In meeting rooms across the country, and the world (perhaps even the galaxy, it's highly unlikely we're alone), there are advertising "experts" sitting around huge conference tables, tossing out tired old clichés at each other.
"Well, have we done a SWOT analysis of this?"
"We need to nail down our top three target audiences. "
"Call research, ask for the demographics on this this, and arrange it by audience segmentation and likelihood of offer breakage."
"We can't think of the consumer right now, we have to think about selling this in to the CEO." (Another one that came straight from the horse's mouth)
"Let's amalgamate the opinions of everyone in the room, then put them in front of a focus group to break down our top three ideas."
"Data clears shows that 23 year old women with an income between $50-$70k, living alone, with a cat and 10 books on crocheting, will love this.
And so on. And so on. Pass the extra-strength ibuprofen, please.
These kinds of statements are why advertising has become so vilified in the last twenty years. In the eighties, if you said you were in advertising you'd get a positive reaction. These days, it's more akin to the look people get when they step in a steaming dog turd.
Are we becoming a bunch of empty suits and hipsters finding more and more ways to justify our salaries? And if so, what can we do about it?
How To Steer the Advertising Ship Back in the Right Direction
There are several things that you can do, right now, to make things better. Remember the episode of Seinfeld that had Elaine's boos cutting a candy bar with a knife and fork? Then Elaine did it. The George. Soon, everyone was doing it. It became viral. Yes, that was comedy, but you can elicit change by simply doing what you think should be done…as long as you do it with commitment.
1: Dump the Marketing Jargon (these days pronounced "margedding")
There is so much of it, and most of it is completely unnecessary. When we speak in this language, we start to act a different way. If you find yourself in a meeting where someone starts spouting phrases like those mentioned above, try and steer them in a different direction. Jargon is phony. Ask them to rephrase it in simple English. People don't speak like that, and people are your job. You don't advertise to "broad demographics," you picture one very specific consumer in your head and try to have a conversation with them. It's your mother, your aunt, a neighbor, someone at work called Jake, but it's not "24-36 year old males who like golf."
2: Awards are a Bonus, NOT a Goal.
If you start every campaign you work on with the attitude "this one will be an award winner" then you're doing the client, your agency and yourself an injustice. Advertising is not like competitive sports. The goal is not a medal. The goal is to create advertising that connects with the customer and sells a product or service. If the work you do is innovative, original, executed with perfection and has excellent results, well you will probably get an award. But that shiny gong should not be your motivation for doing the work. It will only lead to shallow thinking, derivative work and unhappy clients.
3: Remember Bill Bernbach's Little Piece of Paper
The next time you're throwing a raging fit because the client has asked for a change you disagree with, or the creative director is asking you to start over, remember the small piece of paper that Bill carried with him. It read:
"Maybe he's right."
It could be "maybe she's right" or "maybe they're right" but you get the point. Look at it again, but be objective. Are you fighting for your idea, or the best idea? They're not always synonymous.
Advertising was once an honorable profession. Remember why you actually got into it (hopefully not just for the money) and it could be again.