Wednesday, February 7, 2024

A Blend.

If you've read at all about ancient Greece, you'd discover that intellectual elites argued about competing philosophies like people today argue about sports teams.

There were followers of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates. There were Epicureans. Stoics. Cynics. And Skeptics.

There were more, that I'm forgetting now, but you get the point.

Each of these schools had its adherents. And the arguments and battles between these schools could get pretty heated. Not unlike democrats and republicans today, or death metal and mellow jazz.

You might actually hate someone, forbid your daughter from dating them, or not sit at the Symposium with them because they had a different way of looking at the world. I grew up in a world where airline cabins were divided into "smoking" and "non-smoking." At the Agora, the Hellenes might have had to similarly keep the Stoics from the Cynics.

About 30 years ago, I noticed that the world of advertising was becoming riven in a like fashion. There were those who believed in the primacy of television. There were those who placed print on a pedestal. Others believed in the efficacy and efficiency of direct marketing. Still others believed the nascent medium of digital marketing was the ticket.

These belief systems were rivals.

At a single agency you might have the TV creatives separated from the digital creatives--on different floors, and they might never talk. The people who ran the TV part of the agency would try to sell broadcast. The digital people would sell against them and recommend online advertising. There were rivalries involved and turf wars. The knives were out.

Whole agencies were dedicated to one philosophy or another. And cordiality was seldom to be seen. Everyone believed their philosophy was the "one true path" to marketing deliverance. 

Soon adherents of each philosophy did what philosophical schools do. They created an infrastructure of myth and belief--a religion--that gave ballast to their philosophy's claims to primacy. They had spokespeople. They had data. They had clients. And they had awards and case studies that "proved" this method or that was superior to every other method.

The award shows, smelling increased revenue because they could attract entries from more categories, quickly went along with this. Money transcends philosophy, for the most part. 

Soon, you could win an award for mobile media based on creative that was developed for print or TV. No one called foul. Because money is money and everyone was involved in the grift.

Back to ancient Greece.

After the "creation fervor" around a new school of thought began to dissipate. Platonists grew less adamant the longer Plato was dead, people became less and less orthodox in which philosophy or philosophies they followed. 

Like some sociologists say about Americans' religious beliefs today, many people chose philosophies like you'd choose your dinner at a giant buffet. A couple of shrimp, a bit of salad, some garbanzo beans, a nice slice of ripe cantaloupe and some brussels sprouts. It doesn't matter that the food, or philosophies you've chosen don't "go together," you like them and that's that.

During my career I've worked in traditional advertising, direct, digital and even events. Along the way, I think I've gained an understanding of the strengths of each medium. Every once in a while a client will come to me with a similar sense of understanding, and therefore philosophical openness. 

We don't go into an assignment with a pre-conceived notion of what we'll make. We'll first figure out what needs to be said, to whom, and then how we'll say it and where.

Though there are financial reasons not to admit it, most successful ways of communicating, most successful religions or philosophies or ways of governing have a certain amount of liberality to them. They blend styles, they borrow tactics from other schools, they find a way to make things work, rather than following a sort of Soviet orthodoxy. 

For instance, if I did something, ahem, when I do something that angers my wife, I don't find one way to apologize. I usually have to find nine or a dozen ways. From saying I'm sorry, to doing the dishes every night, to buying something as a token of my love and contrition. One way is fine. But an arsenal of communication techniques is often more effective.

I hardly drink at all, but I'd imagine what I'm talking about is somewhat like the difference between a single malt, which can be astringent, versus a blended scotch.

The key word here, as the Greeks learned two millennia ago is blended. 

Blending, or poly-ism, is one of the reasons I love New York so much. Sure it has its issues--what conurbation of almost 30-million people doesn't. But thousands of so-called races, religions, languages and more get together under the glow of yon municipal moon and not all that many people kill each other. It's where Jew, Christian and Muslim can get a really good pastrami sandwich hand-sliced by a Puerto Rican and be pretty damned happy about it.


Not much of a point today. 

Other than I continue to learn from ancient Greece.

And pastrami.

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