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Benefit Shoveling.

Most marketers speak in tongues.  What does that mean?  They shovel benefits by the pound. The reason the word “narrative” is so commonly used in ad and digital circles today is because a narrative, by its nature, puts the shovel down.  A narrative is a story with beginning, middle and end. If a good story it will have a message, a moral and funnel the reader toward a conclusion. 

Over this past week, I heard myself talking about teachable moments. Or learnable moments.  A learnable moment is when the light goes off in the listener’s brain.  When the listener hasn’t been wallpapered with benefit statements, and comes to their own conclusion.  Learnable moments stick with consumers, it sticks. If the marketer is the teacher, they get the credit. Trust ensues. As does a smidgen of loyalty.

As a kid in the business I wrote an article for Adweek (never submitted) that suggested print ads are only read if they show something you have never seen, tell something you didn’t know, or shared something truly beautiful. Narratives that accomplish these objectives can be powerful selling tools.  A narrative that doesn’t pass this litmus not so much — but it still has a better chance as a brand building device than does a shovel filled with benefits. Peace.


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Check out this video of the Cut and Paste digital design competition in NYC in October. It is the best single promotional video I’ve seen for getting high school and college kids to get into commercial web design.  The beats, the fashion, the story all serve up the craft of digital design brilliantly.  If you don’t like rap and you don’t like the city and you don’t like brew, you can still get into this vibe.  It’s real and it’s tomorrow. I’m not sure that this Cut and Paste competition was tasked as a recruitment tool and frankly before the recession there were a lot more these type of digital throw down parties but, hey, R/GA, Razorfish and Rockfish, forget the recruiting tents, beer cozie circuit at campuses and get behind Cut and Paste because this is the haps.

 Look into these kids eyes.  This isn’t staged “Put your hands in the air!” crap.

If you read the comments on Agency Spy, Adweek or Ad Age, you’ll know many agency people are jealous, angry, envious and delusional.  Even before online comment pages, the business was infected by malcontents. (And with many out of work, the business they love to hate is filled with even more vitriol.)  But Cut and Paste gives me hope. The next gen of beanie-wearing, skinny jeaned design acolytes are pretty excited and pumped.

We need more of this.  Give people something they love and the won’t work a day in their lives.  Coding at 2 the light of a Red Bull machine may not be glamorous, but this vid points toward the prize. And as my chillens used to say “I yike it.”  Peace. 

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A good brand planner has to love his or her brands. With that love in hand the planner can spend enough time and mental capital to really get close.  Past the label. Past the brand manager’s bias.   That means seeing a brands warts. Knowing the warts and working around them are the goal.  Consumers at their very core love patterns and predictability, but they also like new and optimism.  Have you ever tasted lettuce grown in your own garden?  It tastes better, no?  That because you want it to taste better. Optimism.

In the advertising business there are a lot of people who live on snark.  Creatives don’t like clients who don’t buy their work.  Managers don’t like people who can’t make decisions or won’t follow directions. No one likes those who are focused on the broken not the fix.  Have you ever read the comments following an Adweek story?  There is so much envy and loathing it’s scary.  

But brand planners have a nice job. A Zen job. To do it well  they need to like consumers  — to watch and listen. To find the love.  But don’t advertising it.  Are you listening Blackberry and Subaru.  Peace!

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In a TED video I watched yesterday on the state of education, Sir Ken Robinson mentioned something pretty profound. He said most people are often “good at something they don’t really like doing.”  His point being, that mom-ism, “If you do something you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”  His broader point was students today are broadcast to, not engaged, and that’s why education is in such a sorry state.

Broadcast Selling.

I was mowing the lawn last night and thinking about this as it relates to advertising and marketing.  With media exploding into more and more, always-on devices (ding-a-ling, Good Will on the phone), and those devices containing advertising, the bombardment of selling is growing exponentially.  Moreover, that selling is being done by more craft-less people, creating the advertising equivalent of fast food — poorly constructed and not good for you. (Ads by SEO kids, videos by moms.) 

How to sell.

As a young ‘un in the ad business I drafted an article for Adweek that suggested people read ads to be: educated, entertained or to see something they’ve never seen before.  I think this still applies. We are so inundated with selling messages today we shut down.  Ingest too many antibiotics and you become immune.  Hear the word “quality” too many times and you become similarly immune. 

Our Job

Our job as marketers is not to say the same things with new messaging devices, it’s to educate, entertain and present the artful unseen. (In the 70’s my dad Fred Poppe used to call this “engagement.”)  Engagement starts with getting someone to let down their message defenses. My ramble.  My peace!  Happy 4th.

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In a recent blog post, Paul Gumbinner, a friend and advertising recruiter, suggested NY unemployment in our sector is around 15%.  At one point I read there are 275,000 advertising jobs in NY which suggests about 40,000 are on the beach.

Between that, reduced budgets and digital and earned media shops rightfully requiring pie, one can safely say there has been a retrenchment in the ad biz.  As hard as it is to say, it has improved the business. The work product of ad agencies is improving; it’s more creative, meaningful, idea-based and friendlier — with the exception of all those ads about hitting on the Super Bowl.  Even the new work out of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese’s new agency Crispin Porter seems more wholesome. Roots! (Perhaps it’s all the bicycles and mountain air in Boulder.) And if you are watching a good TV spot and smiling, there’s a good chance you’re watching something from JWT. Quite a renaissance for them.  

It seems that all the pink slips got rid of many marginal players and a ton of haters.  The latter group can now be found commenting on Adweek and Ad Age posts.  Disruption (sorry Mr. Dru) has given way to heartfelt selling and that’s a good thing.  Money is creeping back into agency pockets and human resources calendars fill up — let’s hope we hire higher up the food chain. Peace.  

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I came across a great 2010 predictions article this morning, though I had to find it by reading John Durham’s wall on Facebook (John is a principle of Catalyst:SF a haps dig. co.), which pointed me to a IAB SmarBriefs piece, that directed me to, of all places, Adweek. Can you say circuitous? Here’s the piece.

Anyway, it made me think about doing a couple of predictions of my own.  (RIP William Safire…I loved your yearly predictions with the multiple choice answers.)

 Here are my predicktions:

  •  The Dachis Group will be purchased by a big consulting company. Capgemini perhaps.
  • Razorfish will snap out of its post-Microsoft “Where are my stock options?” malaise and see mad growth fueled by traditional brand business.
  • Iran will continue to revolt and the Iranian gov’t will buy Twitter.
  • Pete Doherty will clean up, become a father and get hit by a bus of tourists.
  • Gareth Kay’s name will make it to Goodby’s stationery.
  • BBH will lose the Cadillac pitch because of a dream someone at GM had.
  • The economy will show signs of real life by the time the leaves pop.
  • Brand strategy will make a comeback following tactics-palooza.  
  • A teenage with a vowel in her name will emerge as the next Mark Zuckerberg.

 Peace it up!

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