Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Improving the Game.

This baseball season the billionaires who own major league baseball have decided to take some steps to try to combat the game's decline in viewership and popularity. They've implemented a series of rule changes to invigorate the game--hoping to bring it back to its glory days when it reigned as America's past-time.

In short, they've identified problems with the game as it's played professionally and they're trying to address those problems. The key issue they landed on is that the game takes too long to play. (I think the season starts too early and goes on too long and we'd be better off with a 144-game season not a 162-game season, but no one asked me. Besides, money.)

When I was a kid, a nine-inning game lasted about two hours. In 1965 when the great Sandy Koufax pitched his perfect game, it took him one-hour and forty-three-minutes. Last season, the average game was almost twice the length of Koufax's masterpiece.

Like baseball, the advertising industry is also suffering from waning interest. 

Advertising is no longer a "hot" industry, attracting the best and the brightest. It's no longer fast, funny and responsive. Despite the thousands of awards and shortlists everyone humbly announces that they've won, despite all the 'cultural moments' the industry claims it creates, to most people the business produces little more than unfunny spots with unfunny faux-celebrities shouting $49.99/month for our bundle or o-o-o-o Zembic, or some lady pointing at balloons and Toyotas in a showroom and chirping witlessly, 'Toyota.'

I wondered, can advertising, like baseball, implement a set of rule changes to bring our industry back?

Here are a few suggestions.

1. The Pitch Clock. As in baseball, advertising practitioners should get a set amount of time to make their pitch. I'd say, 12-seconds. 

Under this rule, if you can't deliver a brief, show a spot, fire a person, or tell why you did something in 12-seconds, penalties result.

2. Three Strikes. Baseball has decided to limit the number of attempts a pitcher can make to pick-off a baserunner. 

Advertising should do the same. If someone presenting uses the words: agile, robust, diversity, Cannes, culture, dancing, nimble, Wes Anderson, anamorphic lenses, adtech, Kevin Hart, verbs as nouns, more than three times, again, penalties and punishment will result.

3. It's All About the Base. This season, in an attempt to improve offensive output, Major League Baseball has enlarged the size of its bases from 15-inches square to 18-inches square--that's about a 30-percent increase in size. 

In advertising during my lifetime, we have done the opposite. We have gone from "double-truck with gutter," to full-page, to half-page, to mobile ad. Or, from sixty seconds to six.

As in baseball, if advertising enlarges its base--if we transition back from mobile ads to print-dimensions, in other words, if we once again try to "go big," we might very well improve our industry.

4. Ditch the Shift. Baseball has banned shifting players out of position to stymie predictable batters who can't hit to the opposite field. It became typical to have three or four infielders positioned all on one side of second base. This overloading of staff cut down on the excitement of the game. 

Doing the same in advertising, limiting meetings to people who actually do the work--not a host of "defensive stoppers" aimed at halting progress will help our industry as well. The current makeup of most meetings is around 20 people. 14 people texting, four project managers, and two creatives. Imagine how our game would improve if we limited our meetings to just the creatives and let everyone else do their thing without interfering in the business at hand.

I'm not much of a baseball fan anymore, I haven't watched a game at all since Rocco Colavito hung up his spikes, so there might be a few rule changes my legion of readers could add. But these are a start.

And as my mother might say, "it couldn't get any worse."

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