12/18/09

Advertising May Not Be the Highest Art Form, But It's the Best-Funded

I tell people I write ads and they kind of get uncomfortable. They don't know what to say; it's like I just confessed to torturing kittens for a living. But not all ad people are smarmy hucksters, you know?

The guy who stencils casino urls on the sweaty shoulders of boxers? Not me.

The one who clutters up your commute with hideous billboards bearing messages that amount to "made you look"? Not me either.

Whoever is making beer ads full of jiggling, bikini-clad narcissists, or packaged-goods commercials featuring the stereotypical slackjawed husband and the disgusted, but brilliant wife, or all those Axe ads that demean everyone involved, on both sides of the tv screen - I claim no responsibility for any of it.

I hate all that stuff at least as much as you do. (Even more, I'd wager. But not at GoldenPalace dot com, because I hate their stupid ads.)

I've been in this business over ten years now, which feels weird to say, but it's true. And the people I've met and worked with aren't interested in hijacking your attention with some sleazy promotion. We really just want to tell our clients' stories in the most interesting and compelling way possible. To cut *through* all that crap people *think* we do - using smart, considerate, useful messages that (naturally) stand out beautifully.

Yes, there are a few of us who are go-for-the-throat salespeople, and would gladly take the consumers and shake them upside down by their ankles until the change rained from their pants pockets, if they thought it was a "viable communications strategy," but they're the spurned rarity in most agencies I've worked with.

(In fact, while a lot of us, myself included, are really impressed with the cleverness of a recent restaurant's campaign called "Expenseasteak.com," which lets you forge receipts for business purchases like staples and copy paper so you can actually spend company money on lavish lunches at the client's eatery, a good many of us - myself included - think it's actually not advertising at all, but something else altogether. Like, oh, fraud.)

But I'd been waiting for an example of how real ad people think about the work they do, because I knew that without some kind of evidence it would probably sound more like I was just defending my livelihood and trying to justify all the mental mugging and kitten-torturing I really do all the time.

Moreover, I knew that hearing ad people talk about what they're doing as though it were art, when really it's just "some stupid ad for face cream," (just as an example) could sound pretentious and self-deceiving. And in truth, it kind of does.

But it's real, I tell you, and nowhere have I seen that made more evident than in this video. It's a gorgeous piece of filmmaking, done by devoted, talented folks who really wanted to put something beautiful in the world. And they did it, just to prove my point, on behalf of "some stupid face cream."

Otherwise, who would have paid for it? And paid for the tv time so you could see it? Nobody, that's who.

So even though, yeah, there's a logo and a product shot at the end of this, the point is (or can be seen to be) that we get to see something pretty for thirty seconds instead of something stupid. Something we wouldn't have gotten to see before. Because somebody cared about what they were making, and not just shaking the change out of your pockets.

And I say, if you're in the market next time and you need some face cream, you should consider getting this kind. These guys paid for something you liked. (Assuming you did like it, of course.) And next time you want to buy, oh, body spray, I think you should consider *not* getting the kind that paid for something you hated.

It may be a flawed model for consumership, and there are a lot of other factors that could and should play into a buying decision, but voting with your dollars is in my opinion a good start.

We get to participate in a form of modern-day art patronage, just by pulling something off a shelf at the megamart. Which sure beats being shaken down for our change.

Don't like the ads? Don't buy the stuff. Eventually, the manufacturer will make the connection and stop cluttering up the world with dumbness. (Unless everyone else likes the ads but you. It's a democracy, of course.)

And please remember that we aren't all out to get you. Some of us are trying to tell you something that could make your life easier or more enjoyable, the only two noble efforts there really are.

1 comment:

James said...

I think this is a pretty well rounded argument. I rail against working in this field from time to time myself. At times it does feel faked and forced and all other kinds of negative adjectives. But when you do get a chance to make something beautiful, you sit back and realize how nice it is to not be pushing papers. I guess I see it as a somewhat self serving profession. Maybe that is just the crux of being a creative? But to that end, we can't all be working in hospitals or food banks either. I'll stop rambling now...