What’s Wrong With Algorithms?

Bill Bernbach

In 1947, two years before Bill Bernbach opened Doyle Dane Bernbach he wrote this:

“There are a lot of great technicians in advertising. And unfortunately they talk the best game. They know all the rules. They can tell you that people in an ad will get you greater readership. They can tell you that a sentence should be this short or that long. They can tell you that body copy should be broken up for easier more inviting reading. They can give you fact after fact. They are the scientists of advertising. But there’s one little rub. Advertising is fundamentally persuasion and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art.”

Today’s marketers might want to print out these 97 words and tape them to their office walls.

They’re a reminder.

Advanced techniques in computational sciences have yet to produce one thing that’s key for marketers.

Persuasion.

 

 

 

What’s Better Than an Advertising Award?

A million years ago Doyle Dane Bernbach had the Mobil Oil account.

Their ads, focusing on driver safety, didn’t read like ads.

They read like public service announcements.

Nothing in the category had ever reflected public safety so strongly.

A stunning advantage for a company selling gasoline.

The long copy convinced you Mobil wanted to be a guardian of your safety.

People liked that.

So the ads were read and read.

Everyone talked about them.

A wag we know suggested offices should have installed additional watercoolers.

That way more people could have gathered around them to yak on about the ads.

The art director Len Sirowitz said that the newspapers called the agency with a request.

The ads were so good, they explained, they wanted to run them for free.

Sounds better than an advertising award, doesn’t it?

 

Irredentist. Does That Describe You?

Irredentist. Is that some special kind of dentist?

What’s an irredentist?

It came up the other day.

A non-native English speaker in the next office wanted to know.

She’s forever curious to learn.

Does it have something to do with drilling teeth?

We looked it up.

Irredentism is reclaiming and reoccupying lands you believe belong to you.

It’s re-establishing your control over a territory.

In 1982 Argentina’s junta demanded the Falkland Islands back from Britain.

That’s irredentism.

Of course, Mrs. Thatcher thought otherwise.

She sent the fleet to the South Atlantic and sunk the battleship General Belgrano.

Bad luck for the Argies, but understandably everyone wants back what they feel belongs to them.

Including creative people in ad agencies.

Many want to re-take control from business types, financial gurus and planners.

Reason for that comes down to holding company supremos and agency business managers. They seem to be chasing what clients say an ad agency should be instead of defining it.

Misguided, right?

Shouldn’t an ad agency’s identity be driven by brilliant strategies and creative work?

Instead, you get the feeling agency CEOs are often hamstrung fighting rearguard actions against improprieties.

Like supposed over-billing on digital advertising.

Like complaints from marketing companies having to pay for online ads that consumers don’t see. (Is it only robots who see them?)

Like Facebook’s admission last year. They inflated the average time people spent watching video ads.

Plenty of grumbling on those points, but what about great creative work, when will it make a resurgence to become the talking point?

Not soon enough according to some, like the Ad Contrarian Bob Hoffman.

Have a look at his presentation ‘Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New Jersey’. http://bit.ly/2pUl8cA

Others critical of drab work and mistakes marketers make (like ignoring the most lucrative demographic today: the over 50s) say we’re writing for search engines, not people … search engines that can’t detect emotion, subtlety, irony or humor.

You often hear gripes about that in seminars that go something like this : ‘too many strategies have no force of personality’.

‘Too many ads are dim and wearily familiar.’

Ads like that are the daydream of those who haven’t bothered to read about, understand and use tested advertising methods.

Equally, more than a few marketers take direction from only one source: themselves.

That kind of insularity ensures you’re limited to what’s merely passable instead of what’s exceptional.

One wonders, how do you get away with creative work that’s fallen off a cliff when it comes to anything emotional, gripping and breakthrough?

With ad agencies, isn’t brilliance supposed to be compulsory?

If your selling message isn’t read, what hope do you have of making an impression, let alone a sale? Bill Bernbach was of that mind.

But a new kind of ad agency could help.

Especially if it’s an irredentist one.

 

 

 

The Aztecs Were Shortsighted. Some Marketers Are The Same.

It was here, but it vanished. The Aztec empire.

You may know a bit about the Aztecs.

National Geographic has had more than a few articles on them.

Then there are the conquistador movies. Netflix has some.

If you studied the Aztecs at school you know human sacrifice featured in a big way.

Chests were slit open with obsidian knives and still beating hearts were plucked out to be held aloft to appease the gods … there’s an image for you.

The ritual was to ensure the crops flourished and women didn’t die in childbirth.

Something about it must have found favor with the gods as the Aztec empire was no small affair.

It was a union of three powerful city states controlling Mesoamerica in the 15th century.

Still, the civilization was defeated quickly with the arrival of the conquistadors.

Surprisingly enough it was only a small force, less than 700 soldiers.

Anthropologists tell us the collapse was the result of naiveté about war. A blindness to a more worldly, European view of battle.

The Aztec approach was to take prisoners — that was the measure of victory.

The more prisoners the better as captives were needed for human sacrifice.

Call it a cultural necessity

But against the Spanish it led to a bloodbath.

Aztec beliefs blinded them to the menace.

Which brings us to the way some marketers can be vision-challenged.

That stems from seeing technology as a silver bullet, the answer to all their problems.

Of course, gee-whiz delivery systems, new platforms and big data are a breakthrough, but less so when they blind you to the importance of ideas.

Shouldn’t ideas come first if you expect to change minds and win hearts?

Without ideas messaging is a about as effective as a dog with no nose.

There’s little chance a hound like that will hunt.

More to that, why invest in technology when the messaging you deliver can only intensify boredom.

That has to be mush-headed and self-defeating, right?

We regularly hear what’s needed is persuasion.

But what about brilliance, shouldn’t that be compulsory?

It was in the past.

We’re talking about a level of brilliance that comes with messaging that’s strong on wit, charm and reasoned arguments.

Without that you’re left with little more than a disagreeable intrusion.

So, do you know marketers who can’t see past technology to realize ideas are key?

If so, tell them they have a problem.

Like the one that undid the Aztecs.

 

Good News For the Police and the Public.

smart is different. That’s reflected in the way the name is spelled with a lower case ‘s’.

Good news for the relationship between the police and the public.

It comes via an ever more popular car, smart.

As you may know, the NYPD drive smart cars.

250 Went into service in 2016. 29 more are on order.

For Manhattan, what could be better.

Size alone gives police officers newfound agility and convenience.

If only the US Treasury Department minted something smaller than a dime. That way you could describe the coin smart can turn on.

Maneuverability is akin to a blob of mercury you can pour through the tightest angles.

And the design deserves hurrahs.

At the heart of the car is a steel cage that’s a wonder of engineering when it comes to protecting occupants. Life-saving stories abound.

We have Mercedes-Benz to thank for all this. smart is their baby.

Oddly enough Mercedes-Benz parentage doesn’t seem to be common knowledge in the States.

Yes, we’re praising smart to the skies, but maybe its greatest advantage has been wholly unexpected.

Somehow as smart drivers the cops seem friendlier and  approachable.

Overnight, law enforcement has become more sensitive than brutal.

Remarkably, the public have developed something of an affection for the police thanks to the smart image.

Well, cute describes it.

More to that, it has prompted dialogue between the law and the public. Suddenly you have cooperation and understanding.

There’s a turn up for the books.

When presented with a $115 fine for double parking, a new respect for the cops might even get you to say ‘thank you very much, sir’.

It’s said the car you drive says a lot about you.

smart proves that.

It proves it to the point law enforcement agencies nationwide might want to take a lesson from the NYPD and buy smart cars.

How smart would that be.

 

What’s Better Than An Advertising Award?  

In the 1960s Doyle Dane Bernbach had the Mobil Oil account.

Their ads didn’t read like ads.

They read like public service announcements.

Nothing in the category had ever reflected public interest so strongly.

The long copy convinced you the company wanted to be a guardian for your safety.

People liked that. So the ads were read and read.

Everyone talked about them.

The art director, Len Sirowitz, said the newspapers called the agency with a request.

The ads were so good, they explained, they wanted to run them for free.

Sounds better than an advertising award, doesn’t it?

 

Kick Yourself If You Miss This Exhibit.

1938 Talbot-Lago T150C-SS Teardrop. It's from the ‘Rolling Sculpture, Art Deco Cars From The 1930s and ‘40s’ exhibit at the North Museum of Art in Raleigh. Built by the French company, Automobiles Talbot SA.
1938 Talbot-Lago T150C-SS Teardrop. It’s from the ‘Rolling Sculpture, Art Deco Cars From The 1930s and ‘40s’ exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. Built by the French company, Automobiles Talbot SA.

