Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Lessons from Joe Biden.

Leading up to the Presidential election, I had convinced myself that Hillary Clinton would lose.

Agent Orange had a great tagline: "Make America Great Again." Which was about us.

Clinton had nothing memorable but the insipid "I'm with her." Which, of course, was all about her.

What Clinton didn't do was give us something to hold onto. Something we can remember. And rally around.

I'll admit, I'm old-fashioned.

After all my years in advertising, I think I've learned a total of two things.

1. Good creative matters. It has to be watchable and it has to breakthrough.
2. Repetition matters. Find a succinct message and repeat it over and over.

I just came across a front page article in "The New York Times," that speaks to these points. In it Vice President Joe Biden tells a Times' reporter that he gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention in July. He said: “If you live in neighborhoods like the one Jill and I grew up in, if you worry about your job and getting decent pay. If you worry about your children’s education, if you’re taking care of an elderly parent, there’s only one person in this race who. ...” 

He recited the speech then looked up to the reporter and sighed: “I wish to hell I’d just kept saying the exact same thing.”

Almost a century ago Will Rogers, the cowboy/political commentator said, "I don't belong to an organized political party. I'm a Democrat."

And in this past election lack of organization cost the democrats. 

Rather than one succinct message, Clinton trotted out a different one for each constituency.

Advertisers do the same thing even more perniciously than politicians. By tailoring messages to every specific audience they dilute their impact.

By trying to be something to everyone, they are nothing to no one.

Even with today's smaller budgets we create digital work that's meant to appeal to every microscopic slice of our audience according to where they are in the "funnel," or the "cycle," or some other cockamamie MBA-New-Speak.

The first job of advertising is to define what we are selling. We never do that. Instead we create specific messages to brown-eyed, left-handed, ladder-owning Buddhists with a two-car garage.

We have a million messages in market and they aggregate into nothing. They are confetti before a high-speed fan. They scatter in the wind.

I wonder if all advertising since Bernbach and Rosser Reeves has been a tremendous waste.

Maybe it's just me and my age, but if you ask me to name five taglines, they're likely not to be from the fractured media era, but from the three network one, when messages were consistent and persistent.

Compelling. Consistent. Persistent.

That's how you win.

Sorry, Joe.

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