Friday, March 8, 2024

George 101.

I had a phone call with a friend of mine a couple of days ago. An individual planner with as many brains as entire departments. 

I'll call her, Libby. Not her real name. But she looks like a Libby to me.

I spent the first half of my 44-years in advertising working in agencies that didn't have planners. They were pretty rare before 2000. But for the last quarter-century or so, I've worked alongside planners.

In fact, when I worked in an agency, my best friends were usually planners. I spent more time with fellow creatives. But to talk about work, ideas that weren't yet fully-formed, client issues, particular briefs or spots, or commercials on the air, or even macro-trends in the industry, I felt most alive with planners.

I felt planners were better at looking past executional trends. They understood better what Mr. Bernbach meant when he said "simple, timeless human truths." 

They also weren't in competition with you. I felt I got a clearer perspective in a world where so much opinion is an amen corner or its converse.

Today we bandy about the word "inclusion" as a Shibboleth. It's part of today's au courant "In hoc signo vinces." In this sign, we conquer.

The thing about good planners and good observations and good perspective and mostly good creativity is that it most-often comes from people who AREN'T included. It comes from outsiders who have an outside perspective--therefore they can observe better--they can see the world we live in, our habits, practices, beliefs and tribal practices. 

By way of example, no "auteur" made better, more "American"  movies than Billy Wilder. During his career, he received 21 Oscar nominations, won seven and didn't even speak English until he was almost 40.


Before we, in a hyper Orwellian manner, limited our vocabulary to agree-with-the-prevailing-wisdom=good to disagree-with-my-way-of-thinking=bad, we used to understand that very often the best-thinking came from those who broke the dominant complacency: iconoclasts, rebels, dissenters, trouble-makers, the non-get-alongers. Those people are shit out of luck now. They're no longer included when we say inclusion. 

In any event, back to Libby. During our multi-channel conversation, she IM'd me this article. Calling out in particular the passage below, and in particular the word, asymptote.

That called to my mind, this passage from "Ogilvy On Advertising," which regardless of some of David's over-active pedantry, remains worthwhile.

Those two passages put together--and my conversation with Libby--are the subject of this post.

In our industry's projectile-vomiting-enthusiasm to:

Be cool.
Shape the conversation.
Become a part of culture.
Go to Cannes.
Win one of the one-million awards given daily.
Drive people to experience our site 

Make a Tik-Tok.
Become viral.
Scan our QR-code.
Visit our experience.

...we've forgotten the absolute 101-ness of advertising. 

Be interesting. 
Show you care.
Help people make decisions.
Bring order to the chaos of the supermarket.
Be kind.
Provide useful information.
Treat people well.

My belief as a denizen of advertising, as perhaps its oldest practitioner and as a friend of Libby and 78 other smart planners, is that most people today couldn't give a rat's rectum about any brand.

They're worried about all kinds of things, from paying the rent to the worldwide resurgence of fascism to shoveling the walk because there was an ice-storm last night to I don't have cookies for my kid's lunch box.

As a consequence, most people have no idea what most brands and/or products do. What's more, what they do hear over and again from ISPs and Telcos and the like, they know is a lie. There's never help at the end of the line or a smile across the counter. It's pretty bleak.

My success with GeorgeCo., LLC, a Delaware Company (I believe I've surpassed Ogilvy in annual revenue--not just revenue per employee) is that I've convinced my clients that no one knows who they are or what they do and the best thing we can do for their business is to tell people--day-after-day--in ways that are fun, polite and helpful.

That seems fairly basic.

If you were meeting someone you'd try to convince them that you were fun, polite and helpful. You probably wouldn't begin with a social strategy or keep telling them you're just $49.99/month if you act now.

Not too long-ago, Deutsch New York publicized a spot they just produced for J&J's Band-Aid brand bandages that uses a jingle that's been on the air for over half-a-century. It's probably had more media exposure than Jesus Christ. 

The spot was far from break-through. Insta-footage of scraped knees and the song. What was break-through is someone at Deutsch New York or the client was smart enough to know that that 50+ year-old-jingle (if that jingle were a person they'd fire it for being too old) was a multi-billion-dollar brand asset. 

Don't tell me it's not "now." It's not cool. That it has to be auto-tuned and hip-hopped.

Get back to doing what communication does when communication works. 

Make a promise to people.
Keep it.
Entertain people.
Understand people.
Care about people.
Show how you can help people.
Help people believe you.

I'm not sure what "asymptote" means. Somehow in my 66 years, it was never a word I needed or searched for or felt I was missing. I am so uninterested in its pretentiousness, I could hardly be bothered to look it up. When I did look it up, I learned all this:

Why in god's name would anyone even loosely adjacent to the communications business speak like this.

Forget about branding.

Forget about AI.

Forget about hiring the director who shot ______ and shooting with anamorphic lenses.

Try to define what you do.
Make it simple.
Make it memorable.
Make it fun.
Tell people.
Hand them a laugh, a smile, or something to think about.
Do it again.
And again.
Then do it again.

Thanks, Libby.

No comments: