Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Goddamn it! Be happy.

Yesterday the news came about of a Jet Blue flight attendant who lost it. He cursed a (jet)blue streak, popped an emergency slide and ran away from Kennedy Airport to his nearby home.

It occurred to me that this flight attendant, like so many others are paid, indoctrinated, cajoled, bludgeoned and otherwise coerced into a plasticine smile. That's part of their job, to act happy.

At the drugstore near my office, the clerks, downtrodden, down market and down in the dumps no longer say "next" when their register is open. They smile in a stupor and mumble "next guest."

I am a guest at your fucking chain drugstore?

What's happening here is "smiles as a business tool." Some MBA decided that smiles up productivity 17%. So they're painted on like stickers across the faces of low-wage workers. And it's so much cheaper to mandate happiness and accord than to actually create conditions that would lead to a general amiability. Job satisfaction isn't what it's about--looking like you're satisfied is all that matters.

This of course has direct application to advertising.

What we have in our business is a lot of brands that are "tell" brands--that is they tell people how to think, act, feel. We have very few brands that are "do" brands, ie brands that set an example based on their actions, not merely their sloganizing.

There are brands that glad-hand their viewers vs. brands that actually genuine--actually helpful.

Here's the deal. Phony smiles and phony brands fail. Genuine brands cost more to create because they demand commitment up and down the food chain. But they work harder and last longer.

Oh, and they're honest. Which should count for something. Whether or not you're an MBA.


Anonymous said...


As a sometime visitor to your blog, Im awlays entertained by your righteous indignation about the industry in which we toil. That said,its commerce not art that were engaged in. Its a heady, and sometimes nauseating, mix of smart and ignorant people, overpaid and underpaid agency hacks and true talent, a consumer who often doesnt care nor pays attention and an economic backdrop that has little to do with marketing hoopla. I applaud your indignation but am cognizant of the absurdity of our biz.


george tannenbaum said...

Our job isn't to do ads. When we do our job well, we get high enough up the client food chain to influence brand behavior not just brand messaging.

Anonymous said...


In an ideal world , yes. In reality, that rarely happens.

Not that one shouldn't try.

In the 21st century, branding is even more f*cked up than ever.

Anonymous said...

My job is to do ads. Nobody in my agency wants to hear my opinions or insights. The days of creative people having any influence are long gone. But some of us are still delusional enough to think we're all that.

george tannenbaum said...

Naw, Anonymous 3, I disagree. We have to get heard--that's our job, to insert and assert value so that the client turns to us.

I amn't the most successful guy in the business, but I'm going down not delusional but fighting.

Unknown said...

I know George. He certainly fights hard to move up the food chain in order to deliver more than just an ad. If you look at most of the highly successful campaigns, and actually award winning campaigns, historically as well as recently, they have indeed been more than just an ad. Not considering the self serving award winning scam ads that have dragged our industry's reputation down.