April 11, 2011
They still post an occasional story about ads, under the category of “Agency.” They still have that little rascal, Ad Freak, God bless him.
But mostly Adweek is no longer about advertising. According to the new man in charge, Michael Wolff, it’s all about media. In his words, the media industry is “undergoing one of the greatest examples of modern industrial transformation… This is the opportunity we have (with Adweek) to not only be great for the media business, (but also) put ourselves in the sweet spot of what we’re covering.”
And so the edgy alternative to Advertising Age has now become an online magazine primarily serving the media. That means stories about “up-fronts” and “cable contracts;” companies like Viacom and Comcast; people like Glenn Beck and Rupert Murdoch.
It also means I will no longer be reading it. And I suspect most of you won’t be either. The fact of the matter is I just don’t care about that stuff. And neither do you.
Wolff’s no idiot, however. He’s not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. He’s just putting Advertising in its place, which is somewhere in the corner, ironically where media used to be. Wolff’s as aware of the all the “death of advertising” talk as we are. And he’s acting on it. Of course I hope he’s wrong. It’s certainly possible. After all the name of the show is Mad Men not Media Men. Yet, we already know his rebuttal: Mad Men is about then. This is about now.
It’s not like Adweek never covered the media. Back when the magazine was made of paper they ran a story or two about new TV shows and rating points. But we never read them. We looked for news about agencies and ad campaigns. We wondered what Barbara Lippert had in store. My favorite items were those dealing with agency pitches, often detailed like a sporting page, with favorites and dark horses. I loved that. Many of us rifled through the pages looking (hopefully and fearfully) for coverage about our agency and our work. If something we did was written about that meant something for the scrapbooks, something to send to Mom. It also meant our stars were rising or, God forbid, falling. Either way, Adweek was a must-read, one of the first things we did upon entering our offices on Monday morning.
But like the ‘agency memo’ or TV reels and BETA, it’s now history. For advertising news, we scroll through our favorite blogs, check Tweetdeck or Facebook. Maybe some of us don’t even bother at all.
There is still the venerable Advertising Age. One assumes Wolff’s vision of Adweek brings tears of joy to the editors of AdAge. But also apprehension. Any good editor will tell you a competitive publication is good for both parties. But then that’s J-school talk and last I checked newspapers were getting thinner and thinner, with even online versions struggling in the face of social media. Most schools don’t even call it Journalism anymore, favoring terms like “Integrated Media Training.” A fitting way to end this story, eh?
From grimy to shiny!
In exchange for advertising and naming rights, The City of Chicago has agreed to let Apple renovate a dilapidated train station at North and Clybourn. The rehab will cost Apple approximately $4 million, according to Thomas Corfman of AdAge.com, who broke the story. The plan coincides with Apple’s new store slated to open in the area.
Folks, I love this idea. Unlike selling out a beloved institution like Soldier Field, Wrigley Field and the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower), the financially strapped city of Chicago can save or make money via its numerous, often decrepit train stations.
As I understand it, the station stays essentially the same, only now it will be cleaned and fixed as well as tricked out by some of the coolest ads on the planet.
Like a lot of cities and towns, Chicago is in financial trouble. Mayor Daley has announced he will be dipping into our cash reserves to mitigate the huge and growing deficit. We already pay higher state taxes than almost anyone else in the country. Under these trying circumstances, I say, go for it! Sell all the stations you can.
Station domination by Apple (or anyone) won’t end Chicago’s financial crisis but it’s that rare solution without a conspicuous downside –or one that I can see, anyway. And, as I stated earlier, commercializing an “L” stop won’t offend the romantic sensibilities of our citizenry. On the contrary, it might make visiting these places less gruesome and maybe even fun.
September 8, 2009
Three scam ads, conspicuously void of copy.
In the still-breaking wake of the Brazilian scam-ad fiasco I detect a story that is bound to amuse half the population of the creative department and enrage the other.
When it comes to making scam ads I think art directors are guiltier than copywriters. Easy for a copywriter to say, I know. But let’s look at the evidence, which while circumstantial, is still pretty damning. We need only go as far as the nefarious 9/11 ad.
Evil scam in more ways than one
The art direction is stunning while the concept and copy are not. These truths are self-evident: the photograph, the retouching. Even the work’s many, many detractors agree: the ad looks great.
But it’s the ad’s contempt for copy, branding and readability that make it so incriminating to the art department. You can’t read the copy and when you do it’s bad. The tiny WWF logo is about the only thing linking the work to its benefactor. In this case a mercy but the general point remains: the copy has been marginalized to the point of being virtually irrelevant.
As a copywriter, creative director, awards show judge… I see this over and over and over again. And while everyone associated with the ad is culpable, in the end the art director owns the crime.
Is this a gross generalization? Of course. But when you look at the vast majority of award-winning scam ads (and I’ve seen hundreds) they are almost all strong visually. Unless the concept is copy driven, a so-called “headline campaign,” the text (usually one sentence) is down or up and away in the ad, often set in unreadable 8 or 10-point type.
Why? You’ve heard the reasons: 1) nobody reads copy 2) copy makes work “adsy” 3) award-show judges deduct points for work that’s “adsy.” You can refute or debate these reasons but you cannot deny they aren’t real. Even if it’s subconscious, art directors feel their creation is violated by copy.
A majority of art directors study fine art, be it painting, design, photography or filmmaking. Then maybe they go to ad school. By the time an AD gets real work, he possesses an artistic sensibility. Deep down the commercialization of his ideas will always frustrate him.
While many copywriters study literature, they are less inclined to carry its ideals with them into our profession. Copywriting is more clearly a vocation than art direction. We are more comfortable calling ourselves salesmen than art directors. That’s my opinion.
What might be less obvious is the hidden power art directors have in the creation of work. Copywriters are often given credit for an ad’s conception but the art directors deliver the baby. They are the last person to touch the work. Like no one else, they control how an ad enters the world. And how it enters awards shows.
Art directors shrink the type. Art directors make the logo smaller. Art directors accept copy like the mandatory it is. They are bred to make ads beautiful. The temptation to “clean and polish” an ad before submitting it to any given award show gets the better of them. Scam ads happen.
Readers- Take above with a grain of salt. This isn’t the Mitchell Report. I was merely looking for a provocative and fresh angle in which to talk about our industry. Besides, I’ve got nothing against art directors. Some of my best friends are art directors.