Thursday, October 29, 2015


The other day, though buffeted by the daily sturm und drang of work, I woke up with a tune in my head, an ear worm I could not shake.

Into the shower I went singing lyrics to a song I haven't heard for literally 45 years.

Meet Cathy, who's lived most everywhere,
From Zanzibar to Barclay Square.
But Patty's only seen the sights
A girl can see from Brooklyn Heights --
What a crazy pair!

But they're cousins,
Identical cousins all the way.
One pair of matching bookends,
Different as night and day.

How is it possible, I thought that I still remember this?

Then I thought some more.

I remembered all of this, too:

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this tropic port
Aboard this tiny ship

The mate was a mighty sailing man
The skipper brave and sure
Five passengers set sail that day
For a three hour tour, a three hour tour.

And all of this:

Green acres is the place to be
Farm livin' is the life for me
Land spreadin' out so far and wide
Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside

New York is where I'd rather stay
I get allergic smelling hay
I just adore a penthouse view
Dahling I love you but give me Park Avenue.
And even this:
There's a hold-up in the Bronx,
Brooklyn's broken out in fights,
There's a traffic jam in Harlem
That's backed up to Jackson Heights.

There's a Scout troop short a child,
Khrushchev's due at Idlewild,
I thought some more and wondered. Is there some splendor in a child's amygdala--or somewhere in his grey matter that endows him with a Watson-like memory? I thought about my struggles with learning Latin and Spanish and even Hebrew. No, my memory of these ditties couldn't be attributable to a super-human memory.
Why we remember these things is exactly why we remember commercials and taglines from long ago, and forget the ones we saw between the 4th and 5th innings.
As an industry, I believe, we have forgotten the power of repetition.
We change messages, campaigns, ideas, taglines too often. We fail to use mnemonics, jingles, memory signposts that would make our work enduring and, yes, memorable.
We change because we are bored.
We change because clients need to justify their jobs.
We change because that's what we do.
I'll bet if you wrote down five taglines now that you like, three of them would be 30 years old.
There's a tremendous amount of wind blowing about what sort of marketing "works," what channels are most effective, how we can use embedded fucking content to inveigle our way into the hearts and minds of consumers.
There are all sorts of theorists who will spout all sorts of theories. Theories usually predicated on getting something for nothing. Earned media my ass.
As an industry, it seems to me, we never think about what makes Top 40 radio so pernicious, or memes so memorable.
We never think about Marilyn Monroe's dress billowing or Bert Lahr dressed as the devil saying "Betcha can't eat just one."
Effective communication isn't small. It isn't cheap. It isn't once.
Effective communication is like the songs I cited above,
It repeats itself.

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