Monday, November 1, 2021

Advertising lessons from the real world.

For the past 20 years--since 2001--Nicholas Kristof has been an op-ed writer for The New York Times. He graduated from Harvard in three years, has reported from over 150 countries and has won three Pulitzer Prizes, one with his wife Sheryl WuDunn, who is also a writer for the Times.

Kristof does not report on things like Katie Couric or Britney Spears' custodial issues. He writes about humans, human depravity, rape, genocide, child trafficking and other happenings that the television so-called news avoids almost completely. 

[Somehow the far-right has brainwashed most of America into believing that "the media" is a left-wing enterprise when in reality, corporate trillions clipped its wings entirely and it reports on little of consequence that isn't entertainment-or-smirk derived. There's real shit happening in the world--but since 99.99999 percent of our news is ratings-driven or politically-backed, we're left with stories of this ilk. They're news like cardboard is steak.]

I encourage you to read--it will take you five minutes, counting two minutes of crying--Kristof's farewell essay. Sure you've got shit to do. The kids are screaming. And that call-to-action (find out more or learn more) isn't going to write itself. 

But the point of today's post is simple. In life and in advertising our first "shit to do," our first obligation is to be human. Read Kristof here.

Here's what I want us to think about.

Today and every day.

The industry sucks.

As the world sucks.




As Kristof writes in his farewell: “I want to make clear that while I’ve spent my career on the front lines of human suffering and depravity, covering genocide, war, poverty and injustice, I’ve emerged firmly believing that we can make real progress by summoning the political will.”

I believe the same about advertising too.

Maybe--because by and large both holding companies and individual agencies have no political will--we have to do it ourselves. You. Me. You and me. Young people. Alte kockers. 

We have to believe in advertising and its power, the same way Kristof believes that as a species--despite the virulent forces of hatred, denial, bullshit, fascism, greed greed greed greed and more, we can improve.

We have to have our own political will.

Our own belief that:

1. Advertising, when it's based on a human truth, works.

2. No other form of communication ever invented has helped more people, created more wealth and built more companies.

3. Advertising is work. It is not cheap. It is not magic. It is not an if-then proposition. As Wieden says as their corporate mantra "Fail Harder."

4. Advertising has the power to persuade and inform like nothing else.

5. Advertising must serve people (not buckets, consumers, personas, archetypes or targets) to be successful.

6. For advertising to work it must be smarter, more entertaining, more memorable, more shareable and more helpful than the media it is embedded in.

7. For advertising to work takes time, money and patience. It has to run for it to work. It is seldom instant. Success is most often the product of persistence.

8. In every advertisement we make and run we must show respect for people's taste and intelligence. 

9. Craft is an homage to the human spirit. 

10. People will love you if you show them love.

11. Humans are better at reaching humans than data is at reaching humans.

12. As practitioners of advertising, it's our duty to speak up about the efficacy and effectiveness of advertising. 

13. Phony ads run against this. They're lies. And we must tell the truth.

14. As practitioners of advertising, we have to demand facts. When naysayers say, "no one reads," or "people have goldfish attention spans," our job is to demand proof and not let those people off the hook.

15. Never think that advertising is magic and that persuasion is easy. Humanity has always lusted after alchemy--turning base metal into gold. It's never worked and never, ever, meta will.

If we are to fix a broken industry, we have to have the political will. I've written 15 points above. I could probably have written 1,500.

But let's start somewhere.

Let's start believing.

In late 2022, some luminary friends and I will begin offering classes on the resuscitation of our industry. 

Each class will be a how-to and a why-to. And a must-to.

Drop me a ping if you think that's interesting.

There's a have-to, too.

We have to do this together.

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