Enlightened Conflict

communications, advertising & the battle for truth

December 6th, 2016

 

everybody needs what i am selling deserve life

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“Forget words like ‘hard sell’ and ‘soft sell.’

That will only confuse you.

 

Just be sure your advertising is saying something with substance, something that will inform and serve the consumer, and be sure you’re saying it like it’s never been said before.”

 

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David Ogilvy

 

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“If you try to comprehend air before breathing it, you will die.”

 

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Mark Nepo

 

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“Seeking truth is a full time job.

Communicating truth is a purpose in Life.

Embrace that truth and your Life will be significantly more complicated, but significantly more rewarding.”

 

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Bruce McTague

 

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Well.

 

Communicating has always been a tough gig but in today’s world it has taken on liaran increased challenge.

 

I scan headlines in magazines and online and I cannot see one topic being discussed, one industry or any one group of influential type people that isn’t under attack by ‘lack of trust’ or, in other words, ‘liars.’

 

What that means is anything you are communicating isn’t starting from a commodity standpoint <all facts and truths are created equal> but rather you are already in a hole trying to climb out of ‘prove to me this is not a lie.’

 

Truth has never had a more difficult challenge than today. This may sound odd because common sense suggests truth is truth and, unvarnished, stands clear of any and all clutter as … well … truth.

Unfortunately that is not … well … true.

Truth, more often than not, is a wallflower and not the one breakdancing in the middle of the room. The schlub doing the crazy dance alone, being watched by everyone, is more likely a lie or a semi/partial truth. You have to coax truth to the dance floor. Someone has to bring it out into the audience and permit it to be seen.

 

Truth telling is hard work. It is not for the faint of heart. Seeking truth is a full time job <which most people, frankly, just do not have the time to do as they do their paid full time job>.

And communicating truth has to be a purpose in one’s life in order to meet the onslaught of untruths, purposeful ignorance, unintended ignorance, semi-truths and … well … cynicism.

 

To be clear.

 

I do not believe we are in some ‘post truth world.’

Nor do I believe what someone said “there are no facts anymore.”

 

Facts are facts and truth is truth.

There may be some confusion around this but … of all industries … advertising and marketing communications people had sure as shit better be fucking clear on this … or they are in deep shit.

 

Anyone in the professional communications business had better be absolutely fucking clear that communicating today ain’t like communicating yesterday … or they are in deep shit.

 

While I believe business, in general, benefits if they start on day one embracing the thought they are in the decommoditization business <rather than in the ‘uniqueness business’> I believe communications would benefit by embracing the thought they are in the ‘establishing truths’ business.

 

Look <part 1>.

 

Advertising, marketing and all of professional communications is in a challenging position. Challenging in that businesses spend money on marketing & advertising most typically to sell shit. Therefore its main goal is to … well … sell nothing in boxes business selling stuff capitalismshit.

 

This means that if I represent a product and its main buying audience is white, male & blue collar <or pick any demographically based segment> … I am going to use imagery and words that will appeal to them <sometimes to the detriment to other audiences who are less likely to buy your shit>.

 

Now.

 

Of course you want to do it with style and substance and some sense of responsibility <not be stupid>. So any advertising person with any chops <any good> will figure out a way of not doing the stupid shit to sell shit.

Even then … your audience is your audience and while we would like to suggest everything is made to be created with a larger purpose of ‘bettering the world’ … to a business who only has maybe $1000 to market something <or some finite budget amount> that $1000 is spent on selling shit and not ‘bettering the world.’

 

Simplistically … you sell to the people who will buy or have bought.

 

Simplistically … you sell to those people who will buy in the most effective way so that they will actually buy.

 

I say hat because someone on the outside looking in can take apart imagery & words and make some very valid points with regard to the kinds of messages they send … but marketing people & advertising people are under a lot of pressure to sell shit. And, remember, they are in the service business … they ultimately do not do anything but ‘strategically create persuasive creations’… and a business makes the decision on whether what they create will actually be produced and put in front of people.

