Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Of Frogs and Humans.

When I came back to Ogilvy for my second tour of duty about a full-decade after I left, having maxed out the first time, the leadership team on IBM--the account I was honored to work on--had a mandatory Monday morning meeting. It started at 9AM. That kept the attendance down.

Usually, I was the first one in the fluorescent room. I chose a seat near the head of the table but not at the head--it was a careful calculation I guess I had gleaned from watching old movies about gangland crime syndicates.

I chose the seat where I was least-likely to be hit by a fusillade of bullets.

The power to kill someone came from the head of the table, but the power to influence the table came from where I chose to sit.  You can learn a lot watching old Jimmy Cagney movies or "Untouchables" reruns when you're battling insomnia. 

After I was in my seat, the next people to show up were usually the people in charge of media. They invariably had a hard-stop and were gleaming with perks and impatient. They clearly didn't want to be there.

Then my boss, the chief creative officer would arrive. Then the head of the account, the agency CEO. Then others would stagger in, late, guilty and usually with 32-ounces of too-sweet coffee.

In those early minutes before others arrived, I would talk to the media people. And no, I wasn't just trying to cadge tickets. I was way too unimportant to be nice to.

IBM was an account where a few customers spent millions of dollars on just a couple of products or services. In the decade between the time I left Ogilvy and came back to Ogilvy two major things had changed.

One: IBM was no longer a big fish in a big technology pond. Their status had been usurped by Amazon, Microsoft, Google and a few others. Two: Print advertising had all-but vanished. 

However, what hadn't changed, at least for me was my almost stoic-belief in David Ogilvy's dictum that "the consumer isn't a moron." In other words, I believed--especially when you're spending millions of dollars on something--that you don't buy it because it's cool or people in a commercial start dancing because of it. We don't buy non-impulse things for impulse reasons. That would be moronic. And see above.

I still believe that from automobiles to expensive steaks to giant technology infrastructure, people want a reason why beyond, in the words of Arthur Miller's Willy Loman, "a smile and a Shoeshine." (Miller capitalized Shoeshine. I don't know why.)

Consequently, in this early morning meetings I would barrage the media people with a simple edict. "You have to find a way so we can have the impact of a 'double-truck with gutter ad online.' Impact beyond creative impact and craft. Impact from sheer presence. From size and placement and front-and-centerness.

A double-truck with gutter is a holdover from my Bloomingdale's newspaper advertising days. It's the center-spread in a paper, including the space where the pages meet--the gutter. It's important. And it's built for impact.

The media people ignored me, as they do. And, frankly, the agency and the client ignored me too. They filed me away as 'not digital first.'

Like Aristophanes' chorus of Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax-ing Frogs, the chorus in this conference room, morning after morning, week after week was always the same.

Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax became Why 'break not your ass, no read, no read.'

Today, I see ads that say nothing but with style. A well-crafted circle with a gradient of colors. Some nice motion. And an inscrutable line, about ten rungs down from fortune-cookie wisdom. And such stuff is meant to sell a complex offering (one that no one really understands) from a not-hot company (one that no one really likes) in a competitive market (one where you're being outspent.)

But you see, we have a sentence for that.

Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax.

We have wisdom for that: no one cares. It's not a rational decision. No one has time. No one reads. Digital first.

Civilization has been lamenting how busy everyone is, how no one has any time since we came down from trees, certainly since the "sapiens" bested the Denisovians and the Neanderthals. 

It's like saying teenagers don't listen, my wife doesn't understand me, and if I miss the 6:17, I'm fucked.

I'm not going to bother citing the famous Howard Luck Gossage quotation here. If you don't know it, you should. And if you do know it, you should know what I'm talking about. And if you don't care, then you wouldn't have read this far.

This dopey blog, written by one person, every day, reaches 80,000 or more readers a week. It's just copy, girls and boys. There's no twenty-percent off coupon at the end, and you don't get an "A" on your spiritual report card for reading. 

As far as I know, in all 7,000 posts, this blog hasn't inspired anyone to dance.

Without being more arrogant than is my norm, people read the tips of my fingers because they say something unusual and interesting. Even if my references, in the case of Aristophanes, are 2800 years old, and in the case of Arthur Miller, 80 years old.

People read because they get something of value.

When you give people something of value, they generally like you.

When they like you, it's generally good for you. They might even buy from you.

That's how it works.

Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax.

No comments: