Been a long time since I wrote about advertising. Why then is my blog called Gods of Advertising if I’m not writing about it? Well, for starters, what is there to write about? From a creative perspective, advertising became irrelevant around the time I did. You can quibble over the year and other details, perhaps cite a few exceptions, but you cannot deny the fact that few consumers (aka people with money to spend) pay advertising any heed. Save for the bottomless pit of transactional messaging permeating our screens, there isn’t much to write home about. Hasn’t been for years. I would say that 75% of every marketing dollar is spent on cliché’ ridden, data driven crap. Creativity in advertising was sick way before Corona virus. Now, it’s on life support.

Not long ago, the so-called Gods of Advertising (always meant to be an ironic term) wishfully opined that the key to remaining relevant in the digital age (let’s say turn of the century) was in mastering social currency. Fearing obsolescence, big shot creative directors like myself and planners and other alleged ad-ninjas went to places like Hyper Island to learn the magic of these new tinier screens and the people who used them. Unfortunately, the bean counters beat us to the punch. Big data replaced the big idea and, well, here we are. There’s more to it than that but I don’t want to write about it any more than you want to read it.

When I unceremoniously exited the business, the writing was on the walls. It sure as hell wasn’t on the page. Copy had turned to content. Strategy became a numbers game. Art directors made shit fast… or else. The result: the aforementioned cliché ridden, data driven transactional crap – also known as content.

For years, I avoided talking this talk because I wanted to believe otherwise. And I was afraid of becoming unemployable. Happened anyway. Now I don’t care and neither does anyone else. I still enjoy writing for clients but for them a big idea is merely converting a strategy line into something they can use until the next quarter rolls around. I’m good at it. And I work fast and cheap. What we all appreciate is the lack of illusion about what we are doing.

Fact. Most clients think Cannes is a sexy place to go on vacation. Period. Where James Bond movies are filmed. Some may remember a celebration of creativity. Like holiday parties. Or bonuses. The mythical Gold Lion is now extinct. Mine are in a storage unit in San Rafael.

You know what? I don’t care anymore. Deep down I wonder if I ever did. I always knew I was getting paid a shit ton of money for doing something intuitive and fun. Once those two criteria were removed –as they have been- all that remained is all that’s left.

Once upon a time, poets were considered special. They had currency. Were celebrated, studied, emulated and revered. Then they faded into the middle pages of the New Yorker. Once upon a time, from 1965 until 2005, (a mere 40 years!), creativity actually mattered. It was like the poetry of yore. And then no one gave a shit about it either.

Not so gentle reader – Would you like me to squeeze the sour grapes further? Relish the whine of discontent? Let me know… I’m in a mood.

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“Awesome strategy, Ted! Next week’s meeting is gonna be killer.”

Recently, I read an essay from an anonymous source in our industry that stuck with me. (I did not save the link. My bad.) But the gist of his argument was that within marketing services companies far too many big talkers achieve more success than they deserve and, moreover, are exponentially degrading the profession. Paraphrasing further, the author observed how smooth talking, jargon-dropping, critical thinkers have become so prevalent and dominant that we’ve become a business of talkers not doers, endlessly revising briefs and tweaking PPT’s instead of producing actual work. The front end has become so bogged down by process that we are making lots of meetings and few campaigns. Which of course suits the talkers who, by endlessly analyzing and criticizing, merely create more process.

Are we having fun yet?

It goes without saying that these machinations are antithetical to the flow of any decent agency and the creative department in particular. Yet, before we go off and blame the strategists for all this hot air, it’s only fair to point out slick talkers and their myriad sins have plagued Adland since before the Mad Men era. Then one usually pointed to the evil account guy. He made lives miserable for countless sensitive creatives. “It’s not right yet. We need another round.”

Still, at least back then agencies produced work. And lots of it. So much so there were actual production departments. Now many agencies don’t even have one producer on payroll, let alone a department, opting instead to bring in the occasional freelancer for the role or, more typically, leaving the job to hardscrabble project managers. It’s all hypothetical. Recycling stock. Fodder.

According to the author it is indeed strategy gone wild. The pandemic of verbal diarrhea is especially acute in the technology and B2B arenas, where strategists often define the marketing department. As new platforms and complicated algorithms take over Adland, it seems likely the talking will only get louder.

With less output and more input, the vicious cycle hurts everyone caught in it. Except for big talkers. Under the guise of “getting it right” they have become manifest, perpetuating their roles as agency gate-keepers.

For brilliant copy and adroit creative leadership (even if just for a goddam powerpoint), hit me up: https://steffanwork.wordpress.com/