In defense of political advertising, Part II

Those who argue that political advertising is intrinsically bad misunderstand the role of advertising in our society. For the voting public to make an informed decision on whom to vote for, they need access to candidates’ views, and also to their demeanor, their leadership style, their “vibe.”

While the news media, collectively (TV, radio, print, internet) is an important avenue to accomplish the airing of candidates and their views, it isn’t sufficient. Many people don’t consume much news. Yet they may still be interested in making an informed choice between candidates.

Thus, advertising, with its ability to reach many people the news media might not, is a valuable (necessary?) piece of the mix.

While advertising is, by its nature, biased, that bias is largely negated by the fact that everyone understands this built-in bias and therefore factors it into their processing of the political advertising messages they receive. Of course a candidate will present himself and his views in his advertising in as positive a light as possible, and cast his opponent as negatively as he feels his audience will tolerate. But this bias is not unique to his advertising and other communications that he controls.

The information received via newspapers, magazines, TV and radio news and the internet is also inevitably biased, but more insidiously so since it generally pretends not to be.

And the whole sound bytes are inherently misleading or distorting is silly. Just because information comes in little bits at a time, doesn’t make that information wrong. If the information is misleading or distorting, that is because the candidate and his organization have chosen to communicate in a misleading or distorting way, regardless of how brief the bit of information is.

Another fundamental misunderstanding of advertising’s role that leads to its condemnation in the arena of politics is based on the assumption that advertising’s sole purpose is to sell. This is obviously not true. Advertising informs, persuades, influences, nudges, creates allegiances and emotional bonds, entertains—just as stump speeches, political press releases and interviews with Stewart or Maher or Letterman do.

A politician should be free to use whatever modes of communication are at his/her disposal to get his message out. Advertising is a perfectly legitimate option for doing just that. The fact that most political ads are badly done is a shame, but it’s beside the point.

cultivating a questioning discipline

Most of my life I've annoyed people, starting with my mother and currently my wife, by asking too many questions. Constantly asking questions, trying to understand why, always being curious. My mother used to tell me to go outside after she couldn't take it any longer. My wife just looks at me. You know the look. The one that says, "leave me alone, pal."

Luckily I haven't let these experiences stop me from constantly asking questions. And in the work-world, I've found that asking questions is actually an underutilized approach to solving complex problems. Typically we just sit through a meeting and don't say peep, even though we have no idea what so-and-so meant or didn't understand why the boss dismissed our idea. That's no good.

Asking questions is a discipline that needs to be cultivated. We all need to get over our fear of looking stupid for asking questions. Just ask questions. It's actually much stupider (is that a word?) to not understand something, when a simple question could have helped us understand.

I also suggest keeping a journal of questions, stuff like:

  • Do we (consumers) make decisions based on rational or irrational factors?
  • What would make people actually watch this commercial?
  • How is technology changing the way we communicate?
  • Why do two negative numbers, when multiplied, equal a positive?
Stuff like that. Your list will hopefully be different, but it doesn't need to all be serious or about your job. It just needs to be about things for which you are interested.

This post is begging me to end with the obligatory Chinese Proverb, so here goes:
He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.

The not so distant future of advertising

I went to the future a few days ago. It was loads of fun. While I was there I managed to scribbled a few notes down in my mole-skin notebook about what advertising is like in the future. Here are a few things I found interesting.

Word of Mouth
- In the future companies can hear everything you say using these nano-millo-chip thingies that float in the air molecules. So companies like Coca-soft and AppleKraft offer large amounts of electronic monetary funds to the 10 billionth person who says their company's name or slogan out loud each week. This means people randomly interject company names into casual conversation in hopes that they might be the big winner. It also means that old people just repeat company names over and over when they are alone in their fiber-caves. They don't know you can't win unless another person or cyborg actually hears you say it.