Yes, boot yourself more than once if you can’t get to North Carolina in the next few weeks — up until January 15th.

Stunning Art Deco motor cars await you in Raleigh’s North Carolina Museum of Art.

Fourteen shining examples, in fact, along with three motorcycles.

‘Rolling Sculpture, Art Deco Cars From The 1930s and ‘40s’ … that’s how this show is titled.

Go along and you’ll understand that gasping with appreciation isn’t discouraged.

We heard more than a few people audibly catch their breath. It’s that good.

Uncontained enthusiasm brought total strangers together to discuss the merits of the cars, streamline design and the crying shame that the era for these beauties has passed.

More than iPhone photography, Edsel Ford’s 1934 Model 40 Speedster had the Nikon brigade snapping shots from every angle. A serious attempt to capture all the art represents.

At shoelace level one enthusiast lay on the floor to capture a dramatic view of the 1938 Hispano-Suiza H6B ‘Xenia’.

Another was on both knees to shoot the 1933 Pierce-Arrow. Silver Arrow model.

For a preview of the cars and motorcycles here’s a link: ncartmuseum.org

Pictured above is a 1938 Talbot-Lago T150C-SS Teardrop.

Stunning only begins to describe it.

Ten years back a T150C-SS Teardrop sold at auction for $3,905,000.

Note the rich, earthy red color that completes a two-tone presentation.

We’re thinking it might have been inspired by the ancient Egyptians.

Reason for that lies with Howard Carter’s 1922 discovery of the intact tomb of Tutankhamun.

On the heels of the King Tut find ancient Egyptian art electrified the world.

It dominated the jazz age and carried on to the 30s and 40s.

Art Deco, in everything from jewelry to motor cars and skyscrapers like the Chrysler Building, was heavily influenced.

The famous Tutankhamun death mask features geometric lines with the earthy red color you see on the Talbot-Lago.

More than that it’s a color that runs through Egyptian art.

Was there a chance the head of Automobiles Talbot SA, Antonio Lago, was swayed by Howard Carter’s discoveries?

Many of his cars feature that earthy red.

The way it combines with the deep, rich silver paintwork is  …

Well … you finish the sentence with your own superlatives after you see the show.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heroic Failures.

3500 Kilometers of racing. That's the Tour de France.
3500 Kilometers of racing in a space of three weeks with almost 200 riders. That’s the Tour de France.

The Tour de France.

Strange as it may seem the rider who finishes last wins a kind of notoriety.

He’s awarded the title of the Red Lantern, which refers to the lights on the last car of a train.

It’s kudos for a heroic failure.

Another heroic failure is Eddie the Eagle. Michael ‘Eddie’ Edwards to be exact.

As you may know, he represented Britain in ski jumping in the 1988 Olympics.

Untrained and with no skills for flying like an eagle, Eddie often bumbled down the ski jump track to land at the end with a splat.

In spite of finishing miles behind the other jumpers he became a celebrity.

Credit that to the fact that while he had no talent, he had pluck. Tons of it.

On to poetry and The Great McGonagall, as William Topaz McGonagall was known.

He aspired to be Poet Laurate of Great Britain.

His dedication to the art of poetry was immense but he was hopeless as a writer.

Bad only begins to describe his verse.

The title, The Great McGonagall, was ironic. A glaring contradiction.

As a poet he was judged to be the worst ever.

On visiting New York in the 1880s McGonagall wrote:

Oh mighty City of New York! you are wonderful to behold,

Your buildings are magnificent, the truth be it told,

They were the only things that seemed to arrest my eye,

Because many of them are thirteen storeys high.

Call it doggerel; these lines consign McGonagall to the heroic failure category.

One more heroic failure … or a possible one.

With drinks after work recently some of us felt ad agencies could become the next heroic failures.

Certainly the agency-client relationship isn’t what it once was.

While agency CEOs aspire to be invaluable to their clients, Facebook, Google and Apple appear to be eating their dinners.

Madison Avenue could be losing ground to Silicon Valley.

As a result a number of creative people have already jumped ship from agencies to work for companies like Apple and Samsung.

Our group decided it might be smart to send a resume along to Jonathan Ive, Apple’s driving force for creativity and design.

It could turn out to be a career-saving move.

