Wednesday, May 23, 2018


A large part of me feels like the biggest problem we face, both in living in the 21st Century as well as working in advertising, is distraction.

In fact, I’ll assert here something a little sinister.

Distraction is control.

That is when you distract someone, you can control them.

That picture is abundantly clear when you look at the Trump administration. A simple tweet about a football player distracts you from noticing the appointment of 100 reactionary judges or a thousand unraveled regulations.

While you aren’t watching they fuck up the world.

We are sprinting toward destroying our planet but are too distracted (often by people who claim were aren’t destroying our planet) to do anything about it. Likewise, we have a National Security Advisor, John Bolton, who was appointed as a chit to big-money Robert Mercer. Both Bolton and Mercer believe that nuclear war isn’t that bad a thing—and a little radiation would do us all a little good. We never noticed that. We were distracted.

In advertising, we are distracted by the thousand tactics that surround every campaign. We are so distracted by touching people “one-to-one,” that we sometimes give short-shrift to those communications that reach millions at a time.

To put it bluntly, we are so distracted by the quantity of things we need to make that we find ourselves overlooking the quality of the things we make.

I could be wrong here, my knowledge of British social reformers is a little bit rusty, but didn’t Jeremy Bentham say we should do the ‘greatest good for the greatest number’? Not spin out more and more stuff and hope something sticks.

Maybe the distractions that beleaguer us in advertising aren’t as malevolent as those perpetrated by the un-doers of our Constitution. I’m sure there are many who believe that the brands we work for will be immeasurably strengthened if I stay late yet another night and concoct 97 more targeted social tiles and 132 more programmatic banners.

But I wonder, to use an old macro-economic term, if the opportunity cost of much of the work we do is greater than the benefit we gain from it. I wonder if we all be better off doing fewer better things, than more mediocre things.

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