Free Sampling - In the future we will have robot servants. And they will be able to read our minds. And when they sense that we are thirsty they will offer you a free sample of Starbucks' newest icy, electrolight enhanced coffee beverage. These robots will have all the ingredients needed to make these new beverages already downloaded inside their mechanical bellies. So in just a few seconds you can have a delicious Starbucks refreshment pouring out of your robo-servant's finger. The first drink is free, but every time you request your robot slave to make this drink for you again, they charge your robo-account.

Promotional Dancing Monkeys - In the future, they still have those dudes in monkey suits dancing outside car dealerships, holding up "0% APR" signs. But instead of there being a dude inside the monkey suit, it's a robot. And dealerships are selling flying cars. Also, robots in monkey suits can do the moonwalk way better than regular people ever could.

Interactive - In the future Google is inside your brain. Which means when you are drunk, the internet doesn't work very well. You end up mental-clicking a lot of stuff you never wanted to, like mental ads. Companies know when you are drunk, and so they start sending you lots of promotional offers. So while you are stumbling around trying to look up a mindmap so you can find your way back home from the party at your friend's fiber-cave, you get confused and end up ordering your credit score like 15 times.

Hair Cuts - In the future you can take a pill to stop your hair from growing so you never need a hair cut. Then you can take another pill to make it grow again. That has nothing to do with advertising, but I think it's pretty cool.

Where we come in

Tom Tom had an interesting article from Sunday, which he allowed us to see things from the clients perspective. I agreed with everything he wrote and it got me thinking, and what I came up with is simple:

Clients aren't like normal people.

If clients were like normal people they wouldn't need us. They would create and market their products themselves and they would do both equally well. But the clients perspective has a flaw that prevents this from happening; they're too close to their products.

They know the ins the outs, the benefits, the prices, and many other selling points of their products and on many occasions they want those tangible benefits big, bold and right-up-front. They're too focused on what the product is as opposed to what the it means to the consumer.

And that's where we come in. We most likely have little knowledge of the product in relation to our client, but what we lack in product expertise we make up with having product understanding, which is the ability to to pick out the selling points that can be communicated to consumers in a palatable way. This mindset can turn a product into a brand.

Basically, we know people. We know how they think and in what ways they want to be talked to, I think if there is a common strenth among advertising creatives this would be it. That's our great selling point, we're cultural psychologists, we know people and culture better than anyone (except, possibly, for real cultural psychologists).

In defense of political advertising, Part 1

Theodore Sturgeon famously asserted, “ 90 percent of everything is crud.”

Those in our industry who reject the very concept of political advertising are guilty, I think, of condemning the category for the sins of that 90%.

This is a common error. If you are inclined against any particular activity or endeavor, (pop music, video games, TV shows, advertising, whatever), there are oh so many easy targets out there to shoot at—90 percent of them within any given category, if Sturgeon is right, and I think he is.

But the fact that ten percent of any given activity is not crud refutes any categorical condemnation of that activity. Pop music isn’t bad per se. It’s just that most pop music is bad. Advertising isn’t bad per se. It’s just that most advertising is bad.

Critics of political advertising attack it from a different direction. Or at least they think they do. Generally, they don’t condemn advertising as a whole. After all, most of the most vociferous critics of political advertising are admen themselves. They simply feel that humans shouldn’t be commoditized and packaged as if they were beer.

It’s true that political candidates are not breakfast cereal or underwear. They are complicated humans who stand for far more than can be captured in a 30 spot or a direct mail flyer. And they affect people’s lives in sometimes profound ways, in contrast to toilet paper.

People who condemn political advertising argue that it’s wrong to sell a candidate as if he or she were just another household product to be hawked. Doing so belittles the candidate and demeans the political process, blah blah blah. (I must inject here, I’m not sure it is possible to belittle most candidates or to demean the political process. Aren’t they, respectively, self-belittling and self-demeaning?)

One problem with this argument is that this sound-bytey, superficial, packaged goods approach to selling a candidate isn’t necessary or inevitable. It’s just commonly used. Like 90 percent of the time.