 

And here is where the communications folk can get a little sideways. They focus on imagery & words & ‘attention’ with the intent to gain interest … not specifically sell shit. And they ignore truth as … well … too complicated & too complex. And it is quite possible we communications folk may have gotten away with that in the past, but in today’s world, sure as shit, you better be grounded in hard, clear truth or you are gonna get screwed.

 

Look <part 2>.

 

In the good ole days … truth was appreciated, but aspirational sold.

 

sell hope i canWell.

 

That was before we all got a good dose of cynicism and started drinking from the fountain of untruths.

Messages are everywhere and simply suggesting you were offering truth because “you’re too clever to fall for manipulation” gave people permission to at least think you were offering truth.

No more my friends.

While aspirational drives value, lack of truth suffocates value into nothingness.

This doesn’t mean there will not be a boatload of products and services who make a sale standing on the superficial surface of irrelevant, but appealing, value. But that will be the geography populated by the hacks.

This truth thing may not be a battle which some people want to fight. And that is okay. But someone has to or the entire industry will become … well … irrelevant. If no one tells the truth then why would I listen to anyone.

I, personally, am not suggesting ditching aspirational but I am suggesting that truth, communicating the truth in a away that people actually believe it is true, is the key to future success.

 

Look <part 3>

 

I have worked in and out of the marketing and advertising business for <yikes> over 30 years so I feel like I have some qualifications to comment on the industry.

 

Everyone on the outside of the advertising business looking in thinks those creating the advertising think about shit that … well … truthfully … advertising people actually never waste their time thinking about.

 

And everyone inside the advertising business thinks about more shit than people outside the advertising could ever imagine they think about.we all scream for the truth

 

Suffice it to say I could gather up examples of advertising using material over 20 years and make pretty much any point I want to make – good, bad, absurd, true, untrue, semitruthful, smart, insightful or blatantly uninsightful.

 

Anyway.

 

Here is a communications truth — perception is not reality.

 

The perception is that advertising makes shit up, makes stupid vapid shit and says nothing <as much as possible> and if they do say something it is a lie and, ultimately, they try and make people feel something <to sell>.

 

Nothing could be further from the truth <with the non hacks>.

 

The problem in advertising typically arises when the ad creators struggle to articulate the benefit <or convince themselves that it is ‘non differentiating’ and then seek to ‘differentiate’ in some form or fashion>.

 

It then can unravel from there because the ‘go-to’ phrase at this point in time is ‘do something brave’ … or ‘entertaining’ or ‘edgy’ <notice nowhere in there is “smart, insightful, thoughtful, truth”>.

 

Sure.

 

Great advertising messaging always is, and will be, imbued with some sense of courage.

 

Why?

 

Because if you want to be distinct you will not please everyone.

Because if you want to tell the truth you will not please everyone.

 

on-top-of-the-worldThe hack advertising people use the ‘do something brave’ phrase indiscriminately to justify bad advertising.

 

The good advertising people use this phrase to do something smart in order to not be different but stand ABOVE everyone else.

 

Yup.

 

Huge difference.

 

Hacks say ‘stand apart.’

 

Non hacks say ‘stand above.’

 

And this is where I imagine articles about advertising should focus their attention on.

 

Why doesn’t the advertising stand above <and not be below what is good & right & untrue>.

 

Advertising should be smart and not talk down to people but actually enable them to rise up to the occasion … and FEEL like they are rising up to engage with that brand or company.

 

Communications should be truthful, regardless whether it is simple or complex, and enable people to be able to FEEL truth in such a way that doubts about that brand or company are swept away.

few thinking and feeling

And it all has to be done with an eye toward ‘decommoditizing’ or being distinct in some meaningful way <because truth, in and of itself, is not a differentiator>.

 

Advertising cannot be dull and uninspired … and you cannot use a small budget as an excuse.

 

In fact … the truth is that a limited budget is typically what drives innovative advertising.

Yup.

Inspired smart creativity tends to make each dollar be more effective <hence you can live with a smaller budget>.

 

In other words … a smart, insightful, relevant, entertaining ad will be more memorable than a typical ‘category using sacred cow imagery’ ad therefore it needs to be seen less for the same effect.

 

Oh.

And if you add in ‘truth’ <in a way in which you aren’t just communicating it but people actually BELIEVE it>, your communications is more memorable, more believable, can be seen less for the same effect … and is, of course, of higher value.

 

By the way … smart means not any obvious photoshopping or any exaggerated ridiculous claims or just plain inaccurate information or anything fluffed up or untrue.

 

By the way … smart means avoiding stereotypes, typecasting and idiotic generalizations and lies.

 

Note to advertising people:

We can see through those slimy tactics. Realize consumers are people … people who are smart and informed.

Make me aware of a product.

Educate me.

Relate to me.

Tell me the Truth.

 

Regardless.

 

 ===

 

“A dull truth will not be looked at.

An exciting lie will.

 

That is what good, sincere people must understand. They must make their truth exciting and new, or their good works will be born dead.”

 

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Bill Bernbach

 

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Truth is truth.

 

Lies are lies.

 

Responsibility is responsibility.

 

And if you do not accept your responsibility to tell the truth as excitingly and politics lies and truth and repeatingconvincingly as you possibly can … lies will win.

 

If you choose to vulgarize the society or brutalize it … or even ignore it <all under the guise of ‘understanding what the consumer wants’> … society will lose.

 

I honestly do not despair when I look at business in today’s world … or even marketing & advertising behavior.

 

I get aggravated.

 

No.

 

I get angry.

I get angry that we are not accepting the responsibility.

I get angry that we are not strong enough to accept the burden.

I get angry that many do not even presume the responsibility is within their purview.

 

Business, whether you like it or not, shapes society. Business, whether you like it or not, shapes truth.

 

What we do matters.

 

Selling stuff doesn’t matter.

It only matters as a means to an end.

 

What really matters is the shaping of attitudes <which ultimately shapes behavior>.

 

Far too often by simply focusing on ‘selling stuff’ the byproduct of our ignoring the larger responsibility is that we brutalizing society in some form or fashion – in this case and in this time and place … it would be truth we are brutalizing.

 

Am I suggesting that selling stuff or being profitable isn’t important? Of course not.

 

All I am suggesting is that HOW you sell stuff and be profitable matters.

And that you have a responsibility in HOW you do what you do.

 

Because HOW you do things impacts society.

It shapes society. It can vulgarize or brutalize … or invigorate or instill good.

 

HOW you do things has a power way beyond simply you or what you do in that moment.

 

HOW you do things is a pebble dropping into a pond.

 

In the end.

 

I will not argue that all advertising is good.

I will not argue that all professional communications is good.

A lot of it is shit.

 

But I will argue that good communications & advertising people, not hacks, are smart and tend to create smart insightful educating communication pieces that avoid the trite and stereotyping imagery and focus on telling the truth, if not A real truth, rather than lie or some semi truth.

 

I would also argue that good communications & advertising people, not hacks, have the opportunity to save truth in today’s society.

telling-truth-piss-you-off

I think many of the world’s institutions are embattled but the one that concerns me the most is Truth.

The institution of truth is under siege.

I can honestly say I don’t think most who are attacking truth are trying to facilitate its downfall … most are simply unclear what is truth and what is not. I believe anyone in any position of influence should be proactively assuming the burdensome responsibility of telling and protecting truth <that will come at an expense> but today … I think the professional communications industry should be at the forefront of the battle.

 

Why?

 

They get paid to communicate. If they cannot figure out how to effectively communicate truth, who can?

 

They must … must make their truth exciting and new, or their good works will be born dead. Uhm. And lies will win.

seek_truth

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About the author:

I am a 50something who believes my generation hollowed out Truth by simplistically suggesting truth was best told through simplicity.

Truth is neither simple nor hollow.

I have had one framed picture in my office since maybe 2000: Seek Truth.

