Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Do this or die.

My friend Bob Hoffman, the contrary Ad Contrarian has done a better job than anyone uncovering and exposing the degree to which modern marketing has become not a marketer, but rather, a surveillance state.

Even if you adjust your privacy settings all the way to 11, chances are your every blink and every keystroke is being tracked by someone somewhere. Further that data on you, from your site visits to shopping habits to filling out purportedly innocuous online quizzes is being parceled like a collateralized debt obligation and meted out and sold to hundreds of data miners, aka digital stalkers, spies and parasites.

Online surveillance, despite a sound bite here and there from our fraudulently elected plutocrats will only get worse. Worse, because it seems to me that we live in a world where things like fairness, moderation and ethical behavior are as outmoded as a crossbow. Or, maybe more accurately, moral behavior has been bent and subjugated to the power of the almighty dollar.

But what if...

What if a brave agency, client or holding company, or a collective of them banded together to create a new(old) kind of advertising?

Betraying my Judeo roots, let’s call it Goldenrulevertising. What if, and this is quaint, we treated customers as we ourselves would like to be treated?

What if we believed that the purpose of advertising was not to stalk targets, but existed instead to inform, entertain and persuade? What if we believed—and acted accordingly—in the nobility of our trade. That we don’t chase people into buying our wares but help them, instead, make informed decisions?

What if we said we will cookie no more?

Track no more?

Retarget no more?

What if we used our clout with networks and banded together and said that 25 commercial minutes per hour is unfair to people. That that video bludgeoning is not fomenting sales, but is, instead, driving customers away.

What if, pursuant to yesterday’s post, we reminded ourselves (gendered language notwithstanding) that the consumer isn’t a moron (or a vassal) but is our spouse.

Yesterday in this space, I mentioned the great copywriter from the salad days of DDB, Bob Levenson. Almost 50 years ago, he wrote the ad below. It was art-directed by my old boss, Len Sirowitz, with harrowing limbic intensity.

What if someone, somewhere, or a group of us, re-created it, for today. Better than an ad—what if we started treating others how we wish to be treated.

Do this or die.

Is this ad some kind of a trick?

No. But it could have been.

And at exactly that point rests a do or die decision for American business.
We in advertising, together with our clients, have all the power and skill to trick people. Or so we think.
But we're wrong. We can't fool 
any of the people any of the time.
There is indeed a twelve-year-old mentality in this country; every six-year-old has one.
We are a nation of smart people.
And most smart people ignore most advertising because most advertising ignores smart people.

Instead we talk to each other.

We debate endlessly about the medium and the message. Nonsense. In advertising, the message itself is the message.

A blank page and a blank television screen are one and the same.

And above all, the messages we put on those pages on those television screens must be the truth. For if we play tricks with the truth, we die.

Now. The other side of the coin.

Telling the truth about a product demands a product that's worth telling the truth about.

Sadly, so many products aren't.

So many products don't do anything better. Or anything different. So many don't work quite right. Or don't last. Or simply don't matter.

If we play this trick, we also die. Because advertising only helps a bad product fail faster.

No donkey chases the carrot forever. He catches on. And quits.

That's the lesson to remember.

Unless we do, we die.

Unless we change, the tidal wave of consumer indifference will wallop into the mountain of advertising and manufacturing drivel.

That day we die.

We'll die in our marketplace. On our shelves. In our gleaming packages of empty promises.

Not with a bang. Not with a whimper.

But by our own skilled hands.


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