It’s perfectly possible for political advertising to be responsible, respectful, thoughtful, to reflect the candidate’s complexity, represent his stance on issues of the day, just as any other form of communication he may choose to employ can. The fact that most candidates don’t use the avenue of advertising in this manner is not a condemnation of advertising, but of those candidates.

Next week, I will argue that the bias built into advertising isn’t a basis for criticizing political advertising. And that advertising’s job isn’t simply to sell things. For these reasons, political advertising is a perfectly legitimate, justifiable and reasonable option for political candidates to use.

Clients are people

Not just people, oftentimes very intelligent people. They've managed to work their way into trusted positions within a company through many years of hard work. And they don't want it taken away from them by some hot-headed twenty-something who thinks this or that would be "cool". Make sure you have this in mind any time you present to them. They are not impressed with your awards from competitions they've never heard of (they probably have their own from competitions you've never heard of), they want you to tell them something that they don't know in a way that they can believe.

In reality clients would ease back a ton if they had any idea how much time and thought truly went into every piece of communication. That even the things they think are accidental are thought out. That 14 conversations at three levels of the organization occurred before arriving at 13 pt italics. Let the client into your brain a bit and give them a tour. That way they won't have a spur of the moment brilliant idea which you had the first day and passed on because you came up with something better.

I will leave you with a lesson I learned from a creative director early in my career that has served me phenomenally well. Never use the word "cool" to describe an idea, use the word "smart" instead. You'd be surprised how much impact this semantic switch can have.

Happy Easter (or ordinary Sunday, as your respective religion deems appropriate).

advertising wishlist

I wish:

  • there was less advertising, not more
  • advertising were more about being useful than funny
  • agencies focused more on pleasing their consumers than their clients
  • advertising was on-demand instead of ubiquitous
  • advertising was there when I wanted it, but not any time else
  • advertising was more overt, not covert
  • i actually didn't feel the need to skip or block advertising
am I asking too much?

Should We Embrace the Rejects and the Fakes?

Last week, we at Advertising for Peanuts received an email announcing a new ad contest and it sparked quite a bit of conversation among us. Here’s the first paragraph from that email:

“We’re excited to announce our call for entries for The 2008 Speckie Awards. The Speckies (www.thespeckies.com) level the playing field for creatives because it enables them to showcase any of their ad ideas that did not run which in turn allows us to award the best ideas on their merit, rather than being based on luck and the ability to survive all the politics and bureaucracy of the advertising world.”

To emphasize the speculative nature of this contest, their rules on their website even state that one could submit ads for imaginary clients. While not the first advertising contest to honor ideas that never ran because the client rejected them, it does seem to be among the first one to embrace pure spec advertising. The only other venue for honoring spec work in advertising that I can identify is CMYK magazine and that fine publication targets ad students. This contest seems to be open to everyone.

And while I must admit that the Speckies seemed to have amassed a strong judging panel, including such recognized creatives as Doug Jaeger; Katy Dreke (from Wexley School for Girls), Nick Cohen, and Patrick Hanlon and I probably mention this contest to my students, this announcement raised tons of questions for me:

If an entry was for a real product, was it rejected because it was off brand? True, a great idea is a great idea, but concepts get rejected all of the time because the core message is inconsistent with brand. What does putting off-brand messages and imagery out there do to the brand, even if we know that these messages and images are fakes? What responsibility, if any, does the creative team have in protecting the brand during off hours and outside of paid media?

In other words, what does this say about the team or individual who entered it? Could it look like these people are at odds with the brands they are paid to protect and promote?

It it’s a spec ad for a fake product and it was done by a professional team, where did they get the time? Why aren’t they spending the time on their real products and projects? Or why can’t they get real work? And, where are they accrediting their time on their time sheets? True, every creative team has some down time, but is this the best way to spend it? Some management types might not think that it’s a good way to fill the hours. Also, others might see it as easier, because with a spec ad you can come up with the idea and work your way back to the product. On the other hand, maybe doing fake work is a good way to fill the time. Perhaps creatives should be rewarded for spending their time trying to advance their skills.