A move that could save agency creatives ending up in a splat.

Like Eddie the Eagle.

 

 

 

Why Should There Be a Divide Between Marketing and IT?

It's hard to sneak up on a Zebra. They'll hear you and run.
It’s hard to sneak up on a Zebra. He’ll hear you and run.

Zebras. Their hearing is sharp. It’s highly acute to warn against approaching animals or people.

Giraffes. Necks that go up and up forever lead to long-range vision to detect trouble before it can get dangerously close.

 Zebras and giraffes are wholly different but they often herd together.

 It’s thought they cooperate to guard against being attacked and eaten by lions.

 One group acts as an alarm system for the other.

 Read about this in On Trails by Robert Moor. Your interest will be rewarded on every page.

 On the subject of cooperation (and its opposite), in more than a few companies we’ve worked with there are two different animals.

 Marketing and IT.

 You don’t need me to tell you they come from dissimilar worlds.

 They think differently, they’re educated differently, their goals are unalike and they often exist in silos.

 Actually, at times those silos can be more accurately described as fiefdoms.

 Instead of working to advance the overall performance of a company, Marketing and IT often compete.

 Who’s more effective, who’s more valuable … those questions underlie battles for supremacy.

 To hell with the overall progress of the organization.

 It’s estimated billions are lost with strife and inefficiency that kills communication.

 What’s a CEO to do?

 Could education be the answer?

 Maybe marketers need to become geekier. Maybe they should hit the books and benefit with tech learning.

 Justly, maybe IT needs to read into the wee hours, as well.

 Maybe they can learn more about brands, product differentiation and ways to create the moment someone buys.

 Let’s hope there’s a way for marketing and IT to come together to ditch the silos and support one another.

 Because failing to do that opens the door for one thing.

 Competitors who pounce like hungry lions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those in Decline.

Glenda Jackson
Glenda Jackson

Drinks after work are revealing when it comes to personal opinions.

Recently we heard complaints about both young and older people ad agencies.

‘Young people in the business are not trained to a high enough level. Few know how to write.’

That got an affirmative nod.

‘Yeah, tell me about it’, one guy said. He’s fairly young himself, but successful.

Then seniors were in the crosshairs.

Energetic, open-minded, risk-taking, provocative — not!

More to that, we heard, ‘those in more senior positions are in decline and s%!t when it comes to effecting change.’

‘Pass 50 and you’re passed it.’

A bit harsh, of course, but maybe it was the Jack Daniels talking. In any case, someone said it’s no wonder clients are unhappy with agencies and business is shifting to consultants.

The thing is, why complain if you don’t have a solution. It’s just ear bashing.

So, how about better training programs? They’re bound to help young art directors, writers and account people. Agencies could invest more in courses to bring staff further along.

But what about seniors, those who could be well set in there ways and not exactly open to change.

The imperative could be ‘remake yourself, make a clean, new start’.

It’s easier said then done, but a model for that is Glenda Jackson.

Remember Glenda Jackson?

The great actress is coming out of retirement to play King Lear in an Old Vic production.

A woman in the King Lear role is intriguing as a re-imagination of Shakespeare.

But gender swapping is not unheard of in Shakespeare productions.

Women have played Hamlet.

And in the role they’ve come across as virile, manly and tough. Especially Sarah Bernhardt who played the role in Paris and London in 1899.

We’re wondering if a man could play Joan of Arc as well in George Bernard Shaw’s play Saint Joan.

Chances are you know Glenda Jackson’s work. Academy Awards for Best Actress, Emmy Awards … the list of her abilities is as long as your arm.

But imagine giving all that up to follow your political convictions.

Jackson did just that.

She retired from acting to stand for election to the House of Commons in 1992.

She became Labour MP for Hampstead and Highgate, served as a shadow minister and was appointed as parliamentary under secretary of state by Tony Blair.

No doubt we’re forgetting half a hundred other accomplishments including railing against Margaret Thatcher’s policies in order to redress the problems of unemployment.

Now Glenda Jackson is back.

She opens as King Lear on October 25th.

For those in decline, here’s a thought.

The Old Vic box office is open. So fly to London.

It’s bound to be inspiring, motivating and more to head for the Old Vic to see Glenda Jackson stage.

She’s a living example that you don’t have to be in decline and s%!t past 50.

Did we 50? Glenda Jackson is more like 80.