Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Tide In.

About four years ago, I was spending a decent amount of time with a client who had developed a new technology, but was not having an easy time explaining what the technology did in a way sexy enough to get big schmear investors to invest.

It's best, sometimes, when you have to explain technology--or anything for that matter--to think of it in terms of sex. If you can't make it enticing, alluring, "I gotta-have-this," chances are you're sunk.

Most investors are besieged with things they might invest in. Like most people are assaulted by a million things they can buy, drink, do or watch. How do you choose? 

I've been told by dozens of start up people that Andreessen-Horowitz people, for example, look at scores of investment decks every day. If you don't get 'em in a second, you don't get 'em.

The same holds true for a can of soup.

All the "always-on" assaults in the world won't change that. Ubiquity is no substitute for interesting. 

Often the sexiest wins.

Just as often, I think of Baseball Annies like (Susan Sarandon) from Bull Durham. Annie's words, writ by Ronnie Shelton, sum up pretty much everything you need to know about advertising--ad schools, MBAs, strategists, and 168-page power-points notwithstanding. Annie said, "a guy'll listen to anything if he thinks it's foreplay."

That's a damn good advertising strategy. 

Maybe the best.

Maybe the only.

One morning, early, not too many moons ago, on Manhattan's Madison Avenue in the low 80s, where you can't spit without hitting a Bentley, a banker, or a buzzword, I had breakfast with a major investor, a former director of McKinsey, and a Yale professor. 

We sat and started talking about my tech client. Because there's nothing linear about having a conversation with me, I mentioned that I was reading Adam Nicolson's book "Life Between the Tides." I said something like, "the recent advances in science--since, say, my daughters' lifetime-- allow us to see history we could never see before because we can see things we've never been able to see. Likewise, if you think about the Webb Space Telescope, we can see entire worlds we never knew existed.

"We now know, for instance, that the civilizational collapse that happened around 1170 BC wasn't caused by the 'Sea People' alone. Scientists can now study 3,000 year-old-pollen residue, tree rings, the accumulation of stalagmites and have determined there was widespread climate change back then, that resulted in huge disruption from what is today Afghanistan to Italy, including Greece, Egypt, Ethiopia, northern-Africa, all the way to present-day Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey."

He savored his tea. He had asked the waiter for two teabags because he liked it strong. He had let it steep through my monologue.

"Essentially," I said, "Science allows us to see things we could never see before. Leeuwenhoek, Harvey, Ibn al-Haytham.That's what my client's tech does. When you see more, you can do more."

Now, he pushed back from the table. He looked me dead in the eye. I was afraid he was going to call me stupid.

So many people do.

"I've been around science my whole life. I have a Ph.D. in Physics. That's the single best, most profound definition of science I have ever heard."

We both scribbled some notes in the little notebooks we were carrying. Minutes later, we left breakfast, dusting croissant off our menswear. He walked downtown, I walked east, where rents are lower.

And that's our show for today.

Science is about seeing things that could never be seen before so you can learn or do things you could never learn or do before.

Advertising is about making those things sexy.

That's pretty simple, yeah?

Then why does so much of everything suck? It neither sees anything nor makes it sexy.

Why do we look to funnels when we should look to fun? 

I can tell that without science.


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