Monday, July 21, 2014

Not on advertising.

It occurs to me that one of my favorite advertising blogs, Rich Siegel's "Round Seventeen," often has little if anything to do with advertising. Today for instance Rich writes about, among other things, sheets, pillowcases, mattresses and the power of our better halves.

My modest blog is much the same. Though I write about advertising and life within agencies when I am able, when there's something interesting or important, more often than not I write about other crap. Shit that happens to me on the bus going home or a story that knocks into me somehow.

The other day I was listening to a show on our public radio station called "Performance Today." In it the host Fred Child interviewed noted pianist Steven Osborne. Swimming against the tide for a top-flight pianist, Osborne said he doesn't practice eight or 12 hours a day. He said, in effect, that living life to its fullest, not just in a practice room is what makes him a good pianist. It's the experience of life that informs his playing, not just practice.

It occurs to me that in our highly professionalized world, too few people in advertising partake in the experiences of life. The fact is most young people these days seem to enter the business via ad schools that make the creation of ads an academic exercise rather than a living one. 

Therefore, I believe, too many ads have a sterility that is void of human insight. We shout things to consumers but rarely empathize with them. Because we rarely think of humanity. We're too busy thinking of Cannes judges.

When I think of the great ads of the 60s or 70 or even the 80s, many of them touched on some of the pains we feel as we navigate the shoals of life. Volvo talked with sensitivity about the burden of never-ending car payments--and how Volvo's (which they claimed lasted an average of 11 years) could alleviate that burden.

VW talked about the impact of planned obsolescence on your pocketbook and the high price of repairs and gasoline. Hertz talked about the pain of business travel--the late nights, the unfriendly faces.

The humanity I see in work today is most often a contrived one. Look how happy baby-wipes or Toyotas make people, they seem to proclaim. Or Doritos or flying to London.

It's all because we spend so much time studying advertising instead of studying people.  Because awards shows determine the efficacy of our work not real people.

If you want to do good ads don't try to do good ads.

Try to do something real and let the chips fall where they may.

You might start by reading Rich's blog.

It has nothing to do with what it's all about: advertising.

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