Thursday, December 23, 2010


There's a guy on jury duty with me who works for the New York Department of Sanitation. (This is one of the joys of jury duty--seriously--you are thrust together with a fair degree of intimacy with people with whom you would normally have no intercourse.) I noticed him a couple days ago, wearing his jacket with the Department of Sanitation crest on its front, a big DSNY in orange on its back and the slogan "New York's Strongest."

What struck me about this guy, this jacket and, if I may extrapolate, this demographic is that they actually wear their clothing without a sense of irony.

Ironic clothing is of course all the rage among the hipster set. They wear their trucker caps and other accoutrement, flaunting really, their ever-so-coolness.

Here's the thing. You can call such wardrobing irony. I prefer to think of it as misanthropy. A mocking of people different than you. It's not nice. It's ignorant. And it's a form of bullying.

Christopher Hitchens in his memoir "Hitch 22" draws a distinction between those who earn money and those who make it. Those who earn it build things and make things and do things. Those who make it manipulate markets, engage in sleight of hand and financial hocus pocus.

It's easy to make fun of people. It's easy to think that your hipster tribe is what everyone else aspires to be. It's easy to distance yourself from the reality of how people live, think and act.

Our job as advertisers is, in a sense, to love people. To understand. And through understanding find what's important to them and appeal to them.

Sorry for the polemic.


Unknown said...

George, you're so right. The reality in our often unrealistic world of advertising is that although some of us come from more humble backgrounds, most of us don't know a yota about what makes the majority of the so called consumer tick. Compared to another industry we think of as insular and sometimes compare ourselves with; the TV world; we seem to be totally ignorant. At least the TV people get the reality served to them. If people don't watch what they make they're dead rather quickly. Only the successful TV series goes on to win awards. The unsuccessful ones die and get forgotten. Success comes before awards. Not so in our industry. Because the only audience we play to is our own. And we have as an industry largely forgotten, or worse; we ignore, what most peoples lives are like and about.

Dave Trott said...

For me it’s more of a class issue.
Working class/middle class (what you’d call in the US blue collar/white collar.)
I’m from the working class, but my children are middle class.
There are good and bad things about both.
The middle class read the Guardian (NY Times) the working class read The Sun (NY Post).
The middle class are more thoughtful, the working class more spontaneous.
The middle class laugh only at what they think they ought to laugh at.
They working class laugh at whatever they find funny.
(The best guide for me is what comedienne Dawn French said “If it’s bad taste it’s not funny, and if it’s funny it’s not bad taste.”)
IMHO the main problem is that advertising (in the UK at least) has become almost exclusively middle-class.

Anonymous said...

Class? Nonsense.dude, you need to wake up and smell the pixels. It's generational but class? Even Orwell is laughing at you. Did u read the original post? Christ...

Dave Trott said...

So let's see, you're so sure of what you write you're embarrassed/ashamed/insecure enough to put your name to it, right?
Yeah, people who sign themselves anonymous are always worth listening to.

george tannenbaum said...

I watched Truffaut's "The Last Metro"about a year ago, a complicated story that takes place in Paris during the Nazi occupation. There was one scene in the movie that really stuck with me and it had nothing to do with Catherine Deneuve being in a state of deshabille.

In this scene Deneuve is reading aloud a theater review by Daxiat (Jean-Pierre Richard), a Jew-baiting collaborationist stooge who is an influential theater critic. Deneuve reads the review and concludes: "He signed it but it reads like an anonymous letter."