Thursday, September 5, 2019

Making "the basics" the next shiny object we chase.

One of the most amazing thing about working in the modern advertising business today is you can practically go an entire day and not see anyone’s face.

Most people have three of their five senses under the spell of their iPhones and hardly look up from their screens. They see only what’s on their screens. Hear only what’s said through their pods, and they write only with the touch of their thumbs.

I realize we live in a thoroughly narcissistic age—where what matters is only what happens to me, but so much of our modern pathology reminds me of Simon of the Desert, Bunuel’s great film about an ascetic 5th-century Syrian Saint called Simeon Stylites. Simeon lived for 39 years on top of a column. He was in the world, but not of the world.

Too often it seems to me we have made our selves hermetic and sealed ourselves off from the world we are trying to live in.

We don’t see what’s around us. We don’t notice the life in and of our world. We don’t hear the language of the city. In the parlance of industrial farming, we are allowing ourselves to be raised confined and limited. We should be free-range.

I wonder.

What if we were to start an advertising agency called “1980.” We would permit no cellphones. We would ban Slack. We would eliminate e-mail. We would even have the temerity to situate people in offices. Where they could laugh, talk, even think and work with...quiet.

Remember quiet?

We would do 1980 things. Like have meetings in person, not over the phone. We would take time to learn about a client’s business, and take even more time creating work for their business. Then we would run that work. Not for six weeks. But for a year.

Then we would build on that work. We would run the same essential idea (with new executions) for years, if not decades.

There’s more.

We wouldn’t monitor people like they are on parole with a timesheet system that keeps a set of corporate eyeballs on you more efficiently than any ankle bracelet worn by Lindsay Lohan. We wouldn’t schedule every minute of the day and into the evening with meeting after meeting. We would allow people a lunch hour—some time where they could take a walk and think. Or just goof off. Or see an old friend.

We would stop with corporate emails that read like a page out of Kafka in a gloomy mood. We would stop with 175 page decks that sell nothing beyond the lack of efficacy of a 175 page deck. We would take the time needed to explain the work we’re suggesting and why we believe it will work. And we won’t submit to 179 rounds of changes that serve to promote individual agenda more than a brand or product.

1980 would do more crazy things. Like decrease the number of departments to include only those that are directly instrumental to creating, producing and running work. 1980 would eliminate theorists and replace them with doers.

This is not to say things were perfect in 1980. Of course they weren’t. I'm not embracing the things from1980 that sucked and were wrong. But a wise old friend (even older than me) just sent me a note. “Everyone I know who’s still in the business hates it.” Is life any different in your neck of the woods?

1980 would do one more thing. Maybe a little Orwellian. Or Stalinist. Or worse.

We’d eliminate a bunch of words. Simply because they are ugly, meaningless and overused. I’d start with these.

Customer journey.
(I'd eliminate disruptive twice, just in case it sprung back to life the first time.)

1980 would instead try to make people feel something, or want something, or do something.


No comments: