would teach that not only is the latest the greatest, the latest is everything. We will assiduously ignore failed shiny objects, like Google+, Spotify, Xynga, Groupon and about nine-quadrillion others that at one time were the answer to every marketing problem.
3. Finger-pointing. In short, "I didn't do it, he did."
4. Credit-grabbing. In short, "He didn't do it, I did."

There might be more. Like the "3-P's." Posing. Puffing. Pontificating.

But I might keep them for the second session.

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