Advertising gripes from 1992

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There’s so much good stuff to cherry-pick from this 1992 Adweek piece on the demise of Fred/Alan. It jolted me into realising how silly we all are in thinking that the problems we have are strictly contemporary. Maybe that’s the polite way of saying we none of us know our history.

Somewhere along the way, Seibert says, agencies became “no different than a free-lance writer/art director team. The client set a strategy and gave it to them, and they fulfilled it. If the client didn’t like how they fulfilled it they gave it to another team. Then another. But that’s how a real partnership works.” The agency/client relationship has since taken on so many vendor-like traits, Seibert adds, it’s completely acceptable to “blow an agency off just because it doesn’t take you skiing.”

To my shame, this was the first time I’d heard of Fred/Alan. Their archive is fascinating – start with their positioning presentation for Comedy Central, a masterpiece in concision.

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Selling stuff

I’ve worked in advertising for six or so years and read and absorbed and listened to and watched a million and one theories about how to sell stuff to people.

There is no consensus and there is no silver bullet, which is why you have a million and one agency spiels, and a million and one marketing textbooks, and a million and one conferences, and a million and one schmucks like me desperately reading and listening to and watching a million and one theories in an infinite loop of pitiful ignorance.

Advertising often brings to mind the politician’s logical fallacy – ‘we must do something, this is something, so let’s do this’. You never really know if what you are doing on behalf of a brand is the right thing (despite the best efforts of testing companies) but marketing departments exist, so marketing must be done.

Which is why the cynic in me responded so positively to this piece on the state of the advertising industry today from Luke Sullivan. I particularly love this:

The most unusual thing a brand can do to show up on a consumer’s radar is to be authentic. To be real. To cut the bullshit and quit trying to hide the fact that you’re trying to sell them something. Be authentic. Talk about about your brand the way you would tell a friend. You wouldn’t lie. You wouldn’t exaggerate. You wouldn’t use exclamation points. You wouldn’t oversell. You wouldn’t “spin.”

You’d say, “Hey, check this cool thing out. It works pretty well. I bought one. Maybe you’d like it too.”

New film

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Some shots from the tail end of summer, trying, as ever, to capture the light. More here.

The Amazon repel

Some telling quotes from this no-holds-barred New Yorker piece detailing Amazon’s rise and its aggressive, data-driven business practices. At one point a decade or so ago, the company had a number of writers producing reviews and blurbs (before the days of the customer review). They briefly flourished but couldn’t compete with the algorithms:

Amazon was a megastore, not an indie bookshop, let alone a literary review, and its writers were under pressure to prove that their work produced sales. If a customer clicked on a review or an interview, then left the page without making a purchase, it was logged as a Repel. Marcus was informed that his repulsion rate was too high. “Nobody ever felt safe,” Fried said of her editorial colleagues. “I took home my Rolodex every day.”

By 2002, the home page was fully automated. (Today, eight editors select titles to be featured on the Books page, and if you scour the site you can find a books blog, Omnivoracious, but its offerings seem marginal to the retail enterprise.) Editorial content had served its purpose, just as selling books had served its purpose, and Amazon’s conquistadores galloped onward.

January

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(Each month I publish a round-up of my favourite shots on Instagram.)

Gladiator 2 – Christ Killer

Apparently Nick Cave wrote a script for a Gladiator sequel as a favour to Russell Crowe. Unsurprisingly, as you’ll see once you read what’s below, it was never made:

Maron: What was the story for the second Gladiator?

Cave: Well, that’s where it all went wrong. Very briefly, it was, I’m like, “Hey, Russell, didn’t you die in Gladiator 1?” He’s going, “Yeah, you sort that out.” So, he [Maximus] goes down to purgatory and is sent down by the gods, who are dying in heaven because there’s this one god, there’s this Christ character, down on Earth who is gaining popularity and so the many gods are dying so they send Gladiator back to kill Christ and all his followers. This was already getting… I wanted to call it Christ Killer, and in the end you find out that the main guy was his son, so he has to kill his son and he’s tricked by the gods and all of this sort of stuff. So it ends with, he becomes this eternal warrior and it ends with this 20-minute war scene which follows all the wars in history, right up to Vietnam and all that sort of stuff and it was wild.