Wednesday, December 13, 2023

What Makes an Ad?


I have been in the advertising business a long time.

But I was never really in the advertising business until I opened up my own advertising business.

There's a simple reason for that change.

When you work for someone else, you're given work.

When you work for yourself, you have to go out and get work.

Getting work forces you to think about ads in a way you didn't have to before. It's the difference, I think, between growing tomatoes in your backyard garden and running a farm. The difference between holding a bake sale and running a bakery.

The world looks different when it's sink or swim.

Try it some time.

Surviving, no thriving, on your own.

It helps.

About five years ago, I realized my Linked In network of about 10,000 people was more than just a bunch of 'connections.' In fact, it was a media channel--or, better, I could turn it into a channel. I could write something funny, or smart, or topical, and as many people would see it as would see a small-town newspaper in the suburbs.

My connections were a property. Like a mini "People" magazine. Viewers would tune in if I gave them something to tune into.

I guess you could call that reach. Frequency is up to me.

And I am frequent. 

I've written a blog post every working day for over 6000 days. And I've probably written about 2000 GeorgeCo headlines. Sure, not all of them are winners. I'm no DiMaggio qualitatively, but I might approach Joltin' Joe-ness with my consistency.

I've written a ton of mediocre headlines, but none of them are as mediocre the Times' headline above. A headline that says nothing. A headline that has no news. A headline that has nothing new, twisted, unique or funny.

A headline, an ad, a tweet, a sneeze should tell you something you didn't know before. Or say something in a way you hadn't heard before. Or make you think in a new way. Or at the very least, or very most, make you spit your coffee out through your nose.

In short, it should be noticeable. Not annoyingable.

Damn, I see a lot of work that is flatter than a plate of piss. Not just on social sites where no one seems to care. But in what used to be print and used to be TV.

Most often I feel talked down to. Ignored because I'm old. Shouted at. Or being forced to listen to a joke for the hundredth time that wasn't funny the first time. What's more, it seems like half the ads on TV are for drugs for people with rare diseases. They're barking at me but not really for me. I'm no media person--more TBH, a Medea person, but targeted ads in a mass media don't make sense to me. Unless you enjoy pissing people off because you really don't like people or care if you irk them.


It seems like people have forgotten how at a very fundamental level. They've forgotten no one cares. And that an ad's job is to make them care. That's been true since time began. But we've seem to have wholly forgotten it. Or we're so obedient to and afraid of clients--and of being fired--that we produce crap that satisfies them and their bosses. And no one else.

I've been seeing a lot of ads for a horribly-named hotel chain called Crowne Plaza. 

First of all, only a dipshit spells crowne with an e. Second, your name is two names. Be crown or plaza, don't be both. There's no baseball team called the Metskees. Or basketball team called the Clipkers. Or a presidential candidate called a Bidump, though maybe there should be.

Forget that they repeated the anodyne and empty, "This is Crowne Plaza," in one index-card-sized ad three times. That line ain't exactly, "I am Spartacus." It's not powerful. Or in the moment. Or an affirmation. What else would it be in a Crowne Plaza ad? This is Poughkeepsie Convention Center?

Why, in other words, run an ad--a lot--or a headline, that says nothing, stops no one, contains no truth and no reason to read?

It's the sound of no hands clapping and no ass crapping.

Yet approximately 97.8-percent of everything I see is sheer emptiness. As above, flat as a plate of piss.

I don't know what's happening in the advertising business that so much time, human energy, lip-flapping and money is spent on such communications non-entities. People create these things, present these things, design these things, proofread these things, shoot these things, conference room these things. They fight for shit like this and hang tearsheets of them in their beige offices and are generally roused. They publicize their blandness in trade journals.

Having an eyebrow that says "Breaking News" followed by a headline that essentially says, "Dictator for Life declares himself Dictator for Life," is an insult to all involved.

As is "This is Crowne Plaza."

It's hard to do good ads.

But it can't be hard to write headlines better than those.

Or at least try.

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