Friday, June 28, 2024

Lies. And Consequences.

There's a great serendipity that often comes from having a messy desk, or more accurately in 2024, a messy desktop.

I am an inveterate saver of things I like. I usually take a screenshot and leave that screenshot on my desktop. After a month or so, I roll up my sleeves and plough through all the little-liked-things I've compiled. I put a title--a memory jog--on them and file them away in a giant folder I call "Good Things."

On occasion as I file these things away, two or more bump up against each other, fire a synapse, and all at once, I have a genuine thought, or a blogpost, whichever comes first.

If you start with Bill Bernbach, as we all should (though I'd imagine 97-percent of those in attendance at Cannes would have no idea who he is--especially the 'executives' and chieftains in attendance--and I'm sure Bernbach himself would have hated about 97-percent of the work) you start with the words above.

Maybe, re Bernbach, what we should be thinking about isn't him as advertising person but him as something more macro. A person who's developed a philosophy, really, on how to get through to people. How to communicate, touch and make something memorable. These are things that don't change with the prevailing winds. They remain through time.

The proper study of mankind is man, and all that Alexander Pope stuff.

But back to cleaning my desktop. 

Just moments ago, I found this little bit of wisdom. As a lover of the Classics, this had especial appeal to me. It seems an infrastructure of understanding and of empathy. It seems, in a way, a nod to Carl Ally's famous maxim: "Advertising should afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted."

Maybe the Ally-ism above is too complicated by half. Maybe as an industry we've gone so wrong, we should simplify our reminder to this: Advertising must care for people.

Just moments after these ruminations, still cleaning my desktop, I bumped into this by economist Peter Drucker. Somehow, and I don't know exactly how, it seemed like the perfect accompaniment to the Hollis quotation above; the left bookend to the Greek's right bookend.

Maybe where it all comes together for me is the combo platter of unimagined consequences and the great efficiency we enable in doing things we shouldn't be doing at all.

My old man eyes see an industry that has forgotten our purpose. To tell the truth in ways that help people decide to buy or, more moderately, to consider buying. 

We've forgotten to love our neighbors. We've forgotten the pain most people are in. Their salaries are low, their expenses are high, and they're tired of being told how smiley and wonderful the world is. In the america of Madison Avenue, no one has a mortgage, or waits on line, or gets a cold hamburger or feels folded, spindled and mutilated by an ISP, a telco, an airline or a political candidate.

We've forgotten or chosen to ignore the reality of the world. Instead, every commercial is a pharma spot--a miracle in a pill and no one hears the 37-seconds of horrific side-effects. Not just pharma spots are promising chemical miracles. There's not been a car commercial shot--maybe ever--that alludes to real road-conditions or anything other than taking blond children to soccer practice.

The coke recycling grand prix is a good example of all this tommyrot. You can't walk 100 yards in america without tripping over polluting-forever coke detritus. Yet coke and its agency have the brass to pretend their pangloss on environmental destruction is worthy of a trophy.

If Newton's Third Law is right--for every action there's an equal and opposite reaction--consequences are in the very fiber of life on earth. Yet somehow we are all pretending we live in a world where there are none.

I know.

Heady for a blog.

There will be hell to pay for that.

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