Monday, February 10, 2020

This is too long. Why read it?

On Saturday morning, my wife grabbed me firmly by the right ear, twisted it and then dragged me out of the apartment so we could go out for a $24 plate of eggs over easy.

I know complaining about expensive oeufs makes me sound like an old man baying at the moon. Laugh at me all you want. But see what happens when you're 62 and paying $197 for two over-easy and a side of fries. As the 2000-year-old man once said, "we mock the things we are to be."

In any event, the restaurant wasn't far from Murray's Cheese Shop. So after sacrificing a mortgage payment to pay for breakfast, we spent minutes in one of the world's last-great specialty shops. 

New York used to be dotted with places like Murray's--but now every fourth store is something called Joe & the Juice, and every second store is a Starbucks. Personality is leaving our world about as quickly as roaches flee a tenement kitchen when the lights flick on.

We have replaced the unique with the mass-produced. And we are worse for it--a lot worse. We've done the same in our business too. The holding companies which control upwards of 70% of traditional advertising are big box retailers. They sell beige, but for now they're the only show in town.

Now, about ten times a year, someone calls me or sends me a note and says they, or a friend of theirs, wants a job in advertising. I try to talk to most of these people--I can't always, of course, but I try.

I have a pretty simple test I use to discover whether or not I think people are right for this business. I usually ask them, "when you go to a specialty store, like a Fairway or Zabar's or Murray's Cheese Shop, do you get excited?

When you see eight shelves crammed with 117 different types of mustards or olive oils or rows of trays brimming with olives from around the world, or a refrigerator crammed with dozens of different beers, are you curious? Do you want to know what they're about? Do you look at where they're from and how they're packaged?

The thing is, and maybe it's something that much of our industry seems to have forgotten, we have to take the time to discover what's interesting about the products we sell.

In our topsy-turvy time-pressed world where spending seven minutes on Wikipedia counts as competitive research and the tissue session is scheduled for twenty minutes after the initial three-hour, 130-page powerpoint briefing, most often we know next to nothing about that which we are supposed to sell.

We don't know where things are made, how long they've been made, who's making them and why.

We're left with nothing true that we can turn into a true story. So we bang this ridiculous drum about making mayonnaise or salted nuts a part of culture. Or we have people grinning and singing and dancing--generally acting like fools about our products. Or we hire some quasi-celebrity, or a dead one, to endorse our product.

My two cents says we do everything but find out the truth behind the product. Maybe we no longer care, maybe we no longer know, maybe clients no longer care or know, maybe we don't have the time. Or worst of all, maybe it's just not cool to think like this anymore.

My guess is that 82% of the people working on, say, a mouthwash pitch haven't tried the product while they've been pitching it. They don't bring it home to the partners and kids. They don't ask their friends what they think. Why bother?

Do we no longer believe in what we sell? Do we no longer think there is anything that makes anything different? Do we no longer care, or believe in what we do?

Below are some ads by David Abbott, for some of the most boring products in the world. Most boring in someone else's hands. Not his.

Some people will respond to this post. They'll say 'no one cares.' Or 'no one reads anymore.' Or 'no one has an attention span.'

I say that's bullshit.

It's an excuse to take the easy way out. To not dig. To not find the truth.

Your job will always suck if you let it.

No comments: