If the goal of modern marketing is to create ‘what’s trending’ then, like it or not, we must look at what’s trending.

May 5, 2014

What lights up the world?

One can measure the passage of time by stringing together mega-trending items, those huge cultural conversations that seemingly light up the media. Such events are like Chinese lanterns illuminating our culture and society. I don’t necessarily like the strategy, as these cultural illuminations tend to represent our darkest moments as well.

For example, last week’s shit storm regarding Donald Sterling, the racist owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. Before that sad, taped conversation blew up the world, we were all gripped by the vanishing of Malaysian Airlines flight 370. Prior to that what was it? The crippling winter back east? The stifling drought out west? Profound climatic events are always fair game. As are their close cousins, natural disasters. Can you say mudslide?

Tragedy is pop culture…

Whether a sicko opens fire at a bunch of children in a suburban high school or a freak avalanche buries dozens of others in a sleepy town… Humanity, the collective ‘We,’ can and is defined by BIG MOMENTS and our responses to them.

Thank God, not all BIG MOMENTS are shocking, terrible or unexpected. Huge sporting events like the Superbowl or World Cup have long stopped traffic on a global scale. As have certain concerts, telecasts and elections.

Either way, I’ve long thought about how various phenomena can galvanize nations and even the world. As a copywriter and writer in general, I’ve always been very curious as to what captures attention on a large scale. Though it’s not possible or even appropriate for many briefs, I want my work to do that. We all do.

Call it astute or call it cynical, but in Adland we are asked to create campaigns that deliver BIG results, be it at the cash register or on You Tube. Generating buzz to the point of “trending” are no longer new criteria for measuring success. These days, clients demand water-cooler worthy conversations from seemingly every banner we produce. I’m only half kidding. The pressure to succeed has never been greater. Therefore, creepy as it may sound, can you blame me for secretly envying all the attention Don Sterling got for whining about his mistress cavorting with black people?

A disruptive blockbuster…

Before you get in my grill for “going there” bear in mind this article is not about Sterling or race (my last post was). This is about getting attention in a world where everyone is trying. I can’t help but ponder the good, bad and ugly things that actually succeed.

In many ways it is the ultimate declaration that most BIG IDEAS result from intuitive, right brain stimuli. Take Don Sterling (Please). For years he was known to be a proven slumlord, driven by racist opinions. Yet few took notice. Sterling only trended when a sleazy recording of an intimate conversation he had with his mistress came to light. That, coupled with an exciting start to the NBA playoffs featuring Sterling’s team, created a perfect storm for the resulting pop culture explosion.

Attention gobbler…

Last week I wrote about Burger King’s Subservient Chicken campaign, how ten years ago it too became part of the conversation, both negatively and positively. Good or bad, the campaign generated opinions, which is now the standard for measuring success in Adland.

In this albeit crude way, Donald Sterling and the Subservient Chicken have something in common. They broke through. As the ad agency, CP&B has masterfully proved over the years, and Doyly Dane Bernbach well before them, disrupting the status quo works.

A classic “conversation” starter from Doyle Dane Bernbach


2 Responses to “If the goal of modern marketing is to create ‘what’s trending’ then, like it or not, we must look at what’s trending.”

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