Enlightened Conflict

television the future and advertising

September 29th, 2014

television is a place


“Most people gaze neither into the past nor the future; they explore neither truth nor lies.

They gaze at the television.”




“If television’s a babysitter, the Internet is a drunk librarian who won’t shut up.”


Dorothy Gambrell





Let’s discuss the death of television <once again>.


And even better>?




Death of television advertising.



<said sarcastically … or at least … cynically>



I will come back to how television advertising can really die <that discussion actually revolves around what would be called a crisis of creativity> but let me begin with the business side of television.


As in television and how it is viewed and paid for.


What we seem to forget when it comes to many things in life is that what we like, or what we want, has to be paid for in some way.


To date the tv shows and movies you like and pretty much every piece of entertainment you enjoy is paid for thru advertising <unless you want to pay a subscription>. You get all this great entertainment basically for free because advertising, and the advertisers, fund it.





I am not really smart enough to figure out the business model if you take away the advertising <because I am fairly sure the majority of people would gladly put up with advertising rather than pay a subscription for the gobs of entertainment at their fingertips … or put up with the gazillion telethon fund raisers like PBS does to avoid advertising content>.


But what I do know is that recently, Disney, which owns ABC, made a deal with Dish Network, the satellite provider, that, for the first time, will formally allow the use of technology to let viewers skip ads on ABC shows <albeit you cannot skip until 3 days after initial ABC showing>.


What this means is that media, marketers and culture are moving inextricably closer to a world in which video is wholly unhooked from advertising.


In fact … this creeping development has been one of the underlying themes of modern American media and cultural life. This means one of two things.


Either all these media moguls are really smart and believe TV and tv advertising will never go away <because they still have to pay for the development of all that content> or they have some future idea of how to generate revenue to pay for all the content <but they just have not told us what that is>.


What it really means is that TV isn’t dying but other content deliverers are playing a role.




SmartBaby answer

Here is what I do know about television viewers and all this business wrangling and angst over advertising … it won’t affect:



–          Appointment viewing <your favorite show … you will always want to watch it as soon as possible>




–          Special viewing <do not underestimate the power of ‘wanting to be cool and seeing something as soon as it happens’, i.e., see opening day of big movies ticket sales>.






What we seem to forget as we get wrapped up in all this advertising and ‘commercial avoidance’ debate is that this is more a cultural thing than it is a business thing.



On the business side, businesses and brands, while moving a lot of ad dollars into vehicles outside tv, ultimately face a bigger industry cultural crisis.


It is a crisis of unfortunate facts:



–          Digital media has an inordinate amount of limitations as a method of brand identification & building brand value <not understanding this is a sign of a lack of understanding as to what it takes to build some value in a company or a brand>. In other words … simply showing a logo and a call to action does not create brand value.



–          Sponsored content offers much less of a return than being a television participant.



May these things change some day?






But nothing, so far, has replaced, or even suggests it might someday be able to replace, the powerful combination of video <sight & sound>, a passive relatively focused audience and the ability to tap into a consumer desire creatively .



By the way. That is exactly what tv offers.



I imagine we all need to be thinking about what happens when there is no television advertising of any kind or what happens when even the most unassertive can easily skip even network television ads … but … here is what I know.


Any time there is a fundamental shift in how things are done in an industry a boatload of people will step up to the plate and say “of course … this is what you need to do <or “what will happen”>”.



They are guessing.



In the end a couple will be left standing saying ‘I told you so’ but deciding who they will be is as much a crap shoot as anything else. The Monte Carlo simulation as anything else.



So be wary of those who know the future and what you should do.



I’m surely not suggesting doing nothing … or not listening. But you have to make decisions based on what you believe is right for you and your business. Assemble some information … think about it … maybe discuss it with some likeminded <values & vision> people … but don’t do what any futurist <soothsayer> says … do what you believe is best for you in the here & now.





Because you have as much of a chance of being right as the next person.

right am i


That said.



I do have a couple of beliefs with regard to the crisis in communications:



–               Belief 1:

If you have a title of anything like ‘social media expert’ you are screwed.


Social media is a buzzword.

And while I am all for being social & feeling good <and doing feel good things> … I am in a business. I want to do things that tangibly affect my business … either by building brand value <which means I can charge a higher price than a commodity>, by acquiring higher value customers <ones who will engage with me for a while and not just once> or by actively retaining customers <not just ones that say nice things about me but ones who actually buy & use shit>.



