Monday, September 9, 2019

Eating. At ourselves.

Late last week, I read an article in “The New York Times” that while it’s about politics, is really even more macro and more important. Especially how it illuminates the dramatic chaos in our industry.

The article was titled “The Trump Voters Whose ‘Need for Chaos’ Obliterates Everything Else” and it was written by the usually-over-my-head Thomas Edsall. You can read it here. 

Edsall’s opinion piece is about an academic paper that was recently awarded at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association. It talks about the rise of “hostile political rumors” leading to “chaos incitement”… “by marginalized status-seekers.”

Let me try to put that in English and try to explain it.

The authors, Petersen, Osmundsen and Arceneaux contend that those on the edges of a system and unable to influence it seek to create this chaos and destroy the system that excludes them. More than anything else that explains (to me) the anti-fact, anti-logic, anti-truth ethos of the radical right. We’re not in the club, therefore, let’s burn down the club.

OK. Let’s turn to advertising.

When the business began broadening, first with the rise of powerful computers and data-base direct marketers were on the outside looking in, they saw “general” agencies as the cool kids. They had the largest budgets and were shooting in cool places, etc. Much the same happened with the rise of digital marketing. Banner ads and site work would never never as cool as shooting a campaign.

Quickly the “outside” branches of the industry began feeding on the “cool” part. It wasn't unusual for people at digital agencies to proclaim, "TV is dead." We heard without end "that all marketing will be one-to-one." We were told the old ways of working were, suddenly and without evidence, invalid, decrepit and dumb. As an industry, we started putting 75% of our people on 25% of our business and 25% of our people on 75% of our business.

The economics of that have demolished the business. And with that, we have demolished clients' faith in our industry to put experienced people to work solving major client communication issues.

Instead of defining brands, we have been reduced to creating stunts (which do not scale) and invisible social tiles.

As Sir John Hegarty said "advertising has retreated to the fringes." You might even say we were pushed there. By ourselves.

Basically, the purpose of advertising can be boiled down to three words. 1) Define. (We define brands.) 2) Demonstrate. (We show how they work.) 3. Distribute. (We put the work out there.)

Maybe I'm just feeling negative today. But I feel we've forgotten purposes 1 and 2. And all we do is send crap out that no one likes.

We've burned ourselves to the ground.

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