David Byrne of the Talking Heads

I assume most of you, regardless of age, are familiar with the musical group, Talking Heads. And in particular their signature tune, Once in a Lifetime. Below are the opening lines to this pop masterpiece:

You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
You may find yourself in another part of the world
You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife
You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?

I bring the song up not because I’m a big fan of the band; I’m not. It came to mind because I caught myself thinking about the mundane aspects of my life (kids, dogs, stairs made of wood, the rain outside) and suddenly, for a split second, I was genuinely amazed by it. By all of it. And I had to ask myself: How did I get here? My God, I have three little girls. I’ve been married 20 years. I’ve read like a thousand books!

And then it was gone. Poof! And I continued walking up those stairs made of wood to my office at the top of our house. But that question: How did I get here?

I wrote it down. Then I Googled it. The top responses were all about the song. And why not? Cerebral and poetic, no wonder college kids adored it. The Talking Heads captured a fleeting but fine moment of our existence and put it to music. That simple. Once in a Lifetime is now forever obtainable on my Ipad. Such is the power of art.

At times, I think advertising –or whatever we’re calling it- can harness this power, capturing our humanity, or our dreams about humanity. And boom! We are spellbound. Moved.

Obviously, as with pop music and other art, this power is often diluted or corrupted. To use the parlance of drug dealers, the pure rock is stepped on over and over before it hits the streets… just enough to give us a taste.

We’ve all read and experienced how social media is diminishing the power of brands to tell stories. We all live on the surface now, surfing the evermore glossy and growing veneer. I’m not denying it. But what about those crucial moments, however fleeting, when we realize what a miracle life is? Thirty years ago a five-minute song nailed one. A few Yesterdays ago, the Beatles did so over and over in half that time. In 60 seconds, Hallmark and Apple and others have done it. What about now? Can Once in a Lifetime be done in 140 characters or less? Just a thought. Poof!

The lyrics to Once in a Lifetime.


Dear Nobody…

Lately, I’ve been writing about more than just advertising: anxiety, fear, death, and other worrisome stuff. Though I try and keep it within the realm of marketing, I wander. Not a good move for a copywriter, I know. I’m also sorry if that doesn’t fulfill your expectations for this blog.

I created Gods of Advertising to be an emotionally honest, credible exploration of our industry. Gods of Advertising is a spiritual hall monitor for the people, places and things comprising (and compromising) the advertising industry, a discussion between the commercial (and sometimes capricious) world of advertising and the spiritual side of its human contributors. My opinion is that makers of ads often play fast and loose with the seven deadly sins (lust, greed, envy, sloth, etc). I speculate what that might mean for the advertising industry…and for all of us in it.

Sounds heavy. But you know mission statements… Look, I know you didn’t ask for my opinion. And I don’t ask your permission to give it. Yet, here we are.

That you’re reading this means everything to me. For me, a writer without an audience is no different than a tree falling with no one there to witness it. It didn’t happen. Whenever I hear someone claim he writes only for himself I cringe. Diaries are for school children.

I’ve written it a hundred times: a writer writes. Period. What I haven’t said is why. It’s not just for the paycheck. Writers dream of readers; they must. I’ve always imagined my audience. Always. Even when writing copy. Especially when writing copy. If a copywriter doesn’t have his audience front and center, he isn’t doing his job. He might as well be journaling…

And so I remember my audience –You! And turn what began as another introspective essay into an insight on copywriting (I hope). The Gods of Advertising have stayed on point, if just barely. Amen.

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