–                Belief 2:

Everyone loves a good story.


The story can be educational … it can have a moral … it can be made up or it could be as real. But a good story is a good story.


Tell it in 30 seconds or tell it in 300 pages.


storytelling infographic


If you can tell a good story … not having television advertising is irrelevant.

TV is simply a means to tell a story. There will always be a time and a place to tell a story <and create a brand with value>.





–               Belief 3:

I’m not sure I like a world without advertising.




Like it or not … advertising is a vehicle in which professional communicators communicate shit to us.





There are good professionals and there are bad professionals <lets call them ‘hacks’> … but advertising informs, educates & inspires when it is done well. It affects how we think and what we do.


One could surely argue that if advertising was only used for what is right an good for us then it wouldn’t be in the shithole crisis it now appears to be facing. I would actually argue that having the good & the bad is … well … good for us. It makes us talk & think & smile & get angry. All aspects of a dynamic engaged society.


I imagine my point is that even the bad has value.




I believe in people. I believe inevitably we will make more good decisions than bad ones therefore I think a world without advertising would ultimately lead to a less informed society. And I don’t like that.



Let me be clear.



This isn’t about ‘selling people shit they don’t need’ … this is more … well … cultural.



Beliefs aside … and whether you agree or not … this leads me to what I truly believe is the crisis advertising is faced with these days <and it is not the death of television>.




Let’s start with key question and truth:



The question:

Do you like being seeing ads when you’re <insert: watching tv, listening to radio, surfing online>?”


You would think the answer is predictable.




“I hate them. Annoying. Most are stupid.”





But the answer is actually not the obvious answer <as with most things in life I imagine>.



I believe people who claim to hate ads don’t really hate advertising <because most can relate their ‘favorite ad’ with a smile>.



What they hate is bad advertising.





“Seeing a murder on television… can help work off one’s antagonisms.

And if you haven’t any antagonisms, the commercials will give you some.”



Alfred Hitchcock




A really smart advertising guy, Bob Hoffman, discussed this whole crisis of advertising on maybe 2008.

This is some of what he said:




Advertising pundits are right about one thing. The ad industry is a fucking disaster.


They are wrong, however, about what is causing the problems.

television death way 

The crisis is not being caused by the internet. The internet should be a boon to advertising.


The crisis is not being caused by “new media.” New media should be stimulating a creative resurgence.


The crisis is not the result of consumers becoming immune to advertising. The idea that consumers are suddenly immune to advertising is just plain nonsense.


Unfortunately, the causes of the crisis are much deeper and intractable.



In his diatribe he suggested three reasons for ‘the crisis’ but I will focus on his 3rd reason …






3. Mindless me-too-ism






Me-toosim is a crisis of creativity.

Nothing more … nothing less.



Sure … there is some business stuff <organizational and management bullshit> but it ultimately comes down to this … a crisis in creativity. Therein lies the potential for ‘death.’



Business success <and a happy interesting communications business> comes from making good advertising.



I will admit that from a business perspective this me-tooism can often be driven by the fact business leadership in the communication industry is being more and more led by non advertising trained people like lawyers and MBAs <or as Bob suggests … stupefyingly dull men in gray suits > who couldn’t recognize a good ad if it smacked them in the face.


In fact … if the agencies with these non-ad trained people never had to make any advertsing … if they could just be ‘consultants and branding bullshitters’ they would be happier than pigs in shit.






In marketing or advertising … if you don’t have creativity to sell what is there? <nothing>.

If a creative communications agency cannot provide businesses with the one thing they really want from a creative communications agency  … uhm …  creativity … there seems like there is little reason to exist.



The web has affected creativity <or this crisis of ‘me-tooisim’> is an interesting way.



As Bob also noted in his diatribe … the web is siphoning off great creative talent.



But not training that great talent.

A great many talented young people who in the past would have been drawn to advertising are now choosing to create for the web. And they are not creating ads for the web.

They are creating websites, games, social networks, blogs, videos, and all manner of creative expressions.


This is difficult for me to grasp because while we all talk ad nausea about how the web has opened up huge new advertising opportunities … most of us truly know that <in general> it is a horrible failure as an advertising medium <in terms of real brand value building>.


Everyone cites a very few big successes, argue from that extreme and ignores the fact that the majority is simply a hybrid direct response channel.





I will end with the true crisis <of which everyone is culpable but the web is truly stifling> … the unspoken part of creativity.

That is the strategy … the thinking … the insights that drive great creativity … the strategic part of what agencies do is disappearing.


And without this strategy thinking stuff … communication executions simply become tools of style … not substance.




No insight?

No substance.


And let’s be honest.


While creativity is pretty easy. Substantive creativity is difficult.


And there is a crisis in true insight development and articulation.

The smarter businesses have little confidence in ad agency’s account planning. And many businesses today are trying to build their communication/creative strategy in-house or in the hands of consultants <who have no fucking clue how to inspire creativity>.

<I could write an entire article about how building an effective thinking account management group in an agency would resolve this issue … but i will not>




All my ranting aside … now is a perfect time to look at the ad industry in a new way.


Times of economic stress force everyone, people and businesses, to do something they hate. That is to search for new answers.


The next model for the ad business is likely to be something we haven’t even thought of.


And someone should sit down and figure this out because contrary to all the obituaries … advertising is not dead.


Advertising is everywhere — urinals, grocery check-out, dry cleaning bags … shit … pretty much any where you can think of.

Advertising is thriving, but ad agencies aren’t.magic in the head


This is a great time for new ideas and innovative thinking.


Television is certainly not going to die for quite some time.

Television advertising is certainly not going to die for quite some time.


Be smartly creative and the world is your oyster.




Merry Christmas advertising style

December 25th, 2013


Merry Christmas <or happy holidays> to everyone.christmas bike



Today I feature my holiday greetings in the form of advertising.

I do it because there is a spectacular thoughtful insightful holiday commercial on television this season.



It is Apple ‘misunderstood”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImlmVqH_5HM

apple Misunderstood together<ad done by agency TBWA>



The obvious story?
A teenage boy surprises his family with a thoughtful holiday gift … a home video.

Sheer genius.  Delightful storytelling at its best.

It shows the true spirit of the holidays without being too obvious.



There are some less obvious things which truly make it spectacular.



–          Insight <part 1>.


Perception: Kids are attached to their phones and are losing their social skills.

Reality: Teens get it <they are just teens>.apple misunderstood teen



They are just teens for gods sake.  This is not the age group known for showing depth and emotion … with or without technology.



Here is what Apple faced with regard to developing this commercial … kind of a strong emotional attitude among a widespread group of people with regard to this insight perception:


<pulled from a blog which skewers Apple and the ad>

Even if this young man — who is quite sullen — really is spending every single moment on his phone recording his family’s activities, he’s still not partaking in them. He’s experiencing the holidays at an anthropological remove. He’s a skulking auteur, keeping the world at retina display’s length. He’s not letting anything come between him and his iPhone, not even the memories he cares enough about to record.


And while the big reveal at the end is absurd — how many SMYs will be secretly recording home movies next week? — the family’s reaction is even more annoying. The tears don’t seem to come from looking at what a wonderful weekend they all just had together. It’s a palpable ease of tension, a living-room-sized mylar balloon that pops with a gust of calm. That boy is not a monster, they exult, he’s just been creeping.


christmas eeyoreThe reason they are surprised and relieved, of course, is that most young men and young women — and tweens and olds and anyone, really, with access to a smartphone — act exactly like Sullen Male Youth. All the time.


<note: what a frickin’ Grinch>


I understand that many people, especially parents of teens, certainly get frustrated at the amount of time and energy that goes into electronics, smartphones and tablet devices.


As with most things <and innovations > in Life … there is trade off and balance.


To the curmudgeonly Grinch writer of the above I would simply suggests that the teen was watching the whole time … not disconnected but documenting <of which some older folk seem to have difficulty discerning between>.


But the true insight resides within the teen.

Everybody recognizes or perhaps has been that ‘uncomfortable in groups’, participation hesitant  teen … who still loves the grandparents and the family … but just feels awkward with public displays of affection.

They are too old to make the snowman and … well … too young to make the snowman.


The teen in the commercial embodies what adults tend to believe … they just find it difficult to see on occasion … that their kids do love you and don’t tell you … and how they often appear to be only sulking … yet they are listening and paying attention to everything.

