Here's something that's been nagging at my for the past month or so. Actually, it's been longer but it used to be less of a nag and more of a quibble. But now it's made it to full blown nag status and it is time to take a stand. Which is what I'm doing here, now.
This all flared up again when I was watching the season premiere of Community.It should come as no surprise that I was thrilled for the fifth season. So thrilled I decided to watch the show live. That's right, on television with advertisements and all. Now I realize you, working in marketing and owning multiple devices with which to never encounter a single unwanted advertisement, may not be familiar with this scenario. What happens when you watch TV live is that there are these breaks where P&G and KFC and BP run advertisements during the show. That's what recoups much of the expense of making a television show. That's what we, the advertisers make.
But as I watched the first two episodes of Community get interrupted again and again I was very disheartened. Not that these interruptions existed. Lord no. I love that someone is paying so I can watch this wonderful show. Rather, it was because while the show is so tight, so sharply written, so funny, so wonderfully produced, the ads are anything but.
This is not to say the ads were bad (okay, a few were but this isn't a the place to bring that up). They were simply dull, or not all that funny, or not all that good, especially when placed next to a show that is none of those things. And in that moment it made sense to me why people say they hate ads. Most of it just isn't as good as the stuff it's interrupting.
Now I can't imagine people set out to made ads like that, or ads that are more boring than the magazine they're running in, or ads that are more boring than being stuck in traffic. Imagine that! There just has to be something broken because ad people, for some reason, don't seem to feel the need to write up to the material we're being shown against.
I use "write up" as a general term here to mean make an ad that matches or surpasses the quality of the media it's being presented with. This isn't a new thought. I read it time and time again when I was obsessively trying to break into advertising. But it's been forgotten or cast aside. This should be the number one goal of agencies because without it there's no way for a client's message to get noticed, at least in my mind. Am I crazy to think that being as good or better than the thing you're interrupting is important?
This doesn't even get into digital projects. I love the internet. I have since the day I realized it offered me access to anything I could want to read, watch, listen to, see, or learn about. It is an endless pool of amazing things. Which makes the challenge of advertising online even more difficult because we're competing against everything for attention.
However, despite claims that the internet has "changed everything" it has not changed the fundamental need to steal people's attention, to be interesting in our advertising. If anything it is made it even more important. Before we sell we must get attention and that's getting harder and harder by the day. Funny, as this happens there seem to be more awards and congratulations than actual jealousy-inducing campaigns.
The best agencies already do this. Or try to do this. And it won't always work but, for me at least, it seems like we should be writing up to the material, yes entire internet included, rather than writing down because that's what we're asked to do.
Very few people ever ask their agencies to do something that will get noticed. Something that will beat the programs. So this is a hard sell. A very hard sell. But to me it's worth it because I'm sick and tired of watching TV and being embarrassed to work in an industry that thinks so little of the people watching/reading/viewing that it produces billions of bytes of wallpaper.