Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Six Things We've Learned about Life (and Advertising) from Covid.

Some weeks ago, I drove my 1966 Simca 1500 about twenty miles south from my rickety cottage by the sea and visited the offices of a new client. I don't have many in-person client meetings these days and there's a lot to be said for the convenience of Zoom but there's still nice about seeing people in person.

I don't care if that violates the belief-system around the Metaverse, that virtual can be regarded as indistinguishable from real-life. I'm just not buying it. In fact, if you ever again go to see a baseball game in a proper ballpark, try to notice the moment you walk out from underneath the stands and see the verdant green of the playing field. I have to believe that even among the most-jaded there's a micro-second of jaw-dropping wow. Like seeing a hawk making lazy circles in the sky or a dolphin clearing the brine.

My client is a brainy guy--and we talk a lot about the nature of science. About how things are discovered, coalesced and made palpable to viewers. I said something about how there's a lot we could all probably learn from the past almost-two-years with Covid and I started knocking off points. He asked me to send him a list and I did.

A few days later, I read my list again, and found I liked it. I posted it on Twitter, and people I respect said I should write a post around it. Here goes:

Six Things We've Learned about Life from Covid.

1. Never underestimate the unknown--disease or otherwise. Small things have a way of becoming big things. Likewise, young people have a way of becoming older. Assess things and people on what they are--not your preconceived nothing of what they are. Look at all variables. And try to consider as many possible variants as you can. It's amazing how lack of prejudice frees people and the world.


2. Unintended consequences are usually more severe than you'd like. I read something not long ago that brought the notion of unintended consequences into sharp focus for me. Some futurist was talking about how life with self-driving vehicles will be so grand. Commutes will be less arduous. Crowded cities, less crowded. You can play video games in your car.

Then someone responded, what about spreading urban-sprawl even further into the country? And so on. About 50 years ago while at the agency Carl Ally, Ralph Ammirati wrote an ad that asked, "What happens now that the car is causing more problems than it solves?" The technology mantra, "move fast and break things," is monstrous. It does not consider what could happen. You can't really just hope the butterfly effect away. Butterflies don't listen.


3. There are no isolated cases. If you've ever seen geese at random and then forming a V, or fish who gather themselves in a vortex for protection, you realize that all living creatures are connected somehow. Even in the cyber world, there are no "air-locks" between machines that can stop incursions and attacks. What happens to one, happens to many. Basically, humanity can act one of two ways: YOYO--you're on your own. Or WITT--we're in this together. Only one is right. Though a different one is popular. The more we look out for the other, the better we'll all be. The sin of the modern democratic party is that it doesn't brand the un-modern republican party as the party of past--of narrow roads, leaking pipes and 19th century infrastructure. Make the stark choice starker.


4. The more testing, the better. This does not mean I recommend "quant" and "qual." It does mean we'd all be better off--and our industry would be better off if we thought through things, if we tested them in our own heads before accepting even the Gospel as gospel. Not too long ago prevailing marketing wisdom told us to try to get Facebook "likes." They were a barometer of marketing success. 

97-percent of being a creative person is looking at the same things other people look at but working--testing, turning them upside down and torturing them until you see a side of them no one has before noticed. 

It makes sense to do that with just about everything you encounter. Try saying "prove it." In short, be like Shane. 


5. Look for problems with all five senses. By this I mean, don't look at things in a cursory manner. Really take them apart and examine problems from all sides. Who would think that the logic of vaccination--an operation that's probably saved literally billions of lives would become a political issue. But today, I suppose, destroying the planet is a political issue as well.


Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

 6. Attack problems early and often. 
Robert Frost said "nothing gold can stay." Neil Young said, "Rust
never sleeps." If you have a patio or a book of Dylan Thomas'
poems, you know of the force that through green fuse drives the
flower. In other words, problems die hard. In short, listen
always--to Miracle Max. Make sure problems are dead. Not
mostly dead.

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