Pepsi. United. Spicer.
Look at your feeds. Your friend’s and your family’s. Hell, look at mine. These three fails have dominated EVERYTHING the past few days, one following the other, aftershocks in a pop culture earthquake. I don’t even have to provide a summary. We’ve all seen the videos. Shared them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. If you turn on the news that’s all they are talking about.
And my o’ my, have we commented. Holy Hashtags! The shaming has been resounding. Pepsi is tone deaf! The “Friendly Skies” have gone berserk! Sean Spicer is a fool… or worse!
And you know what? In two weeks it won’t matter.
In some of these cases, maybe all of them, there will be a backlash of support, if for no other reason than to court controversy and/or create “click bait.” A second wave of folks will “rise up” and say what needs to be said. All ink is good ink, they will say about Pepsi’s idiotic commercial. “It became part of the conversation!” And that “doctor” who was bloodied while pulled from his plane seat? Well, it turns out he was nothing but a pill pusher anyway, convicted and defrocked. And Sean Spicer was only comparing one dictator to another. The righteous will quote Jesus: “Let him who is without sin… be the first to throw a stone…”
In the unlikely event that none of the above happens, this will: Pepsi shall throw support at various “urban” causes, proving they are not tone deaf to the needs of the “community.” Their PR will be all over it. United will codify its CEO’s janky apology with a full-page newspaper ad and a preachy commercial. They will give the mistreated passenger money to go away. Mr. Spicer will be muzzled and muted, more for embarrassing the President (that’s Trump’s job) than the content of his words.
In the end there is no end. More lunacy will occur, replacing the current noise with new louder noise. Shameful acts will occur and thusly be shamed. Then the shamers will be shamed. And so on and so forth. In the olden days of the 20th century any one of these scandals would have lasted for months. Not anymore. The modern content zombie constantly needs new flesh to tear apart. Why do you think they’re called “feeds?”
And yesterday’s chewed upon? You guessed it. They merely get up. People will still drink Pepsi. People will still fly United. And, if he’s not scapegoated into the private sector, Sean Spicer will still be the White House Press Secretary.
One final thought and it’s a dark one. We find this all terribly funny.
Maybe it’s true: “We are all Negan.”
For copy & content creation that breaks through the noise, hit me up: https://steffanwork.wordpress.com/
December 21, 2016
At first glance, this item seems like merely a glib menu item from a bar in Los Angeles. Which it is. But the gimmick of selling patrons a 40-ounce bottle of Colt 45 in a brown paper bag is much more than just an innocuous promotion. it’s a crucible.
Undeniably “creative” in that it is a clever way for St. Felix to make 500% profit from cheap swill and also generate beaucoup buzz. No question the concept will appeal to hipsters looking for “authentic experiences.” It’s ironic. It’s social. It’s the kind of shit new drinkers adore as they search for persons in the bar and personas online. #OldSchool #Chillin #Dawg!
But isn’t it also grotesque because it makes light of skid row and more precisely the American Black Ghetto? We in Adland remember the embarrassing debacle the seemingly innocuous “Ghetto Days” party invitation created. Heads rolled. Accounts moved. Reputations were ruined. It was a big ugly deal. In my view, selling white boys a “45 in a bag” to get their drink on is basically the same thing.
Deplorable or a small stroke of genius? The question is truly loaded, given the abysmal state of race relations and how angry, sensitive and scared everyone is. These days, a stupid party favor can easily become a fire starter. Is this one?
For creative business ideas that only create “good” controversy: https://steffanwork.wordpress.com/
Falling on deaf ears?
Like Hollywood and all its stars, the vast majority of Adland despised the idea of a Donald Trump presidency. Which is why for many months so many of us rallied for a different outcome. The best and brightest from our tribe, hired by the DNC, or of their own volition, created films and microsites and social programs in a righteous effort to see the one time First Lady become the first lady President of theses United States and, with perhaps even more ardor, to make certain one very strange and polarizing man didn’t. Emulating the luminaries in La La Land we had our Goodby and Droga and all their get doing everything imaginable so that America voted one way and not another.
