We were gobsmacked by Jonathan Swift speaking in a podcast interview yesterday.
That’s the Anglo-Irish satirist we’re talking about, the 1667-1745 Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels.
Thanks to ChatGPT he comes alive, speaking about satire, religion, politics, economics and literature.
With that he’s no less than a charmer. And you learn an amazing amount.
Take a moment to see for yourself, here’s a link to the podcast, Conversations With Tyler. https://conversationswithtyler.com/episodes/
Click on the “Jonathan GPT Swift on Jonathan Swift” episode.
The interview is conducted by Tyler Cowen, a polymath and professor at George Mason University who has hosted something like 175 deep thinkers with engaging rapid-fire questions.
Cowen’s guests range from Barak Obama, Sam Harris and Ken Burns to Margaret Atwood, Malcolm Gladwell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Kwame Anthony Appiah, a philosopher at NYU and Karl Ove Knausgård, a literary sensation from Norway.
We should add: with guests like Katherine Rundell, Emily Wilson, Amia Srinivasan and Lydia Davis, Tyler Cowen feels his interviews with women are among the best.
To keep you on your toes, new episodes appear every other Wednesday.
Here’s how the Jonathan Swift podcast was put together.
Tyler Cowen rapid-fires questions and the responses are printed out by ChatGPT to be read by someone who may well be an actor.
Questions and answers are then combined to create a polished interview.
The result is machine learning that starts with a moral seriousness then progresses with wit, charm and sudden outbursts of humor – Jonathan Swift comes across as sharp, resourceful, charismatic and above all, current.
If only learning at school could have been as riveting.
Applied to advertising, agencies and their clients could benefit if the right questions were aimed at the ChatGPT personas of long-gone greats like Bill Bernbach, Howard Gossage and David Ogilvy.
That way some of the best minds in advertising could ensure we’re not dead when it comes to ideas.
The head-on collision of ad agencies and clients has been written up more than a few times.
You don’t need me to tell you there’s moaning on both sides.
The unease puts you in mind of McGregor vs Mayweather.
From marketers we hear agencies aren’t responsive to change, they haven’t diversified and they’re overstaffed with management types.
They gripe about ad fraud and whinge about agencies that charge like the proverbial wounded bull.
Moreover, marketers say agencies aren’t knowledgeable about business, agility is iffy and agency holding companies are focused more on quarterly returns for investors than on shaping the future for brands.
What’s all that if not bruising.
But it’s not as bruising as hearing the agency model is broken, that’s it’s dead.
From the other side, agency people say marketers are sidetracked chasing the latest tech.
We hear ad managers think tactics are everything. They’re wedded to fix-its, not strategy.
We hear the importance of brand purpose is overstated and digital technologies are seen as solutions rather than platforms to deliver content.
We hear fee cuts are a threat to agency viability.
We hear bureaucracies reign and those in Procurement lack marketing vision.
Equally, it’s said too many ad managers don’t know a creative idea when they see one and their briefs carry all the inspiration of an empty bookshelf.
Right enough there’s a rift, agencies and clients aren’t exactly chums.
Maybe we need an advertising and marketing version of Julian Assange to get to the bottom of it.
Only joking on that account but until we see something positive it’s the work that suffers.
We have to put up with drab content and ads that are wearily familiar.
You wouldn’t be wrong to call them advertising chloroform.
So, what’s the cure?
It might be an idea to quash the infighting and begin improving strategies and creative work.
Maybe more sales-focused marketers are required.
We’re thinking of CMOs like Sergio Zyman who was at Coca-Cola in the 90s.
When everyone thought you couldn’t sell more Coke — the market was saturated — he rose to the occasion.
Zyman increased sales by 50% worldwide over five years.
With that, the stock price went stratospheric. It quadrupled.
Where are the marketers now who are as shrewd, gritty and unwavering?
How about creative work?
Axe the conflict with clients and agencies might have a better chance to produce ads like this one for the Economist.
By putting a premium on engagement it’s winning the battle against creative boredom .
Not surprisingly the public loved it. You heard about it in pub conversations.
Work at this level changes the way ads are viewed, doesn’t it?
Instead of an intrusion, a billboard becomes a memorable part of your day.
There’s a turnaround for you.
Time spent studying great stuff, like the Economist, should blanket marketers and agencies with discomfort.
Discomfort about all the dreary efforts produced these days.
But maybe more agencies and marketers will rise above the bickering and do something about it.
PS. Sir Martin Sorrell exits.
Just read about it in an article by Tom Doctoroff. Don’t miss it: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/after-sir-martin-sorrell-reckoning-tom-doctoroff/
Docotoroff has a good point: ad agencies should be more than producers of low-end TV spots and print ads … the ones that do little to make brands less anonymous. Doctoroff says agencies should regain their value as a source of ideas. Because to improve and enlarge a brand they are the only place to attract both creative and strategic minds.
Some may quibble with that as there’s a case for say, the creative talent in Dyson’s in-house team. They’re strong.
But you can say the best agencies are active and imaginative in their approach – hugely so. They work to counter fixed outlooks. They go beyond conventional solutions in dealing with recurring problems. They question accepted thinking, they’re not just reactors, they have the creative ability to position a brand well beyond the reach of competitors. And they operate with an autonomy that’s rare in a corporate environment; they often give you a more searching view of your brand outside the four walls of your boardroom.
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.
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.
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.
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.