There’s a lot I don’t understand about the modern world of marketing. A lot, frankly, I will never understand. And not only because I don’t want to try.
I don’t understand, really and most of all, the Siberiation of creative people. In fact, in every sphere creative people might have something to say, their opinions and influence have been almost completely marginalized.
I realize I am running the risk of severing the hand that feeds me—but that’s ok. Like most of the rest of the ‘media universe,’ no one anymore reads anything they don’t agree with. Since our exposure to ideas and writing is dictated by algoritms, all of us exist essentially in intellectual echo-chambers where we hear only things that get us to nod.
So I think it’s safe for me to say I think it’s absolutely asinine to expect advertising to be effective when the site you’re running it on tells you how long your copy can be, how large type is supposed to be and what percentage of your ad can be devoted to type.
It seems to me that sites like LinkedIn and Facebook have constructed advertising rules specifically so that advertisers create ads that are almost wholly ineffective. Has anyone reading this ever clicked on a Facebook ad or a LinkedIn ad? Not by mistake, I mean.
Does anyone really think you can write persuasive, differentiating copy in 90 characters or 125? Has anyone asked any creative if it makes sense to buy such ads?
Or banner ads? Or a mobile ad?
About six years ago, I was in a giant meeting and oddly enough some media people decided to show up. I got up on my haunches as said something like, ‘if I were a media person, I’d figure out how to buy space that’s the online equivalent of a print double-truck with gutter.’
I’m about 99.999% sure that about six people left in the industry even know what a double-truck with gutter even is. Nevertheless, no one asked and no one even considered what I was saying.
I guess because I have Martial’s gift of the epigram, life for me has always been somewhat simple. From a semiotic-media point of view I’ve always believed this: Small brands run small ads; big brands looking for big impact run big ads.
But the essential response to my challenge was simply Shakespearean. A reverberating “Whatevs” cascaded throughout the agency.
I might have said something like, “The New York Times when they have something important to say does something like the “1619 Project. We do something that’s 728 pixels by 90 pixels—roughly seven inches by ¾ of an inch.”
Again, I’m employing what the Romans had called reductio ad absurdum. I think it’s silly to do ads of a certain dimension and with certain mandates that you categorically know will be ineffective.
But the agency world—such as it is—doesn’t bark, doesn’t protest. We spend our days, nights and waning brain-power on things that can’t possibly succeed in the marketplace.
And then we shake our heads and wonder why we no longer matter.
For years, I’ve been quoting Sir John Hegarty. He decried our industry’s habit of doing work that is more and more ‘fringe’ and ephemeral. No wonder agencies are no longer on Madison Avenue, at the center of American Capitalism. Instead, we’re pushed off to the fringes of New York and other cities. Our neighbors are methadone clinics, old garages that house Sabrett’s hotdog wagons, and section 8 housing.
That’s not where advertising should be.
It’s where we allow ourselves to be placed.
Because creativity and creatives no longer matter.