Wednesday, July 1, 2020

When Advertising Tried Bullshit.

Just about every day in what used to be the advertising business, you hear someone—usually someone with a seven or eight digit salary—blather on about what advertising today is supposed to do for companies.

About 99 times out of one-hundred, it has absolutely nothing to do with advertising. Usually, there’s some convolution about insights, or data-driven insights, or customer touchpoints, or digital transformation.

Let me tell you something. I’m considered a pretty brainy guy, just ask anyone. Especially if they’re drunk. But I don’t know what any of the words and phrases above mean. I couldn’t for the life of me list four bona-fide insights I have heard in my life ('moms are busy' is not an insight. It’s an observation. And not intelligent, differentiating or insightful.) I really don’t know what a data-driven insight is. I know what a customer touchpoint is, but no one’s asked me, a customer, if I want to be touched and if I do, when and where and I have no idea what digital transformation means at all.

Speaking of digital transformation—I lied. I understand that the toll booths I used to wait at to either hand money to a surly toll booth collector, or toss a quarter into a basket have now all been replaced by near radio frequency readers and transmitters on our cars. That I understand. And I understand how it improves my life. I don’t understand it as it pertains to anything else.

But more than that, if what advertising has traditionally done is no longer important, my question is, who’s decided that? I am buying a second home and on the cusp of buying about a thousand consumer products to fill it with. I can find no information about anything I want to buy.

What monopoly ISP provides the safest, fastest, most reliable, least odious internet service? What are the advantages of a solar roof and how long will one take to install? Which expensive designer oven is the right height for spousal suffocation?

If the primary utility of brands is to bring order and definition to a chaotic universe, we are suffering, as a society, from a dearth of intelligence and an even greater dearth of persuasion. No one anymore provides you with useful consumer information about anything. In fact, advertising today is some steroidal permutation on Willy Loman hoping to get by with a smile and a handshake. Advertising no longer clarifies and defines. It exaggerates and exclaims. With three exclamation points.

It’s worse. Digital transformation: I fail to see how it will have a positive impact on my life.

That’s just plain bullshit.

In a world where no company picks up the phone and fixes your problems, we don’t need transformation, we need good old fashioned service. In fact, good old fashioned service would do more to transform 99.99% of all companies—especially ad agencies—than all the legerdemain of a platoon of Merlins backed by a phalanx of Kreskins. You want digital transformation? Have a trained human pick up your phone. Give them two-cents every time they say please and thank you, and have them work to resolve customer issues rather than get you off the phone quickly for “efficiency’s” and dissatisfaction’s sake.

I was kicked out of an agency less than six months ago—the same agency that’s allegedly working to help clients digitally transform. Their slipshod, callous and impecunious treatment of employees with decades of experience leads me to conclude they couldn’t transform a week old newspaper into fish-wrapping if you gave them instructions and a flounder.

In those less than six months, I’ve gained five retained pieces of business because I help businesses figure out what they sell and then sell it.

I don't write decks or power-points or business plans. I don't attend conferences or sit on panels, prevaricate or pompous-tulate. I write ads. Funny. Smart. Sweet. And short. And long.

They often rally a business. Help them see themselves. And inspire people to act.

I do my work on time and on budget and I always over-deliver. I return calls. And meet deadlines. I’m polite but never obsequious and I refuse to operate on the razor-thin margins holding company agencies have accepted because revenue is more important than profit. That is, to shareholders who want to see steady revenue growth even when it costs agencies eleven cents of effort to make a dime revenue.

This business is pretty simple if you let it be simple. 

There are only a couple brands people actually love. They don’t have much in common. Except this axiom: The brands we like act like people we like. They’re warm, friendly, intelligent, useful, occasionally funny and reliable. 

Not a single one wants to digitally transform me.

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