Thursday, November 1, 2012

Five advertising lessons from Sandy.

I am not one who thinks hurricanes are god's damnation for homosexuality or that the rivers will run with blood because people are sinners.

Acts of god are acts of god. And humans, no matter how we aggrandize our importance, do not motivate storms and tornadoes and plagues. That said, there are lessons we can learn from storms like Sandy, lessons you can learn whether you're in politics, or even advertising.

1. Infrastructure matters. You can't ignore the basics. In the city you need transit. Water. Electricity. You can't let things decay over time. With sea levels rising, you should make sure your electrical transformers are not below water.

In advertising infrastructure is a sound strategy strictly adhered to. It's sticking to your brand story. It's reaching the most people with the most important information you have most effectively.

2. You can't deny science. Something like 50% of Americans don't believe in climate change. Despite what their eyes see. Despite record high temperatures and a record number of freak storms. Science doesn't care if you deny it. It will act the way it acts no matter how stupid we are.

In advertising we have also denied what our eyes see. We spend countless hours on media of dubious efficacy. We propagate buzzwords and claims churning them out like a runaway assembly line. We're told Facebook is worth $100 billion dollars. 110 times what "The New York Times" is worth. No matter that we've never clicked on an ad or gone to a brand page. We deny science.

3. Doing beats talking. Over the past half of a week President Obama has been relatively silent on the campaign trail. Yet his popularity, and the likelihood of an Obama victory in five days, seems to have improved. He's stopped flapping his gums. And started getting things done. The same can be said for New York's mayor Michael Bloomberg and New Jersey's governor Chris Christie.

In advertising of course, we get paid to talk and stop getting paid when we complete our assignments. In response we have scores of people who produce nothing but decks. They talk and talk and talk. The result of all that talk? The notion that advertising needs a new agency model. That's right. We do. We need an agency model that produces things.

4. Don't be paralyzed by perfection. Much of New York's massive subway system, it's 711 miles of track were underwater. It seemed like it would take weeks if not longer for service to be restored. New York quickly drained the stations it could. And got part of the system running less than 48 hours after the worst of the storm. We didn't wait until the whole thing was running like a top. We'll fix things by degree.

In advertising we too often build castles in the sky. We build baroque messaging platforms that if all goes according to plan will "change everything." Things never go according to plan. Do things fast and correct on the way.

5. Experience matters. New York's first responders are the best in the world--honed to a high degree of readiness thanks to New York's standing as "the world's city." Seeing our cops, EMTs and firefighters in action, you almost feel proud to pay the highest taxes in America. It's nice, what's more to have an experienced professional in the mayor's office. Bloomberg's press conferences have been models of clarity and efficiency.

Most advertising agencies have purged senior people like a bulimic with a chocolate cake. They've rid their staffs of high salaries and with them experience. That's fine when you're in the talking business. Not fine if you want to be in the doing business.


Elias said...

Nailed it. Turning into a fan here.



Bukes said...

"Most advertising agencies have purged senior people like a bulimic with a chocolate cake." Yes!