Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The 2016 Election and the Advertising Industry. (Are we all Trump?)

“At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
       --Joseph Welch,
                                    Chief Counsel for the United States Army,
                                    to Senator Joseph McCarthy

Let’s talk about trust.

Or better, the absence of trust.

How did we get here?

The advertising industry, unfortunately, arrived at this point the same way our politicians did.

In the words of Budd Schulberg’s Sammy Glick, “why tell the truth when you can lie?”

In short, are we as an industry any better than Donald Trump?

As an industry we have become well-practiced in lying.

Listen to a car commercial or a Verizon commercial or one of the billion ads that promote the extortionate fake medicines created to help us combat made-up ailments.

We sell toxic food and make it look like it never does in real life. We sell fake sales. We use artificially thin people to sell products that will make us artificially obese.

We tell half-truths (which are, by definition, pure lies.) We tell people Miracle Whip will make you cool and beer will get you the girl. We promise things no product can deliver.

And then, then we lie some more.

We bait and switch and switch and bait, then bait and switch some more. Does your cable bill remotely resemble the monthly price they told you you would pay?

We create ads that violate privacy. We create ads that treat you like a “lifetime value,” rather than a human being. We think of people as targets, not people.

Then we turn up the volume until the mix is so hot that a whisper is a shout and a shout is a thunderclap.

We assert—without basis—that people don’t like facts, that they are post-rational. So we create ads that are nothing more than pretty people, pretty scenery and manipulative images and music.

We’re at the point where whether it’s a refrigerator or a presidential candidate, there is no place where features can be compared, where pluses and minuses can be weighed.

Then we use language that is as vague and jargon-filled as a legal brief prepared by Dickens’ “Bleak House” lawyers, Jarndyce and Jarndyce.

We paper it all over with artificial glow and supercilious smiles. We shoot our shots, direct our art and copy our copy. And then we wonder, why?

“When I'm drivin' in my car
And a man comes on the radio
He's tellin' me more and more
About some useless information
Supposed to fire my imagination”

Then we wonder why we can’t get any satisfaction.

So, what can we do?

We can read our Bernbach.

Our Chiat/Day.

Our Ogilvy.

We can start by being untrendy.

We can start by giving the people looking at our work, useful information in an executionally brilliant way.

We can start acting like gentlemen and gentlewomen.

By not shouting.

By not stalking.

By not charging twice or three times or four because marketers have us by the balls. (If it costs me $100 to go to a ballgame, I shouldn’t be subjected to more commercials while I’m there. I’m tired of paying for cable then getting ad after ad once I’m there.)

Maybe let’s say something true.

Maybe let’s make something worth watching, worth reading. With real not (sorry) trumped-up emotional bs.

Maybe we treat people with dignity, respect, candor.

Maybe we encourage our clients to sell better products. To put away the small print. And the bombast.

Maybe we treat people like they’re smart.

And provide real customer service, not phone-tree customer service.

Maybe we maximize human-ness not merely profit.

Maybe we find the time to rebuild trust. As you would in any relationship that’s been shattered by dishonesty.

If only our politicians bought this.

If only our industry did.

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