Aug 21, 2007

Show me the Stupid

There are a variety of choice lines straight from clients mouths that you can’t help but scratch your head to. From their perspectives on what a USP is to jargon dripping orders for things they don’t even know what they are, to cute moments where they don’t know something and you do, simple net stuff that we the ad-ites are so well versed in since we constantly do so much “research”.

Having said that, here’s the first of a series of quotes I can’t help but put forth for the sake of debate.

“The problem is your advertising is too intelligent.”

This means that we need to be less clever, less thought provoking, certainly reconsider anything that might even wish to be revolutionary and of course, we can’t ever in a waking day think that our audience has an IQ higher than a baboon addicted to heroin or that they possess a reading level higher than 4th grade scholastic. I wish I’d only heard this once but it’s happened for various brands, various clients, unending target demographics and most agencies I’ve worked for. Something inspirational? Something that just might possibly get a water cooler conversation slot of 2 minutes?

“Nah, that’s too smart.”

“Our customers are dumb and won’t get it.”

“You need to understand that you have to speak to our audience as if you were talking to someone who has received massive brain trauma and is emotionally and mentally stuck at age… um I dunno… 11? No, more like 9.”

In truth, some advertising can be deemed as actually clever enough to topple over into the category of intellectual but when you do a piece of shit advert for a piece of shit client, the last thing going through your mind is making something super clever much less basing headlines in quantum physics or designing based on the power of phi. The amount of work deemed too smart worries me because in all honesty, we don’t always produce highly intellectual things. Hell we hardly present concepts at times, for however much our execs insist that what is presented is a concept. They’re layouts and fairly standard works of advertising at that. It’s not enough that we’re sometimes coaxed into acquiescing into developing weak advertising made a la carte. We are told to modify said content because the target is not smart enough (This means the client doesn't get it and wants to pass it onto the audience).

Last I checked though there might be a lot of people who aren’t brighter than a bedazzler stud, but they aren’t exactly challenged, impaired or completely out of the loop. It’s as if they want you to design a headline that is two pampers steps ahead of:

Product good, you likey buy-buy now-now.

Sorry but though I might not think everyone deserves to be considered the most tactful or intelligent person in the world, I do think they can handle a standard sentence, maybe even take a stab at an adjective and adverb to spruce up those nouns and verbs so we can get some type of communication going. Then you happen to turn into television and realize that this problem is not merely in advertising. TV production is another steam of shit though to be honest, I have finally been able to find some worthy shows. None of them come from MTV then again I come from that generation that actually got to see music videos rather than the lame ass programming they shove down Gen Y’ers throats and which they gobble up so hungrily 20 hours a day thanks to them being cranked on energy drinks since it’s not alcohol, it’s not crack, but it gives them a hell of a buzz. I swear we’ll see kids snorting sugar so they can get the insulin high that much quicker and that cocoa powder? PHEW!!!!!! That stuff is scorching.

But back to advertising. You see commercials and print ads and at least for me, I’ve drastically changed the way I pass judgment on them. I used to blame creatives for the shit we get shoved down but after a few years in this industry, you see a shitty ad and feel compassion for the creative that had to sign off on that piece of shit.

So I’m trying to make dumber adverts. I’m throwing away the use of any types of allegory, metaphor, simile or any other literary convention that might make my message remotely interesting. I’m focusing on ten to twenty focus group approved adjectives while closely observing the competitors’ advertising tendencies to see what else we can paraphrase (ie steal and say the same with other words).

What I wish we could all say to clients in a global memo is simple though.

It’s not rocket science, it’s advertising.

Then again the use of the words science and rocket might promote some type of confusion but further conclusions of more appropriate vocabulary for the village idiot shall be discovered for further posts.

The real problem quite a few times is that some clients aren't what you come to consider gifted. I've heard a client ask if the man who's frozen in one spot in an advert called pause has icicles on his sleeves. Clients have asked why a car has buoys since you don't drive your car into water. Concepts are so far up their head that could say there is a constellation of concepts hovering over some client's heads while some still let us keep the faith, swat down the peons and offer something quite like thought behind what they say, but that's not the norm.

Show you the stupid? Don't be surprised if I show pictures from the Team building exercises from Clients A through Z.

Cheers though,
kind regards



RestrictionsApply said...

dumb it down = big $$$ for your clients. How sad.

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