 

defining serial philanderer versus serial creep

October 14th, 2016

yes no hand statement 

 

Well.

 

Let me say this about Trump … because of this asshat I have had to have more conversations about guys, what we do and what we say, and don’t say, and why we do the things we do, or don’t do, then I have in years.

 

 

trump-not-all-men-are-like-thatOn October 9th I had to walk through what guys really don’t say in a locker room.

 

And what guys do say <and they don’t say any of the shit that Trump senior & junior imply we do>.

 

Today I felt the need to define the difference between a serial philanderer and a serial creep.

 

Now.

 

The Trump campaign is gonna do their damndest to blur the distinction the best they can.

 

Ignore the blurring.

 

I am gonna make it simple.

 

A father, husband, or any adult man knows the one guy you don’t trust around your wife, girlfriend/partner or … well … any woman. They are on constant low level “flirt status’ trolling for anyone who expresses even one iota of interest.

They are the ‘dogs’ who just want to sleep with any woman they can.

That guy is a serial philanderer.

 

 

A father, husband, or any adult man knows the one guy you don’t trust around your daughter.

That guy is a serial creep.

 

That was, and is, simple.

 

Now.

 

There is going to be a bunch of crap being thrown around to blur the discussion and to attempt to create some random equivalencies in order to attach Hillary to Bill <and inevitably> to Trump on this issue.

 

As Trump would say … “disaster” of a plan. ‘Poor judgement.’

 

A wife is a victim of a husband’s infidelity. Period.

 

A woman, all women, are victims of a creep. Period.

 

thinking inside head possibilities finiteBill. If we were to judge him thru a 2016 lens, versus whatever year lens we are trying to go back to, yes … he is guilty of .. well … I am not sure what he is guilty of.

He has faced allegations of which none have been proven in court <and the women , I believe, have had their day in court>. He had sex with a consenting adult <that is infidelity and not a crime>. So I guess in 2016 lens he would be viewed as a serial philanderer. But I also don’t remember him ever using the words Trump does nor do I ever remember him treating women in general as Trump does. Nor … which everyone seems to forget … do I remember Bill showing the overall pattern of disdain for people beyond women.

Regardless.

Adultery is adultery. On that issue both Trump and Bill were adulterers and philanderers.

Not a crime. Just a moral crime.

 

Trump. Here is Trump’s problem. He has been a bragging hyperbole driven lying asshole throughout this entire campaign. For the most part … everyone knows that he exaggerates everything. But. When you listen to the bus “grab & touch anyone I want” tape. And listen to what he says. And you combine it with everything else you have seen and heard … well … you sit back and go … whoa … that’s not exaggeration or sexist stupidity … I believe he actually does, and did, that.

 

Bill didn’t paw at women. He slept with them as an adulterer.

Trump not only was an adulterer but he took advantage of his position to touch, kiss and non consensually paw at women <while verbally demeaning them>.

That makes him a creep.

 

 

Hillary.

I don’t think she can say this <because she would be crucified> but I think she would say thru a 2016 culture lens she would have acted differently back in business context young old thinking smarterwhatever year that was. We view sexual assault <as well as many things culturally> differently now versus then <thankfully I may add>.

But that is a guess.

What I do know is that it is only hearsay that she did anything to the women. She stood by her husband as her husband lied to her. She stopped standing by her husband <speaking out against allegations against her husband> after he told her the truth. That’s kind of what wives do.

They are the last ones to know, the last ones to believe and the last ones left out there feeling & looking stupid. And that is why trying to tie her to her husband’s infidelity is a losing strategy. Women know that.

 

And to suggest she is an “enabler”? geez. That suggests she was the Madam for Bill’s whorehouse. On so many levels, mostly by simply viewing Hillary through a brainiac thought leader lens, that seems incredibly unlikely.

 

The biggest problem for Trump continues to be actually his biggest most effective strategy.

False equivalence.

 

As he did in the debate the other night he tried to diminish his sexist asshatedness by … well … comparing it to ISIS. Well, yes, he looks good in that equivalence.

