Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The Lies of the Land.

I was, as I am so early, up with the sun this morning. After a quick cuppa room-temperature coffee (it's the best way to drink coffee imho) my wife and I laced up our expensive slave-labor-made sneakers and went for our walk along the roaring sea.

The sea's been roaring of late, and I like it. I like the wet when I am dry. I like the cold when I am warm. I like the earth's noise when my head is quiet.

If you ever have a chance to own a home in a beach community, you'll quickly realize the best time to be there is not when the weather is warm and the waves are ambient and the empty beaches aren't empty. 

It's in the dead of winter when no one else is around and the sad grey of the sky blends like a Rothko into the morose grey of the sea. How many sailors centuries ago saw those colorless colors and thought longingly of fires in the hearth and warmth of their families--only to return never, lost in the mystery of Davy Jones' locker?

There was no one out this morning. Only the occasional van of a roofer or a journeyman carpenter or some Honda-driving mom taking her kids to school because they missed the bus, again. 

About half a mile north from our cottage I saw along the southbound lane of the two-lane road that follows the coast, the backside of a lot of signs the utility company had placed along the road. In small towns such as ours, especially in the abandoned winter months, signs along the roadway count as news. Stop the presses.

When I got to them, I read the usual. "SLO," "Utility Work Ahead." "One Lane."

Then I got to one sign that struck me. It read "Fines Doubled In Work Zone."

I looked at those words and turned to my wife and said, "How many messages are we hit with that start with lies and go down hill from there. There's not been a cop on this road since Kennedy was assassinated and no fines have been given since we evicted the Pequot in the Great Pequot War of 1636."

I thought of Dashiell Hammett's bit from his early collection of short stories "The Continental Op." I thought about the tsunami of lies companies tell their workers, governments tell their citizens, spouses tell each other, but mostly brands tell their customers.

"Your call is important to us."

"We are experiencing unusually heavy call volume."

"It is our pleasure to serve you."

"Is there anything else we can help you with."

I blame it on Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. And as a society we've gone downhill fast since then.

We've had almost one-hundred years of trust-destruction starting at the very highest level of life. We propagate it as marketers. We are lied to so often as citizen/victims that we no longer notice the frontal assaults.

"Sit back and relax and enjoy your flight."

"Have a nice day."

Our job as advertisers is to realize how damaged belief and trust are. Our job as advertisers is to make our brands trustworthy and true. Our job as advertisers is to be honest--to make our brands honest. Only when people believe in you will they buy from you.

(Unless, like nearly everything today from ISPs, to cable companies, to telcos, to airlines, to hotel chains, you're part of an oligopoly and the only choice consumers have is between what they perceive as the lesser of evils.)

Years ago when I was trying to break into the business, I would be called in for a good amount of interviews with creative directors.

I quickly noticed something.

There were creative directors who gushed superlatives when they saw your portfolio. And there were creative directors who said as their highest praise, 'you're pretty good.' Or 'yeah, that one ad was good.'

The ones who gushed were liars.

The ones who meh-ed were not.

We should remember that.

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