Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Plaintive Doritos.

A friend of mine just sent me a plaintive email. The fact of the matter is I probably get about a dozen plaintive emails a day.

There’s a lot of plaintiveness in our industry. There always has been. But I think there’s more now than ever. 

In fact, if I were the King of the World, I think in addition to the CPI, the Consumer Price Index, I’d develop the  CPI2, the Consumer Plaintive Index. The metric to measure CPI 
would be how many "help!-I'm-drowning" looks I get on my way to the men’s room, and how many emails stained with digital tears jam my in-box.

A lot of this o’er-weening plaintiveness comes from today’s au courant business practice of solving every business problem by hiring yet another person who “will change everything.” Almost always these self-proclaimed changers-of-everything are changers of nothing except their own jobs.

My experience says that they’re usually long on talk and short on results. In part because of they’ve usually ascended to the top by riding a wave of Charlatanism and in part because most companies don’t really want to or know how to change. In hiring someone new they’re seeking a panacea, rather than expressing a willingness to do the hard work of change.

(BTW, you see the same thing every day in your email in-box, the one with all the spam. Success made easy emails. Their subject lines usually say something like “Lose 5.5 pounds overnight” or “One drop cures baldness.”)

Nevertheless, agencies and other businesses that seem to behave like agencies, seem to fall for silver-tongued orators every time. I don’t quite know how you become a silver-tongued orator. If I did, I’d probably have become one. But the first step seems to be not to write anything down, or if you’re a creative, not to actually create anything, or inveigle effectively enough to get your name on a lot of notable work, or, most-often simply make up case studies.

One vaunted digital agency I once worked for had a veritable sweat-shop set up to create slick case-study videos. It seemed to me they produced more case-studies than actual work. And 92% of those case studies had the same line in their scripts, coming about 1/3 of the way in: “And then we introduced an idea that would change everything. And it worked.”

I dunno about you but as much as almost everything today is different than the world I was born into so many windings of the clock ago, not all that much has really changed. Or at least changed for the better. We still travel cross-town at about three mph, the subway still smells like piss, and the rich still get away with not paying tax. As the Romans might have said, "O tempore. O mores." That is, O, the times. O, the customs.

If 20% of agency case study videos actually contained a scintilla of truth, we’d be living be living in a world that would make the Elysian Fields look like Poughkeepsie.

That being said, as an industry we’re producing and hiring and promoting and promoting again and again Charlatans like Dorito’s produces line extensions.

They’re not good for much.

But I'll give them this: They do fill up a shelf.


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