In other words, what does it say about the team or individual who entered The Speckie Awards? It could be seen in a poor light. Or it could be seen positively.

So what do you think? How will the Speckie Awards be perceived in your organization? What is the value on the resume? And do you think it’s even worth the time for people to enter any awards show in general? Please, let’s get the discussion going? Just click the comments link below to give me your thoughts. I really want to hear what you have to say.

What Would Gossage Do?

If an ad man can actually be someone's hero, Howard Luck Gossage has been mine. The guy was doing stuff in the 50's that would take home a bag full of Lions and Pencils if it ran today...seriously. If you haven't read The Book of Gossage, I recommend you click that link now and super express-o-ship it to your office address before reading the rest of this post.

Gossage's philosophy of advertising can be summed up in one or two sentences depending on how you punctuate it: "People read what interests them. And sometimes it's an ad." That quote has guided and inspired my work ever since I started playing this picture/word game.

But Lately I've wonder if Howard was around today, would he say the same thing? In a world of Tivo, and Firefox ad blockers and spam and ad clutter info overload, I'm not sure.

I sometimes think today he might say something more like, "People don't like ads. So don't make them." And then I think, Gossage would have said it much better.

The point is, in today's ad clutter culture, if you're just trying to make interesting ads, you are setting yourself up to fail. The best advice I could give anyone starting out, or anyone for that matter, is don't make ads. We need to be making experiences, and discoveries, and new inventions and playgrounds and then making them relevant to and ambassadors of our brands.

Of course, back in the 50's Gossage was pumping pink air into people's tires and inventing the Shirtkerchief and selling paper by holding international paper airplane competitions. So, perhaps Howard Luck Gossage said it right the first time.

Dancing Fools

There are roughly two types of “dancing” commercials. The first uses dance as a pure expression of the brand. The Gap campaign and the silhouetted iPod spots of a few years back are good examples. I have no issue with this use of dance in commercials.

In the other type of dancing spot, we see people dancing with glee or joy or happiness or whatever in reaction to the benefit of a product or service. These are not abstract human representations of the personality of a brand. These are presumed to be more or less real people in more or less real world environments like their homes, workplaces, on the street, etc.

I have a HUGE problem with these spots. There have been scores of them over the decades. I’d like to say the preponderance of them were during the 60’s and 70’s, but, sadly, that hasn’t been the case. Today, we are as likely to be subjected to one of these travesties as 50 years ago. Some recent offenders? Swiffer. Glade. Wachovia. Banquet Crock Pot Meals. Shoe Carnival. The list is longer than this.

So what’s my problem? It is the unconscionable degree of falseness entailed in dancing because you’re so happy about your jumbo mortgage from Wachovia, or so pleased with how easy it is to clean the floor with a Swiffer, or so delighted at your yummy prefab meal. In spots like these, the advertiser clearly has succumbed to the inexcusable indulgence of showing their presumed target reacting as the advertiser could only dream they would, by waltzing, two stepping, prancing with irrepressible glee. Whatz!?

They is sooo 60’s-era in their superficiality and lack of any connection to the real world and real people’s real emotions. The absence of credibility in these portrayals undermines their ability to communicate a credible, to say nothing of compelling, message regarding the product. It’s one thing for a person to reveal a smile of satisfaction regarding a product or service (though even this usually looks bogus in a commercial context). But to show supposedly real-ish people breaking into dance over life’s most trivial and banal matters is so beyond the pale, it violates the understanding between advertisers and consumers that commercials will hang on to some thread of plausibility in the claims and promises contained within them. These dancing fools make the advertiser look equally foolish. And it’s just plain insulting to the viewer.

All of us in the industry pay the price for the damage done by this violation. Agencies who continue to offer advertising like this to their clients are guilty of enabling these advertisers’ worst urges. I personally resent having to labor under the ongoing burden created by such disingenuous advertising. You should too.

Learn to use the media you've got!

This is a suggestion, nay, a plea to all marketers out there. Please learn to do something good with the media you already have before invading everywhere else I look.

Don't get me wrong, I love guerrilla advertising if it surprises, delights and makes people happy. I simply can't stand that I have, for example, a (bad) GM ad on my airline tray table. Really, did I need that? Were your ads so great that I just couldn't wait to open a magazine before seeing it?

This whole plague of advertising stems from one thing: bad creative that couldn't sell antidotes to poison victims. Creatives/Media types can't think of a good actual idea (because of client restraints or whatever bad excuse) and therefore spend their time searching for a little spot that nobody has ever thought to place an ad ("Hey, how about ads in peoples' sinks at home! I'm a genius!" and they strike. Thus forever ruining whatever item it was the ad was placed on forever for all of us.

So here's what I propose as a rule: if your message contextually makes sense with where you put it AND it causes more happiness than annoyance, GO! If however it's just another space that people look (I'm reminded of a Steve Martin movie where he suggests tongues as an untapped media space) then please...keep it to yourself and learn to do your job. Not for your client, but for the industry and for humanity.

advertising as content

Last week I wrote about the dichotomy that exists in advertising: consumers ignore ads, but ads still work (albeit subtly). I then asked if this is the way it has to be and invited readers to comment. I still welcome your comments, but wanted to kick off this series with an idea.

Picture this scenario: you are browsing yahoo news and you notice an ad that says something like, "Did you miss the last episode of The Office? Click here to watch it". You click on the ad and a player pops out and starts playing the episode of The Office that you missed. You can either watch the entire episode in full screen or leave it on in the background as you continue to browse the web.

This seems like a winning scenario. It's useful to consumers, the Studios get folks watching their programming and they make money off of every view, and advertisers make it all happen by running a few ads during the content.

As people continually fragment across all media, it is becoming increasingly important for content providers (traditionally the studios) to intersect people where they are instead of expecting them to visit their site (or TV station). And, since the revenue model is embedded in the content (ads), there is no reason to force people to visit a site (or TV station).

Hulu is close to making this vision a reality. They have a website, but they also distribute their content and allow people to embed their videos on their own websites. Taking this idea further, it seems like the online advertising framework that exists today is perfectly suited for distributing content. The scenario I detailed above seems like a no-brainer.

See below for a glimpse of what's to come:

The end is near for advertising (well, almost, maybe, perhaps)

I would like to share with you a quote from Alex Bogusky: “I don’t know why there’s such self-loathing in the industry, but ever since I’ve been in advertising, practitioners have been predicting its demise.”

I’ve noticed this too.

Bogusky made this comment when he was recalling a time when people were predicting the end of print.

And I have been noticing it for the last few years as people talk about the eventual end of TV advertising.

Why does this continually happen? Is it because so many of us “fell into advertising” after our original goal of novelist/movie maker/professional gambler didn’t pay off? Perhaps we secretly want advertising to fail so we could get on with our true calling in life.

Whatever the cause, it concerns me. How can our clients believe in advertising if we don’t?

Especially since we do know that advertising can work.

Not that it works every time.

But imagine a doctor denouncing all medicine because one patient died on the operating table.

A more interesting approach for people in our field is to embrace change, but recognize that existing mediums probably won’t completely go away within our lifetimes (radio is still a powerful tool); to recognize what advertising can and can’t do and set reasonable expectations with clients (the potential ROI of advertising is vastly different when we’re talking about launching a highly innovative new product than when we’re talking about boosting market share for a tried-and-true commodity-type product); and believe that our skills will continue to be needed tomorrow (how, what, and where we sell might change, but we would still be selling something).

Do you agree? Please let me know in the comments. Don’t wait. Be sure to post your remarks today. That way, I would be able to review them before I start hearing about the end of the Internet.

We Are Like Crazy People

I sit in coffee shops and on buses and sidewalk cafes, with a notebook and a pen, looking into space (or at something with a corner). Every few minutes I smile to myself and nod my head and then quickly scribble something in my book. I reaffix my gaze. Then I scribble some more. I do this for a few hours.

I can tell people sitting close by wonder what I’m working on. They probably think I’m an aspiring novelist, soaking in the life around me and jotting down the powerful subtleties of the everyday. Or perhaps they imagine me as a poet crafting a delicate sonnet. Or a musician, twisting lyrics of angst and irony. Or maybe I’m an indie screenwriter. I can tell the ladies are especially curious.

But as these onlookers get up to leave and walk past me, they catch a glimpse of my notebook. And it is at that moment they realize I have I spent the last 3 hours writing down pointless doodles and random nonsensical phrases and then drawing boxes around some of those doodles and laughing to myself.

That’s when they realize I am not an artist or a poet or any of these. I’m probably just a crazy person.

Don't necessarily trust your gut

When Schwab “borrowed,” or as I like to call it, “ripped off,” the technique of animating over film that was showcased in "Waking Life" many years ago, my reaction to the first spot I saw was to recoil and dive for the remote. I have been similarly driven to flip with every viewing of every subsequent Schwab spot. I don’t usually have such an intense visceral reaction to TV commercials. So I’ve spent quite a bit of time reflecting on why it is that I find these commercials so abhorrent.

When I viewed "Waking Life", I had nothing resembling this revulsion. In fact, I enjoyed the movie, though I felt like the technique was simply an interesting novelty and had been pretty much “used up” with this film.

So, why my reaction to the Schwab spots? As near as I can figure, there are two reasons: the first is that the people characterized in these spots are, to me, extraordinarily unlikable. They make me think of all the shallow, money-driven, affluent people that I try so hard to avoid in my daily life. The writing in these spots captures very effectively the way these people talk and think.

The other reason is harder to articulate. There is something about how this particular version of this animating technique unfailingly renders the subjects of these spots, for lack of a better term, creepy. I feel like they are automatized. Rather than enhancing or personalizing the individualism or humanity of each character, these aspects seem to me entirely, eerily, absent.

Pretty much every one of the dozens of people I’ve discussed this campaign with report having a similar reaction.

On the other hand, while the campaign seems to be aimed at boomers and almost boomers like me and most of the people I’ve discussed the campaign with, mine is a small sample, and may be anomalous. In fact, I have to assume this is the case because Schwab just keeps cranking out these spots, which surely must mean they have determined that the spots are working. Lots of people out there somewhere must be having a completely opposite reaction to mine.

My point? Advertising sure is subjective, ain’t it?

a fresh perspective on advertising

Most people don't want advertising. They find it annoying, intrusive, unwanted, unnecessary, manipulative, etc.

Most people don't fully pay attention to ads when they do end up noticing them. Ads are rarely (if ever) the reason for watching a TV show, reading a magazine, visiting a website, driving down the road, etc. They are always secondary (except on rare occasions like the super bowl).

I could go on, but I won't. You get the point.

You're probably thinking: oh boy, here it comes, he's going to tell us that advertising doesn't work. Quite the contrary. Advertising does work. Subtly. Its sort of like growing older. It happens, but we don't keep track of it very often. Mostly we celebrate our age every year, not everyday. The same for advertising. Messages are shaping our thoughts and desires everyday, but we don't internalize them as they come, rather we wait until the time when we need to buy something or when we're having a conversation. And even then the internalization is often less rational and overt than we think.

This is a strange paradox: we ignore advertising, but advertising still works. Is this the way it has to be? What could the advertising model of the future be? What should the advertising model of the future be? Lets think about this together. If you have an idea, leave a comment. I'll post on this over the coming weeks.

If you've ever dunked off a trampoline, this is for you



Here's a cool spot for Adidas from 180 Amsterdam. It reminds me of using a mini-trampoline to dunk basketballs in my driveway as a kid. I think it has something to do with the 2012 Olympics, but it may just be Olympic themed.

Will images replace words in web advertising?

At the risk of dredging up old news, I must respond to the POV by Gary Schenk in the January issue of Creativity. It was a real hackle-raiser. Mr. Shenk articulates an across-the-board dismissal of language (or "text" as he insists on calling it) in advertising as some old school artifact or vestige of a bygone era, which is now being supplanted online by imagery.

I find this both silly and scary (to speak nothing of transparently self-serving, given that Mr. Shenk is the CEO of Corbis.)

It's one thing to point out the obvious, that the web is becoming and will continue to become more visually interesting, with imagery playing an increasingly important role in helping to deliver messages. I join Mr. Shenk in welcoming the increase in imagery on the web, as well as the corresponding reduction in dry, cold, and overly lengthy language that occurs in so many contexts on the web.

But it’s an entirely different thing to proclaim, as Mr. Shenk does, that "imagery alone can send a powerful message" or that "imagery is accelerating as the shorthand for communicating messages and conveying meaning."

What Mr. Shenk seems not to understand, is that even the most powerful, evocative image is entirely without value as a commercial communication device, absent the accompanying language that informs and interprets that image. Language, sometimes as little as one word, is necessary to imbue the image with a particular meaning in order to deliver the advertiser's intended message.

The Dove campaign for real beauty (which Mr. Shenk invokes as proof that it's all about the image) proves, instead, precisely the opposite point. The body of images that comprise that campaign would be nothing but a collection of nice photos of women, without the unifying concept of "real beauty" to guide the viewer in interpreting the images in relation to the brand and its message. To define and convey the concept of real beauty, it must be articulated with, you know, words. That's precisely what language does, while imagery without language, does not and cannot.

The stock images and footage that Mr. Shenk hawks, regardless of how rich, compelling, provocative, beautiful, true or cool they may be, must always, by their nature, be relegated to the role of handmaiden to language. As visually oriented as advertising communication—in print, online or within any other medium—may become, it is only via language that it can be made to convey, not just some meaning, but the very specific meaning intended by the advertiser.

Tom Tom and the Mystery Brief

I few weeks ago I had the flu and spent most of the day in bed. As a result I had some of the most bizarre dreams and one that was oddly depressing. That's the one I want to talk about.

It began at night when I first tucked away to bed. I had a dream that I'd been given a brief for a new brand that our agency had just pitched and won. New business, open to interpretation, a creative joy.

I woke up about 3 hours later with a brilliant creative solution. I promised myself that I would remember it. It was too good of an idea to forget. I went back to bed.

Several hours later I woke up again with another breakthrough idea. Some really killer stuff. I also remembered back that I'd had that other idea earlier and remembered it clearly. I went back to bed.

Yet more hours later I woke with another keen idea. This one so earth shattering it rattled me from my sleep. I recited the earlier ideas in my head too to make sure I wouldn't forget.

Then I finally woke up for the last time. Ready to write it all down. Now I know what you're all thinking, that suddenly I wouldn't be able to remember (because that's happened all too many times to all of us). But, I did remember (sorta). The only problem is, the product for which I had all these great ideas for isn't one of our clients. Actually it's not anyone's client because the product didn't exist. I've since forgotten the details, but I'm pretty sure it was a flying scooter or something of that nature.

So basically I'd spent the entire night dreaming of how to solve a tough advertising problem I never had to begin with. Yeah. Awesome.

I had a good laugh about it afterwards, but felt kinda cheated out of some sweet dreams. Oh well, ad life goes on.

is advertising a cover up?

I came across this quote from Yves Behar,

Advertising is a price companies pay for being unoriginal.
What a challenging thought. Is it true? Maybe. Can advertising help unoriginal, unneeded products or services? Yes. Should it? No.

Perhaps advertising has gotten a bad reputation because too often we have taken the easy way out by creating ads that will moderately help unoriginal, unneeded products or services. Instead we should either turn the business down or help the companies create original, needed / wanted products or services.

Why don't more advertising agencies create products and services?