Thursday, December 7, 2023


My friend and fellow advertising denizen, Rich Siegel, has a blog he calls Round Seventeen. Rich's title is a reference to the creative constipation and nitpicking that goes on at virtually every business, virtually every day, virtually forever. 

It's a funny name for a blog, but only because it's not funny. Only because Rich says aloud what the rest of us are retching over.

Just a few minutes ago, I read the article above in The Wall Street Journal. The Journal is a great newspaper if you can ignore its politics and get over sending money to the WSJ--some of the leading lights of crypto-fascism.

I'll make this simple: Work sucks.

And: When work sucks, the work sucks.

It only takes watching about four-minutes of television a night to see the parlous state of advertising creativity. About 50% of commercials seem to have been shot on a discount iPhone. With badly lit bad actors screaming bad copy. 95% seem to be an assault on viewers' senses. And virtually all of them seem to have forgotten the old gendered Ogilvy-ism, "the consumer isn't a moron; she's your wife."

Nah. Treat everyone like an idiot.

It tested well.

In America today everyone is treated rudely. Customer service, brand communications, instructions, websites, the inundation of black Friday emails or whatever show absolutely no care, consideration or kindness. You are just a pocket to be picked. A bank account to be raided. An email list to bludgeon with.

To steal from Arthur Miller, to America's monopolies (ie all of America) you are just a piece of fruit. Once the orange is eaten, that is, your money is extracted, the peel is tossed away.

Years ago, Robert Townsend was the CEO of Avis Rental Cars. When he was choosing an agency he'd ask a question of agency leaders. 

"My competitor has five times the cars, five times the counters and five times the money I have. How can I get advertising that's five times as effective."

Reportedly, Bill Bernbach replied with this advice. "If you approve, disapprove but don't try to improve work, everyone in the agency will want to work on your brand. And will work weekends and nights for the chance to."

Approve. Disapprove. Don't try to Improve.

Today agencies do the opposite.
And clients might be even worse.

They disapprove.
Then full-on wreck.
What did you expect?
Here's your last check.

The article I cited above included this graph. And my guess is that is exaggerates the amount of employee satisfaction. I doubt there's an agency anywhere where 36.5% of people are satisfied. 

That seems very high to me. 

It ain't nice furniture, or ping-pong, or stale bagels on Wednesday that will improve work and work conditions. Consistent raises might help. Job security might help. Treating people as partners--and as valuable might help.

Every once in a while a large employer will threaten to leave a community because that community makes it hard for its employees to live there. They'll say things like, fix the trains or face an exodus of tax-payers. Occasionally some change will occur.

OK. I lied.

But at least we could try Improve. Disapprove. But don't try to improve.

It doesn't get much better than that.

And work doesn't get much worse than it is today.

No comments: