Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Lost in Advertising.

I'm a firm believer in something much of the world seems not to believe in. 

I'm writing this in the three or four minutes before I get on the phone with a planner I'm working with on an account we share. Thinking about the call, I was going to start by saying that not only am I going to take notes, I'm going to file them properly so I can find them when I have to sit down and write our long-copy launch piece.

I'd say about 99 times out of 100 I take notes and then when I sit down to actually write, I can't find the notes I'm looking for.

That's frustrating, of course. 

But it's also a good thing.

I find a lot of good ideas when I'm looking for something else. I realize that sounds a little like advice a grandmother might have given to the love-lorn circa 1952. "You'll find someone once you stop looking so hard," but I think in many cases this sort of discovery happens.

Maybe it's some version of the Availability Heuristic or what I used to call "The Lower East Side Effect." 

Back when that area of New York was teeming with small retailers, many people like myself would go down there for good prices on the specific item they were looking for. If you were looking for tablecloths and napkins, there were a dozen or so stores that specialized in those items. 

When you got back to your apartment, someone would invariably say, "Did you see any bathmats." My answer would always be the same. "No, not a single one." However, if you went back to the Lower East Side a week later looking for bathmats, that would be all you'd see.

I find ideas that way, too.

Maybe I have a rough thought already in my head. Then while I'm looking for a piece of paper I've misplaced, or the brief I've highlighted or the 91-page deck that has a tab on one valuable page, I run into something else that lights a match.

That's how human minds work when they're working.

You store things and somehow, often subconsciously, they emerge when you least expect them.

This is something the people that run holding companies and individual ad agencies don't understand and never will. They think the principles of "Taylorism" can be applied to what we do, when, in fact, exploration can never be pre-ordained.

Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a lot in the press and all over my social feeds about how AI, specifically CPT-3, is going to displace anyone who writes for a living.

And surely, among those buying writing--the aforementioned Holding Company and agency heads as well as procurement-minded marketers, CPT-3 will be good enough. In the same way bad stock photos and illustrations suffice for most people. No one seems to add anything up that maybe the reason so many people are so disgusted by marketing is that so much marketing is so disgusting.

Mistakes are how we find answers. Or, if not mistakes, then serendipitous connections. 

I read in Walter Isaacson's book on Einstein that Einstein had a flash about time and space and speed seeing a train whiz into the Bern station moving past stationary clocks. Something clicked for him about relativity.

But AI doesn't make mistakes.

AI is a pattern-matching apparatus. It says, I saw this before and it went with this and so that must go with another.

It's not dumb. AI can match things way faster than any human. So it can put together sentences matching words and thoughts that go together based on them having gone together before.

But most things we like, from a joke to a smile from a stranger to a plot twist to a pratfall are based on the unexpected, the strange, the unlikely, the that makes no sense.

Except it winds up that they do.

And that's the beauty of searching. 

Without even knowing what you're searching for,
you're likely to find it

No comments: