Don’t get me wrong. I’m not some privacy conspiracy theorist. I have nothing to hide (kind of). I will trade private data for information like a blind lemming going over Mt. Everest. Especially if the wonderful Internet machine delivers me information or offers or entertainment that I really like. Unfortunately, it’s not really working out like that. Instead of getting news about a new Sun Ra album coming in to a record store I’ve never heard of that’s just six miles from my home, I get more Facebook feeds alerting me to the wonders of Bonobos. Instead of getting an update on a new Indian restaurant that has hand made mango chutney and a reasonable all you can eat curry lunch, I get more news about Bonobos. Instead of big brother telling me about a cheap flight to a great family vacation spot in Martinique, you get it — Bonobos.
The Facebook has become like watching Days of Our Lives in 1982. Full of ads for stuff I hate. That makes me hate both The Facebook and Days of Our Lives.
And makes me wonder how much more I’m going to be willing to open my kimono wide to every data mining pirate out there who has the galleons to buy, beg, or steal my clicks?
Can they just toss me something that is remotely relevant — news, say, of a free-form uke jam session at a bar with single malt whisky?
Oh, and by the way, what is a Bonobo?
Those clever Oreo creatives! They get the best ad during the Super Bowl for FREE! (Remember when they tweeted during the blackout!) They are killing it in social media. And then, they delight my Monday addled eyes with a splash of fun and color in the oldest media form known to mankind (next to carving ads in stones). Art direction! Copywriting! Media planning! Bold thinking! They blast a full page ad in the … newspaper! It’s different. It’s fun. It’s bold. It doesn’t matter what it says. What it says is, “We’re Oreo, we’re here, we’re proud, say it loud!” And it made me think an Oreo might just go well with coffee at breakfast.
You might say it’s a wake-up call.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or on the South Side of Chicago, you no doubt have heard about how the owners of the Chicago Cubs baseball club want to take the most beautiful inner city ballpark in the country (yes, that includes that park in Boston) and dwarf it with a television screen the size of a Boeing 747. It is upsetting to the baseball purists, the neighbors, just about everybody — except, I think, advertisers. Ricketts sees dollar signs. And that is only fair. It’s his park, he can do with it as he pleases. He who pays the piper calls the ads.
But if you take a look at the Cubs, a team that manages to pull in the crowds without winning, I think Ricketts is missing a huge opportunity. Get rid of the team altogether! Get rid of the stadium. Just put up the largest flat screen television on earth and SHOW ADS FOR CAR DEALERS ON IT!!! Why stop with that parcel of land on Addison and Clark Street? Take over the entire north side of Chicago. I could see a Bob Rohrman ad extending from the Lincoln Park lagoon to Waukegan. Make that screen so big astronauts can see it from space!
Maybe they can even show some movies about baseball teams that win on it.
I noticed a squib in the paper over the weekend that caught my eye. Seems like the Gekko is about to overtake Allstate as Number 2 in auto insurance. This struck me for a couple of reasons. 1) I would have thought Gekko was Number 1 (but of course it’s the one zillion year old State Farm) and 2) I would have thought that the Gekko had demolished Allstate aeons ago. This despite the Mayhem Man and the might of Allstate. So I paid some attention to the car insurance ad wars of the weekend and learned something else. The paper had pitted Mayhem Man against the Gekko as the duelling critters of insurance, but in fact, Mayhem Man isn’t the car insurance campaign for Allstate. It’s something else, another campaign where people mouth the deep voice of the actor who is the spokesperson for Allstate — a lame, forced, invisible series of rather unfunny commercials. And a light went off in my sleep deprived brain. Of course — Mayhem ISN’T the voice of Allstate Car Insurance. No wonder the Gekko is cleaning its clock. The message is muddled. Even the newspaper put Mayhem Man forward as the image of Allstate. If only Allstate would.
Which is a long way of saying — in communications it’s all about the story. Alignment, truth, veracity, the product — most of that stuff doesn’t mean anything. The best critter and the best story wins out in our cluttered, addled minds.
Or as Jimmy Stewart said in John Ford’s classic film, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence,” — “when the truth disagrees with the legend — print the legend.”
Or, to put that into an advertising context, forgive me if I repeat (and no doubt mangle) my second favorite Howard Gossage quote: “The purpose of advertising is not to sell your client’s products, it’s to scare the hell out of your client’s copywriters.”
Happy Monday to you.
I was talking with a young, talented producer at a major (Big 5) international ad agency last night. You would kill to have this 24 year old (24 YEAR OLD!!!) on your staff. As a way of checking in on that state of things, I asked him to describe his typical day.
Fasten your seat belts.
He gets in two hours before the “creatives.” He starts to answer the almost 200 e-mails he’s got in his in box from the past NIGHT! He starts to chart on the eight or nine projects he’s working on. (Not like in the good old days, he says, a year and half ago when he started, when he could work on one project at a time.)
What kind of projects? I ask.
A couple of radio productions, a few websites in various stages of design and wireframe, some web banners, putting some reels together for a big new business pitch, re-cutting some old TV spots, bidding out some new ones.
Does this kid have time to eat? Much less take a “bio break?”
The reasons are clear. The agency, which shall not be named, has shrunk. More work is being piled on. Even the once untouchable art directors and copywriters are supposed to be able to play almost any position on the field — from radio to TV to web to print to promotions.
He did mention they do have some kind of bar, or some way to get drinks in the afternoon, around 4.
They need it.
(Although, to be fair, it does remind me of my days when I was running my own shop after I left the cocoon of major agency-dom.)
More on this topic later…I’m exhausted just remembering it…
I hate to keep harping on this big data thing. I know it can add clarity and understanding and in our completely interconnected interwebs world it is often the only way we can have any sense of what’s going on.
But I’m here to tell you that big data can also be used as an excuse NOT to act. There are always more numbers to get. There are always more scenarios to evaluate. We will know more in a week. A month. A year. An hour. Five minutes.
Sometimes you have to just do something. I remember picking up a very useful expression from someone, “that client is wearing a belt and suspenders.” What’s it mean? It means they are beyond cautious. They want too much validation. And they look nerdy and ugly and dumb too.
(Now, let me very very clear on this — that was for a long lost client from a million years ago who is out of business, no relation to anyone living!!!)
At any rate, as someone else said, paralysis by analysis.
Hey, sometimes you just gotta throw the pitch. See if the other guy swings. See what happens.
But, alas, the blanket of numbers is too often a security blanket we won’t let go of. And in the meantime, a world of opportunity could be passing us by. Oh, and we look real nerdy too.
I’m just sayin…
And, what’s more, these days it’s where and when you say it too. Is your message for Tacos more relevant on a mobile phone or as a tweet? Does a political solicitation get more traction at four in the afternoon, or does it connect more with people who are surfing the internet at 4 in the morning when they can’t sleep?
Big data can tell us this. We can follow patterns of behavior that show us the strange and wonderful ways that people act — at least when dealing with a screen — and that can inform us about PAST BEHAVIOR.
But that’s not the final be all and end all. Or as they are forced to say in the investment ads, “past performance is no guarantee of future results.” Add where and when people connect with where and when and how and, most important, why they’ll act. Tomorrow.
And the crazy thing. We can’t know. The suspense, and promise, of the next thing is what keeps us going. So use data to uncover unexpected behavior patterns (for example, something like, “why do so many hunters in the Great North Woods buy Avon ‘Skin So Soft’ hand cream?*)
But use planning, and strategy, and guessing, and heart, to change the way people behave tomorrow.
* The answer on the Skin So Soft question: The stuff scares the hell out of mosquitos! Go figure.