The teen in the commercial embodies the fact that now and then they will surprise you by revealing their appearance of antisocial lack of engagement is just a more internalized, complicated acceptance of family.

The teen in the commercial actually suggests to us older folk that maybe technology permits them a way to communicate that we never had. Because the thing is when we were teenagers maybe it was a Walkman or headphones with loud music <our parents never understood>. My generation faced tremendous public fretting that we weren’t paying attention despite the fact we absolutely were <we just didn’t have some technology to show what we did not want to say>.

The teen in the commercial reminds us that simply because you don’t participate in trimming the tree or not making snow angels or helping make a snowman doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t care about your family or you’re being lost to a world of alienated isolation.



–          Insight <part 2>


Perception <or attitude>:

Technology intrudes into our lives.

Technology isolates people and doesn’t bring them together.

Reality: technology actually permits a level of togetherness never seen before <in fact … one could argue it makes togetherness to ‘un-private’>.


In fact … I found this comment even on an Apple site discussing the commercial -”This is a marketing lie! Technology makes us less personal and avoid relationships!”


What a frickin’ Grinch.


What a load of crock.


The commercial is spectacular in the emphasis is on how the product will enhance your life without being intrusive.

Intrusion into life , with anything, is a tricky balance. A balance between being creepy and being thoughtful behind the scenes glimpses of humanity.  The wonder of technology is the wonderful ability to see people when they are being … well … themselves. The societal filters come down and lo and behold … you receive a special gift through technology – the unfettered character and soul of someone.

Does that mean there are no warts? Of course not.

Technology permits us to see the perfect imperfections in Life and people.

Embarrassing sometimes?  Sure.


But I will remind everyone that the most beautiful smile anyone can ever see is the one given when someone doesn’t know anyone is looking. It is a special smile. And technology, on its best days and moments, give us a glimpse of that smile.



–          Use of music.


The song. Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Not the most upbeat Christmas song of all time … but provides the opportunity to tap into it and CREATE energy rather than use a song to generate the energy. Brilliant choice.



The way the song is used.  Fills the sound bed with no vocals … then stops …then vocals.


Apple Holiday-Misunderstood-TV-Ad teenThis makes the commercial split into two halves … the family’s experience together and then the teen’s experience <the music stops in a semi-dramatic fashion as the teen switches off the television while everyone is gathered around it and projects his own film onto the TV>.





Chan Marshall <Cat Power> offers a rendition of a song that Judy Garland & Frank Sinatra have made classic over the years … “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. As noted earlier … its not the most upbeat Christmas song in the world as it is … but if you want to really tug at someone’s soul … you think very very carefully of who you want to sing it … Cat Power is perfect.

Her voice and pacing on the song brings an emotional nuance which would make the Grinch sentimental.



–          Casting

I will begin with what was called earlier by the Grinch blogger … the sullen kid.

He was perfectly cast. He kind of reminded me of the high school kid <Ephram> in Everwood. Kind of dark in his silence which is only the typical façade of a teen.

Underneath? Yes. There is a human <yes parents … lurking within your sullen teen resides a human awaiting to arise>.

But the family is also perfectly cast. This wasn’t some Hallmark Hollywood family. This was you and I and normal looking folk. There were the wacky relatives and the nerdy relatives and … well … family being family.

Where no one is truly that odd because they are family.

The actors & actresses were brilliantly chosen. Someone with a good eye figured this out … down to the wardrobe and fixtures in the home.



That’s all the technical stuff which I believe make this spectacular.


If interested … here is the 2 minute home video Apple produced to support the advertisement in the online world.


2 minute home video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEGLhdaFBSE


To close.


I am going to end with some additional thoughts on why this ad is so frickin’ good.


Here is a business advertising truth: advertising at Christmas time is difficult for a business.


Difficult in that even when you truly want to show a thoughtful regard for the holiday season … and you are smart and do something in a relevant way to your business so it isn’t some vapid ‘trying to be well meaning’ act on the part of the business … people will come out of the woodwork to … well … put some hate on ya.


People will always be cynical about advertising in general … and particularly so at holidays.

But … shit … they are a frickin’ business for god’s sake so my number one rule when it comes to holiday advertising is that if you cannot create and say something that is relevant to your business <what you sell> then don’t do it..


This means that while holiday advertising should have an intent that is always emotional or attitudinal it HAS to be relevant to the business they sell.

It doesn’t have to be overt … but it should be tied in some way.

If not … then … well … you are simply doing a pro bono <or some meaningless image puffery> advertisement … which no one will understand why you are doing so at Christmastime unless you simply want to suck up to everyone at Christmas.


Therefore … in apple’s case … of course it’s about … “I want people to think Apple is a loving community rather than a business.”


But intent and actions should always be measured alike.

Of course they are trying to sell a product.

It’s portraying how Apple products <iPhone 5s and AirPlay I think> can enhance everyday lives.


But the commercial is smart & thoughtful & insightful.

They actually figured out how to address a common deep perception in a nice subtle way.


But as far as commercials go … it’s tasteful, touching, well shot, and subtle.


So good for them.


And as far as commercials go … it’s a nice reminder of what Christmas is all about.

So good for them.


Christmas.christmas snoopy

A family Christmas is rarely as perfect as we imagine.

And in fact many people do not have families to spend time with at Christmas … but that shouldn’t stop everyone from taking advantage of the opportunity Christmas provides each and everyone one of us … a time to gather around a tree or your tv or maybe just your front porch … and sit around with your thoughts and memories and, if you are fortunate, people who care … and enjoy the fact that Christmas is time for some thoughtful reflection as well as some thoughtful joy for what you have.


On that note … I wish everyone some good thoughtful reflection and a Merry Christmas. And if you just aren’t feeling the ‘magic’ this holiday season? Well. Let me remind you why you should never lose the joy of childhood:


Merry Christmas

Dog Food Advertising Ramblings

March 16th, 2010

can we go back and play dogs





My neighbor, who has a great mutt named Josie, was telling me about a Pedigree commercial she thought I would like.


I typically dislike pet food advertising because I think most of it is fairly unoriginal and “cute” <I CANNOT believe I just typed that word> and rarely actually gives me a reason to buy their stuff.




I do think IAMS does a nice job talking about some of the functional reasons to purchase, and I loved the Snausages execution <the one where the dog yells “snausages”> because I could just envision my dog doing the same <note: it didn’t really compel me to buy Snausages but I thought the commercial was hysterical>.




The Pedigree ads.



I cruised onto Youtube and checked them out (because apparently I don’t watch TV shows with high dog viewership because I haven’t seen any of this crap). Before I get to the ones that she told me about I do want to point out one Australia version of a Pedigree ad which I really liked. I think it is an older campaign and the use of an Aussie voice (which could calmly tell you that you were fat, dumb and ugly … and you would still smile) may bias me but I thought it was nice.

I thought it was simple with a straightforward message and a little twist that made it clear they understood dogs:






Onto the ‘slow mo’ Pedigree campaign. Beautifully shot and produced. Well crafted. Not sure it will sell one damn bag of dog food.



That was the cynical-advertising-business-side of me speaking.



Ok. Ok.


With one exception.


The introductory “now available” version I thought clearly made me want to pay attention to the words and the footage is really nice:


This next version I am sure is the one TBWA has on their agency reel and probably has never aired on one television show (its 2 minutes long). And it seems to go too long, but once again fun to watch and it has beautiful footage and I hope they never pay to air it because I don’t think it will sell one bag of dog food.




I figured after pounding on the 2 minute version I should probably share the one that is probably on television right now. I don’t really have anything new to say other than the fact I have been on a production where we had a dog jump and grab something and it is a pain to shoot and shoot well but if you get it right (like TBWA did) it is a really cool little vignette in the bigger scheme of the commercial.





I love the filming of the commercials and I absolutely love the introductory commercial (mostly because it is well done and unabashedly an introductory message).  I would also like to note I am an admirer of TBWA who did this campaign (Toronto office I believe), however, the campaign is kind of a rip off of a video done by Pleix films in about 2006. But, hey, great ideas can happen everywhere and copying is the truest form of flattery (although I seriously doubt they knew they were copying).


Now, that is just a short film done for creativity’s sake and isn’t selling anything but the production capabilities of the group who created it, but it is a fun very well done video particularly if you like dogs.singingin-the-car dog


That’s it.

My neighbor got me thinking about it and I love dogs so I thought what the heck…write about it.

Plus. Everyone likes to look at commercials.

Enlightened Conflict