Monday, June 3, 2019

Lies, Lies and Advertising.

The other day as I was walking home from work I noticed an ad that was posted on the side of a pay-phone kiosk. 

No one has actually used a pay-phone in New York since 2002. Nevertheless, the kiosks are still there--basically giving advertisers yet another place to besiege you with their banality and the homeless a semi-private place to piss. 

At least these near-obsolete structures are good for something. Everyone needs to piss.

The ad was so bad, so dull, so insultingly stupid that I envied the homeless their proclivity to pee on it. It deserves no less.

I couldn't bring myself to waste pixels to take a photograph of it, but I did scribble down the headline. It was for Buick, I think. In my rarefied neighborhood, a Buick hasn't been driven since the late 1970s. Nonetheless, there was the ad.

It said, "Elevate your commute to an art form."

Oh fucking my. This, I'm afraid, is the state of advertising today. We show no understanding of people. We uncover no truth. In fact, we flat-out lie.

No matter how you commute, whether it's by subway, foot, bus, commuter-train, car, SUV, self-driving car, scooter, ride-sharing, rickshaw or pogo-stick, commuting will never be an art form. It just sucks.

As crude as the following is, it's better, would probably have more of an impact and would probably persuade more-effectively than the original:

"Makes commuting just slightly less sucky."

But advertising today no longer is able to express empathy with the people it's meant to persuade. We have forgotten a major agency's purported reason for being, that is McCann's "Truth, Well Told." We have forgotten everything Bernbach laid out for us. 

We have forgotten a Carl Ally-ism, "Afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted."

We have forgotten that people are people with real woes, pains, and problems. People are not personas with bland "issues." They are not focus-group respondents, or survey-monkey monkeys.

Have you ever seen the 1958 movie adaptation of Tennessee William's "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"? With the surpassing Burl Ives as Big Daddy, a pained Paul Newman, and a beautifully oblivious Elizabeth Taylor? Have you ever heard Ives scream at his drunkard son, Brick (Newman)? "The truth is pain and sweat and payin' bills and makin' love to a woman that you don't love any more. Truth is dreams that don't come true and nobody prints your name in the paper 'til you die.."

Sure, a commute is not that horrible. But it will never be elevated into an art form either. And advertising itself, will never be anything but shit, unless we elevate ourselves and start telling the truth.
BTW, take 90 seconds and look at these two ads. They understood, captured and empathized with those who suffer from the realities of the commuting world.

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