When I started this blog 12 and a half years ago, I stuck some words at the top of the thing. I had always grown up with some pretty simple ideas about “branding.” First among those was let people know what you do.
So, like Time Magazine (before it was a kids magazine) used to say “Time. The weekly news magazine,” I wrote “Ad Aged: George Tannenbaum on the future of advertising, the decline of the English Language and other frivolities.”
Way back in 2007 when I started this thing, we were in the dire throes of the W. Bush/Cheney administration. They visited some Orwellian slaughter on our language by calling torture “enhanced interrogation.” And they called an undeclared war against an ill-defined and ever-changing enemy, a “War on Terror.”
Since those dark days, our collective human luminosity has dimmed even more. I’m not just talking about the nefarious Newspeak of the Republican zealots and their anti-Constitutional assaults on our sovereignty. I’m not just talking about the lies and ¼-truths that riddle every utterance and tweet of dear leader. I’m not just talking about the alternate reality propagated by almost half our population.
I’m talking, too, about our industry.
I’m talking about us.
I’m talking about you.
I’m talking about me.
To my mind, the fight for truth and honesty in communication is the fight for the English language. It’s a fight for words with meaning. It’s a fight for plain-speaking and honesty. It’s a fight for clarity and simplicity.
Every time we revert to the limp flaccid meaninglessness of ad speak, we lose even more of our waning souls. Every time we say “due diligence” or “ensure” or “bundled offer” or “solution” or “scalable” or “journey” or any one of hundred of other phrases, we are dripping living corpuscles out of our veins and into the gutter.
Every time we use language to deceive and obscure, every time our VOs speak so fast they can’t be understood, every time we say one thing and asterisk another, we are fomenting the destruction of honesty. And advertising has no value if it is not believed and trusted.
Not long ago I stumbled upon some highlighted copy that someone felt the need to committee-ize and rewrite in the service of legalese, ass-coverage and pool-pissery. While everyone’s stated aim these days is to be open and transparent, you could watch about ten year’s of commercials, or read a million online ads and not find a scintilla of anything truthful, anything that’s not screaming, anything that doesn’t bombard you with bombast and bullshit.
I know the word “no” has disappeared from the modern agency’s lexicon today. And it seems that so many clients have more people bent on assaulting the truth than we have agency people aware enough to try to protect it.
I don’t have an answer here.
I only know this. When words and pictures no longer have authentic meaning and truth behind them, when everyone is smiling and gushing while “swiffering” their floor, or smug and happy extolling the fucking scalability of their reliable digital ecosystem, the next sound we hear will be the sound of nothingness.
Because our jobs as marketers will be assumed by a giant data-fed and wholly all-consuming cliché machine, now with 78% less honesty.
It’s coming. And we’re not even kicking and screaming about it.
We’re complicit in our industry’s cliché-icide.