 

Next.

 

What he does is to suggest that “well, he did it too” as an equivalence. That may work in 2nd grade but in the adult world individuals are responsible for their actions.

Period.

 

 

The last thing he, and his rabid surrogates, are masters at is ‘isolating an incident’ to create equivalence. He treats each asshat incident as a solitary event and finds an equivalence to diminish its importance <or heinousness>.

And you know what? If it were just one incident most of us would sit back and go “okay, you really aren’t an asshat … you just showed a moment of poor judgement.” But if you unbundle his isolation techniques and rebundle everything that he does, and has done, he shows an overall pattern of … well … being a heinous self-serving asshole bully who believes he deserves anything he wants … and if he doesn’t get it becomes a petulant rich kid focused on some revenge.

 

<the latter does not reflect anything I want in a president>

 

Bill was a good president who was an adulterer. He also seems like he was a public servant to, and of, the citizens of America <and not sexist>. Oh. And he married a headstrong independent smart woman.

 

Trump was an adulterer. A creep with regard to women overall. Sexist. And , in general, the worst type of soulless capitalist you can imagine.

 

Hillary will be a good president who was not an adulterer, did not divorce her husband despite his flaws, has shown no signs of being anything but an ambitious public servant woman … and married an incredibly smart articulate flawed man.

 

All flawed.

 

But not all flaws are equal.

 

Anyway.

 

As Michelle Obama just said in a fabulous speech yesterday … “Enough is enough.”

 

================

 

“We live in the real world, with real problems that need real solutions.

We need someone with pragmatic approaches that include patience and compassion. That is Hillary Clinton.”

 

Idaho Statesman, the state’s most widely circulated newspaper, criticized Trump as insufficiently reliable on conservative issues, or unreliable, period.

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A presidential candidate can’t say anything, and I truly mean ‘anything’, if its creepy <because no adult wants their son or daughter to be confused in thinking serial-obama-michelle-not-politics-as-usual-1of it as “wow, the guy who is running our country can say it … and think it … so why the fuck can’t I ??!!??”>.

That’s why a presidential debate is … uhm … well … there is no age limit to view it because they are supposed to represent what is the best of us <not the worst>. That’s why words matter.

 

This horrible Donald Trump event is much bigger than a political event. This is a cultural “education level event.”

Someone on twitter called this election ‘the Sweet Meteor of Death’ but I disagree.

 

Our first black president changed America. Anyone would be silly to not think that.

Our first female president will also change America. Anyone would be silly to not think that.

 

And the change occurs in some horrible public ways.

 

But not all change is equal.

 

Obama ran against decent human beings who competed based on ideas and hopes … not racism.

Clinton, a woman, is faced with a non-decent individual who is competing not on ideas … and certainly not positivism or hope … but instead is plucking every misogynist and xenophobic and sexist string anyone anywhere could play.

 

I read somewhere … we are witnessing what Obama’s 2008 campaign would have been like if Obama had been running against a George Wallace.

 

In this case we are witnessing the Mad Men masculinity campaign against the woman of the future.

 

This will define who and what we are as people.

 

I listened to Michelle Obama in New Hampshire on 10/13 <and I am truly speak the truthhonored Michelle Obama is our First Lady>.

 

“Trump’s comments about women have shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn’t have predicted.”

“This was a powerful individual speaking openly about sexually predatory behavior.”

 

“This is certainly beyond the basic standards of human decency.”

 

    This is not normal, this is not politics as usual. This is disgraceful, it is intolerable, and it doesn’t matter what party you belong to… No woman deserves to be treated this way – none of us deserves this kind of abuse.

 

“If Trump is elected we’re telling our sons it’s ok to humiliate women.” 

 

Me.

 

I do not like how Trump conducts his businesses competitively or organizationally … and I do not like how he conducts himself personally.

I do not believe this is who we are as decent people nor do I believe he represents who we are as a country.

And … paraphrasing our FLOTUS … I will not let anyone tell us differently.

Enlightened Conflict