“The world is full of rules. Be the exception.”
“To every rule there is an exception—and an idiot ready to demonstrate it. “
“Any fool can make a rule
And any fool will mind it.”
Henry David Thoreau
This is a business thought.
This is about rules, breaking rules … and how tricky it can be to communicate a thought well in advertising.
Suffice it to say professional communications is always about walking the thin line of connecting with your audience thru visuals & words … and teetering over into the abyss of ‘just missed.’
Professional communicators are paid dearly to be smart enough to discern the difference between things like a ‘break the rules attitude’ <which is burdened by rebellious irresponsibility> and a ‘break stupid rules attitude’ <which is often an attribute and precursor to ‘someone who gets good shit done’>.
It is sometimes a very very thin line and sometimes bad shit happens even with good intentions.
And this is a HUGE but.
Professional communicators, PR people & advertising people & marketing people, get paid to walk the line and walk it well.
So when someone does something stupid you have to scratch your head and wonder how the hell something like that happens.
To be clear.
This is different than simply doing bad advertising.
This is different in that it is more a reflection of bad thinking … or … let’s call it misguided execution of what was probably a good idea <once>.
I would imagine the intent was correct.
I envision business people eating M&M’s sitting in a room discussing strategy and someone saying something like “people who drive our car are the ones who are not comfortable being a sheep in society … and try raising their family to think for themselves” … which is a nice thought.
And someone else said … “lets figure out how to show everyone they aren’t sheep and just do what everyone tells them to do.”
And then some brain dead person said … “they don’t follow rules.”
<insert mental image of train going off the tracks>
I saw an Audi TV commercial that made me think of this.
Kind of humorous <using some excellent hyperbole>.
Beautiful photography <as you would expect from a car manufacturer>.
And then … oops … it teeters off that fine line into ‘missed.’
One young boy with the gumption to challenge the very fabric of our society has cannonballed into a pool less than an hour after eating.
The world is full of rules, break them, challenge those in charge, and drive an Audi.
Audi TV Spot ‘Swim':
I did not have a visceral response like this when I saw it:
“I just saw the commercial twice.
Thank you Audi for undermining everything we need in society. Rules. Now you should try to teach this kid in class when the parents helps undermine the process too.
It’s called ethics. Try it sometime. No Audi for me.”
But I did say “shit, they missed the mark with this.”
I clearly understand what they were trying to do and say.
It was tongue in cheek.
They clearly tried to use an old wives tale ‘rule’ to make a point.
It was hyperbole.
But … well … there is a huge difference between breaking rules and having the attitude to eye rules with some question rather than blindly following them.
And that is where they miss.
They want people who don’t simply follow rules like a sheep but rather look at rules with a discerning eye of ‘stupid or smart.’
And maybe that is where they truly miss the mark.
Smart people don’t encourage breaking rules.
Smart people encourage breaking stupid rules.
Smart people don’t break rules for the sake of breaking rules.
Smart people assess rules and break them when appropriate.
I am not sure I like the message which suggests kids should not only ignore a safety rule but ignore an authority figure.
And I absolutely do struggle with depicting a parent who seemingly venerates and applauds a child flaunting not only rules but figures of authority <even a lifeguard has some responsibility and authority>.
I worry a little about its misguided judgement all within a ‘creating an entertaining commercial’ construct.
I do believe you can encourage individualism in some other way than ‘The world is full of rules. Be the exception.’
I KNOW you can encourage individualism and ‘smart behavior choice even in the face of rules.’
I’m sure I am over thinking this but valuing some sense of order thru rules … and personal accountability toward rules … is kind of what makes civilization run.
And I feel like this communications goes beyond just breaking the rules … the parent is teaching him to disrespect rules <and smart rule breakers respect rules but recognize stupid rules>.
And more disrespect?
While I am clearly in over thinking mode … the pool is not theirs … it is a community pool with a lifeguard … which means it comes with some choice to assume some personal accountability within society guidelines if they elect to use the pool … which then assumes they are respectful of the rules, obey the rules posted by those who grant them the privilege to use the pool.
Yeah yeah yeah … that is overthink.
But … and this is a big BUT … I have written a number of times that advertising and marketing can affect behavior and attitudes. And if I truly believe that <which I do> then even some of the smallest things should be eyed with ‘responsibility’ in mind.
Look <part 1>.
Some rules are good.
And rules intended to keep a child safe <even if it is a stupid rule> is good.
Telling a child that it is good to break the rules, no matter how seemingly small or stupid, suggests a bad lesson to a child.
Look <part 2>.
Beyond society … in business I know breaking stupid rules is sometimes necessary to get things done.
Excellent effective leadership actually seems to come with an unwritten responsibility to cut through rules that act as barriers to achieving what needs to be done <for the overall betterment of the organization>. I could argue that truly great leaders get where they are because they can do exactly that … legally of course, when the rules tell us otherwise.
Some people call this cutting through the red tape.
I call it the ability to weave your way thru the organizational bullshit and get shit done.
I can guarantee that if you look throughout any successful organization you will always find some ‘smart’ rule breakers who work diligently to overcome or circumvent the rules, regulations, and policies that unintentionally hinder progress and make it difficult to accomplish shit that needs to be done.
I mention that because creative people sometimes get mixed up between what they see in a business environment and what happens in Life environment. Lie isn’t always a Dilbert scene and Life SHOULDN’T always translate from some business perspective.
The mom in the commercial may be one of those professional ‘break stupid rules smartly’ people … but ‘managing’ her child takes a different skill.
A professional communicator should recognize that.
Close … but they missed the mark.