Friday, January 31, 2020

More is less.


Many, many years ago I worked at an agency that actually had a party at Christmas time. Not only did they have a large event for their thousands of employees, they spent money on it. There was food. Financial rewards for great work. Alcohol.

There was even entertainment.

Live entertainment.

One year, Jerry Seinfeld showed up and made us laugh. This happened not in the phantom “good old days” of advertising of the 80s. But back when agencies and their holding company masters had enough business acumen and confidence in the effectiveness of what we make to actually charge clients money for it.

In other words, this happened back when agencies got paid for the work they did. And when craft, discernment and quality was integral to that work.

Remember? Nah.

In any event, Seinfeld.

He did a few minutes on how he always wanted to be in advertising. He said, advertising is cool because basically you only need to know two words to judge work.

Work either sucks.

Or it’s good.

Like most comedy, Seinfeld’s routine worked because it had truth in it. I think going back to the earliest forms of communication—whether or not they were selling something (and all communication is selling something) people essentially sort things into two those two categories. Sucks or Good. (If you’re indifferent about it, that means it sucks too, btw.)

I would imagine 2800 years ago when ancient Ithacans heard Homer recite the Iliad or the Odyssey, people would return from the agora and say to their friends, “That Homer, he’s good, dude.”

That’s how the human brain works. We classify and sort things. And we have for 200,000 years. And if we last for 200,000 more, or even 200 more, or even 2 more, we’ll go on sorting things.

Except today sucks is ok.

In fact, according to the Vayneristas and those who buy in to new age gibberish, people will accept sucks—embrace it, even--as long as it’s ubiquitous. As long as it shows up 47-times-a-day in their feeds. As long as they’re assaulted by it pretty much every time they breathe in or out.

It’s the exact opposite of that old Borscht Belt joke—“the food’s terrible and such small portions.”

Today the joke might be—“the work insults my intelligence. It’s shoddily produced. And it’s annoying. But at least there’s plenty of it.”

Or, “the content sucks but at least its always on.

It seems more and more agencies are buying this thesis. Produce a ton of stuff. Be up in your “target’s” grill. And that will drive loyalty and sales.

Oh, the other benefit of following this course is that you don’t get paid a lot. Why would you pay an agency a lot for work that doesn’t cost a lot and doesn’t have an impact on a lot of people?

I’ve thought and thought on this topic.

I’m a bit like the Ancient Mariner, in fact. I find myself stopping one in three and asking people if this makes sense.

No one’s convinced me it does.

I’m about 99 and 44/100 percent sure no one ever will.

Because work that sucks…sucks.

And more suck sucks more.

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