Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Almost Famous

I saw this little thing on Rm 116 and it reminded me of a story:

Jeff spoke at Adweek's creative conference a few years ago and talked about making yourself Al qaeda famous - do one big thing that people will remember forever. He used the bombing of the World Trade Center as an example of that kind of fame. And he used a picture of Bin Laden as an example of an effective brand.

It was controversial, especially in a crowd of creatives, many of whom were probably no strangers to the tragedy. But what else would you expect from Jeff Goodby? Pie graphs?

It was a good illustration of being consistent, going big, and making an impact. But further, it's an illustration of the fact that advertising is a seige. It's a seige on consumers who used to take it for granted that they could poop in a restroom without being bombarded with a message. People used to take it for granted that they could get on a plane with toothpaste in their carry-on. And they took it for granted that advertising happened on billboards and TVs, but never ever happened at their kid's school.

The rules have changed. Just as we've gotten used to taking our shoes off as a necessary evil of flying from Dallas to St. Louis, not just from Dallas to Afghanistan, we have also gotten used to Spam filters and Tivo and registering with phony emails. Who doesn't have a phony email address so they can register for all the crap they have to register to see and do online? Mine gets 50 messages a day from things I subscribe to for the content, but refuse to read the junk. In fact, I lie on all that shit too - because I'm paranoid.

So yeah - it's hard to be famous in advertising anymore because there are 6000 channels on TV and no one wants to watch the commercials (Jeff Goodby, unfortunately, didn't do ALL of them. The crap that airs during your typical syndicated "Everybody Loves Raymond" is about eye-gouge good - except for those Geico spots. Funny.) It's also hard to be famous when fame immediately means people put up a new barrier. The shocking gets less and less shocking. The moral lines get trampled as marketers look for ever diaappearing new means to reach people.

A lot of new communication tactics aren't terrorist-famous-big because they are trying to engage specific consumers. They sound like your uncle Larry, not like Johnny Carson. They may appeal to me but not to my coworkers, my boss, my wife, or my mom.

I love a brief that tells me I'm talking to 18-21 year olds. Or 56 year old golfers. And I love being marketed to like I'm the only guy on the planet. That's okay with me. I like feeling like an individual sometimes. Especially if it comes across as genuine, like really good customer service, not like a handwritten font and a machine-licked stamp.

I'm a big fan of permission marketing. You get people to ask you for it. You give it to them. And you DON'T put their email on a fucking database and then spam them for three years and sell your lists. Shut up. Everybody does it. Everybody knows it. Everybody has learned to protect themselves from it. And now we have to come up with a new way to talk to those people who have been burned before.

So yeah - maybe that's You Tube. I'm damn sure more likely to open a video sent to me by Marco than from Snapple. And I'm damn sure more likely to take a car from Dallas to St. Louis if it means I don't have to submit to a cavity search and a barium enema before getting on an airplane.


Jetpacks said...

Like you said,

"I like feeling like an individual sometimes. Especially if it comes across as genuine..."

Or, to put it another way - you like truth. We hide from the advertisers because they are usually lying to us or hiding something up their sleeves.

Fame without truth is a pretty fleeting thing. Hit people with truth and they remember you.

Lori Witzel said...

James H -- thanks for the link!

Hope your weekend provides fun, as well as one or two more things to rant about in your fine way.

May I link back?
Would help me remember to stop by more often.

Ad fame? Feh.
Meaning, not celebrity, that's the midnight train I prefer.

Make the logo bigger said...

I just prefer to hit people, but that’s just me.


Same attitude from the Saatchi creative on a campaign from New Zealand where they had a decal of a kid looking like he hit a windshield -- placed on windshields. Basically, while they considered an unintended audience like children might see it, it was necessary to shock the few who needed to - their parents and those who were contributing to the speeding problem around school areas.

In this case, I guess you need to break through when everything else fails.

James-H said...

JP - Not just truth, but the places you hit them with it - I think more and more, advertisers are forced to push personal boundaries in order to
be intimate. Even if it's true, it comes off as invasive.

LW - link away.

MTLB - I had a similar problem with an anti-abortion demonstrator who routinely displayed a 5 foot picture of a dismembered third-trimester fetus on a very busy road in Harrisburg. I guess that's his point - a couple kids are going to see it, but it's important in the greater scheme. I disagree. ESPECIALLY if it's important in the greater scheme, come up with a more compelling way to get people to listen to you - don't visually pollute just for effect and hide behind "breaking through." Over time, that results in more and more aggressive "breaking through" until we are being assualted with messages competing to shock and horrify. What kind of a culture does that create?