Monday, April 8, 2024

Advertising Streaking.

I know it's swimming against the tide but I don't care.

Besides, with strong arms, broad shoulders, big legs and feet (size 13 EEE) as big as swim fins, I've always been a strong swimmer. Or in the words of W. Somerset Maugham, "She plunged into a sea of platitudes, and with the powerful breast stroke of a channel swimmer, made her confident way towards the white cliffs of the obvious." That's me. 

Meanwhile, the ad industry has become an industry of drug addicts.

Some agency in Brazil, or Serbia, or Brooklyn does a spread ad, sends it out through social media, and thousands if not millions of us praise the ads.

I think it started with fake Scrabble ads. 

Then fake Lego ads.

Then fake World Wildlife Foundation ads.

Then fake KFC ads that showed chicken pieces as exhaust from powerful engines.

Then fake Heinz ketchup ads showing the almost perverse love people have for Heinz.

The lastest "fafania" (fake + fan + mania) is for Burger King and it shows old people making out and whatnot to somehow celebrate Burger King's 70s anniversary of flame broiling. I guess the "insight" is the "flame never dies," though Burger King as a brand is nearly as financially moldy as its fake moldy Whopper ads from not long ago which I'd imagine drove their last customers and most of their last franchisees away.

Maybe these ads did run somewhere. You certainly see a lot of shit like this.

I'll (charitably and naively) give them the benefit of the doubt.

But running somewhere is not the same thing as running ROP, or running in media, or running to try to achieve salutary business effect. 

These ads are the equivalent of fire departments setting fires so they can show up quickly and put them out. That might prove the fire department's efficacy, but it doesn't prove the efficacy of having a fire department. Just as "war games" don't prove the efficacy of anyone's military. They're examples based on a set of controlled and contrived circumstances. They're as extrapolateable as kid's lemonade stand is to business success--especially if the kid's parents bought all the supplies, did most of the work and the kid mostly was dimply and cute.

Nevertheless. As an industry, we praise these ads. We award these ads. We even, it seems, want to emulate these ads.

I happen to believe we demean our industry when we do so. Because these ads meet no reality test. Really, when was the last time you saw a spread in a magazine, or a simple ad in a magazine, or even a magazine in a magazine?  

These ads are the equivalent of an over-retouched, unreal supermodel. They don't exist in real life. And set up impossible standards for us to aspire to.

The Brasilian Burger King ads are most egregious.  Ad Age, the magazine that copied the name of this blog, devoted digital ink to them, covering their advent as if they are real. They never question the "cubic zirconia-ness" of their provenance, or why ads that run in Brasil have copy in written English.

Most egregiously, to my mind, and most corrupt, is that ads like the ones I mentioned are what I'll for now on call "marketing streaking." When streakers we running naked at baseball stadiums and the like, it's typically distracting banality. You could have had 1000 die from illegal bombing in Vietnam or America's illegal war in Cambodia. But streaking got all the press.

These ads distract us from the harsh reality of the ad industry. The trade press doesn't report on the borderless offices at Ogilvy firing yet another tranche of workers, or WPP reducing its workforce since 2017 from 200,000 to today's 105,000. Or the entire industry's failure to substantively diversify--as the industry has been vowing since at least the late 1960s. 

These ads give us permission and fodder to lie to ourselves. To ignore reality. And to, in the immortal words of Neil Postman, "Amuse ourselves to death."

I'm happy, as always to print counterpoints. I'm happy to give this space and access to my 85,000 weekly readers to anyone who wants to rebut--with verified data--any of my claims above. 

If the Brasilian agencies behind the BK work want to show my readers their media spend and their notarized insertion orders, mi blogga es su blogga. Likewise, if anyone at WPP wants to "push back," about their employment data, their ageism, their constant "rolling layoffs," have at it.

But I suspect, and Simon and Garfunkel would agree, I'll get nothing but the sound of silence.

Not even the realization that we're too busy applauding our own death.

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