Tuesday, September 13, 2016

All the ads that are fit to make.

I was over at The New York Times building on Eighth Avenue the other day and I overheard what may be one of the central “content” questions of our age.

Since 1897 the Times has had the following slogan on their masthead: “All the news that’s fit to print.” The question for the digital age, to my mind, is when virtual papers are endless, and cost-less, how do you put limits on the amount of content you publish?

The same question is pertinent to our business. How do you limit the number and amount of messages clients turn out? With media in many cases free, and messages producible at low cost (or by machine) is anyone concerned with the aggregate amount of messaging a brand might publish?

I made the mistake some months ago to donate to one of our august presidential candidates. I was immediately put onto about 90 mailing lists, including half a dozen Spanish language ones, and right-away it seemed I was getting messages two or three times a day from each of them.

Maybe they call it media because so many brands are screaming so often “Look at Me! Look at Me!”

I worry that we have moved way past the messaging saturation point. Or, perhaps a better metaphor, we have filled the messaging balloon to the bursting point.

Not only is inundation causing people to turn off, it’s actually getting them angry at brands. The very notion of “re-targeting” exemplifies this. You are a fish on a hook in marketers’ minds and all those re-targeted messages are clubs looking to beat you into consumerist submission.

Agencies, of course, will protest this inundation not at all. Whether or not it is good for a client (and I’d argue it is bad) all those additional messages represent revenue and there’s nary an agency out there that won’t sell its soul for more revenue.

If, as Polonius tells us in Hamlet: "brevity is the soul of wit," then we should look at its inverse and say: "too much content is the soul of shit."

Personally, I think any brand that hits consumers more than twice in one day is like an obsequious waiter who checks in at your table every three minutes interrupting your meal and your conversation.

He may be polite. He may be well-intentioned. He may be a brilliant conversationalist.

But before long, he’s just obnoxious.

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