Inspired by watching Darin Stevens on Bewitched, I entered what I thought was the magical business of advertising.
Over the years, I rose to the top of this profession winning over 500 awards, building arguably one of the best shops of the 80's, Babbit & Reiman, selling it for millions only to realize that advertising was the most conservative business on the planet created to serve no one on earth but itself.
In 1995, I fired hundreds of staff and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of clients to start BrightHouse—the first ideation company. This new model is dedicated to the value of unprecedented ideas and the values they hold in place for purposeful companies. These are the valiant, but few organizations that want to improve public life, not just the public perceptions of the companies they served.
The world is ad rich and idea poor. 5000 media impressions bombard us everyday with mostly meaningless dribble. We have become a culture focused on the message, "If we like it, we buy it. If we hate it, we shoot the messenger." That is why it is so critical that advertising agencies and public relations companies encourage their clients to create what I will call, "Why Advertising."
Why Advertising asks first to look at where adverting came from, what it does, when it started working, who bought into it and how it got into so much trouble.
The Mayflower's second commission was to fetch slaves. Soon, more frigates arrived on our shores. So many that it was hard to know where new shipments of human labor were docking. So it was here that Where Advertising began. Shamefully, ship captains posted the original outdoor boards as directionals to slave auctions. Advertising in its infancy was no more than a this way sign. Not surprisingly, that way was the wrong way.
Soon shopkeepers wanted to sell, too. Hence, What Advertising. In this iteration advertisers helped clients sell the whats: goods and services. Instead of telling people where to buy, it would suggest what to buy. In this iteration newspapers and periodicals would sell space in their papers and throw the creative in for free. Imagine that. Creativity was a lost leader from the outset. And we wonder why people today complain that clients don't pay for our creativity. Why should they? It was always worthless.
For the next century nothing much changed. Though, we have convinced ourselves otherwise, by moving clients from a commission system to a fee system. So now instead of one bill for space, we space the same fees over 12 months.
Enough apparently was not enough. So our media mavens created the notion of reach and frequency. Reach out to Mr. & Mrs. Consumer as frequently as possible and they will eventually breakdown. After all, they are the receivers and advertisers are the transmitters. The original concept of 24/7 was born in the advertising agency. It was a beautiful scheme to drive new revenues.
The next phase of advertising was the Who Era. Now that advertising had most ears and eyes, they wanted everyone's. So they opened offices everywhere on the globe to capture more minds and money. This crusade created advertising's worst idea - the holding company. A befitting name as they hold their subsidiaries to making a mandatory profit and hold back their agencies from making any real change that might adversely affect the bottom line. These omni gods now reign supreme. Now the mercenary model of advertising has parents whose offspring are a myriad of ridiculous how-tos that attempt to cover up the broken model.
In remarkably feeble attempts to create buzz, advertising agency networks and advertising gurus have created all sorts of expressions or rather last gasps to revive their dying profession. Presence marketing is now a thing of the past. Experiential marketing gave way to immersive marketing that drowned out all other noise, but its own screaming. The backlash was called permission marketing. Then it was renamed invitational marketing. Then there is the symptom of a diseased business—viral marketing. Product placement marketing is not getting the best reviews, either. The cure? Blended marketing. That's where you take the last paragraph and sentence the world to all of it.
There is an idea that could save advertising from itself. It could even benefit society and turn our industry into an industrious spirit that could change the world.
Why Advertising advertises the why of a company that makes the products and services. It communicates The Master Idea of an organization first to its staff and then to the world. It's a genuine idea that not only improves public perception of a product or service, but improves public life.
It demands a shift from a reason to believe to a reason for being. The advertising agency in effect becomes an agent of change. Something it does intermittingly with public service announcements. Ever wonder why creative people love working on those pro-bono accounts? Because they know the real power of advertising.