Funny or Die presented an entire movie mocking Donald Trump. Baldwin killed with his impersonation of DT on SNL. Poignant commercials told us “our children are watching” as clips of The Donald ran before their innocent eyes. The Tonite Show. The Daily Show. All the shows – ranted and raved. We made memes and anthems. Jay Z and Beyonce’ stood by Mrs. Clinton swearing a blue streak for blue states. The sitting POTUS boldly stated that Donald Trump was “not fit for the office” and we made endless propaganda to support that claim. Oh, those ripping hashtags. So many followers. So many Likes. So many shares.
All the Kings horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put Hillary Clinton back together again. Donald Trump won. And he did it with a clown car for support and a fraction of the money.
In Washington the autopsies are well under way. Blaming the FBI. Blaming racist America. Blaming men. And, with eyes to the floor, blaming their candidate as well as themselves. How could we let this happen? They rightfully ask. Were we so wrong? That wildfire will rage for months to come.
And so I must ask the same questions of our industry. Was our strategy and creative so wrong? How did we bungle a pitch we thought so certain we’d won?
I did not create any content for this election but I am available to do so for you: https://steffanwork.wordpress.com/
September 6, 2016
While reading the “newspaper” online I came across a couple stories that captured my attention. I clicked on them both not because they were newsworthy (they weren’t) but because they appealed to my socially & digitally trained brain. The same brain that grew up reading long form magazine pieces in The New Yorker and Field & Stream; not to mention spending hours slowly devouring the Sunday paper, digesting sections like a python moving rodents down its throat.
That was then.
These stories are classic examples of the sort of content we feed on now. Both are fairly meaningless by old-school journalism definitions. Nobody died or got hurt. Nothing really is at stake.
The story about vandals knocking over a sandstone goads us into clicking its link, pushing our buttons to judge and to vilify. In this way it is like those “news” stories about drunken beachgoers tormenting a baby dolphin. We have to see these cretins and pillory them. Seeing for ourselves is made possible by amateur video or photography.
The other story functions in the same way but by pushing completely different buttons. The author beseeches us to try and find the “mystery couple” from this “Instagram-worthy…magical photograph.” The picture is of a bride and groom posing on a pretty spot in Yosemite. They are not famous. The photographer is not important. The location is unquestionably on infinite tourist-y photo albums. The chance discovery and the chance to discover are what makes this story click-bait.
Not long ago neither piece would be considered news. Now they probably get more clicks aka readers aka viewers than headlines about bombs falling in Syria.
August 23, 2016
Here’s to the Crazy Ones…
I admit it. I’m crazy. And for the most part I’m okay with that – not that I have a choice. Ever since I can remember I’ve been aware of my, shall we say, unique perspective on the human condition – or my condition anyway. I wasn’t like the other kids. And I’m not like the other men. And while that can prove irksome at cocktail parties, or at times to my wife, it is simply reality.
Fortunately, I was able to forge a very successful career in advertising, where tempered crazy mixed with hard work is called creativity. Finding compelling ways to persuade people into believing in a product, brand or service requires more than a sound strategy; it demands a unique intuition. Crazy good ideas are hatched from crazy good minds. On good days I was crazy.
Like a lot of crazies, I ran into trouble “augmenting” that reality with drugs and alcohol but those days are thankfully over. I accept the way my mind works, even relish it, and am “aware” in ways no artificial stimulation can simulate.
Going deeper, I’ve come to the conclusion that for a great many of “us” being crazy is merely being more wholly aware than most so-called “normal” people. I am aware of my demons and defects and, for the most part, have learned how to live with them and even play with them. They can be muses. Pandora’s Box can be opened and shut. Yes, depression and anxiety are a part of it. And this is not always a small price to pay (see the preceding paragraph). So be it.
Looking at the world, we see chaos. In religion. In politics. In every other Instagram feed. Millions upon millions of people acting crazy but not identifying as crazy. Speaking and voting and even killing and not aware of it as crazy. Are the multitudes normal or just in hopeless denial?
We crazy ones know the difference. That doesn’t make us “better than” or “less than” but it makes us saner.
(Author’s note: The above anthem is the never-aired version with voice over by Steve Jobs. In retrospect, I prefer it to the read given by Richard Dreyfuss.)