December 07, 2009

The 2009 Bully Award Winner Is...

The 2009 Bully Award for Outstanding Achievement in Advertising and Marketing Bullshit -- the Turd d'Or -- goes to the "Breathtaking" Pepsi design document.

Several months ago, when this document became public, I got a nice chuckle out of it, as did many advertising and marketing people.

Recently, in reviewing the nominees for the Bully Awards, I had the opportunity to take a closer look at it.

With the perspective that a few months affords, I have a new appreciation for the document. Not as an article of business communication, but as an artifact of an industry so totally engulfed in madness that this piece of lunacy may very well live on as the marketing icon of our era.

For years I have been at odds with myself. On one hand, my life-long smart-ass instincts have brought me to the point where I sometimes believe that the whole of contemporary marketing and advertising erudition is a cruel joke -- a bunch of baloney wrapped-up in fancy lingo masquerading as a body of knowledge.

On the other hand, I have wondered whether it's just my compulsion to be a contrarian that leads me to this conclusion. Maybe I'm just constitutionally unable to be reasonable and accept what I don't agree with.

The Pepsi document gives me clarity about this and secretly makes me happy.

Here we have an arm of one of the world's leading marketing communications enterprises (Omnicom) and one of the world's leading marketing companies (PepsiCo) embracing a document of such alarming preposterousness that if you presented it to a group of half-bright 14-year olds they'd laugh you out of the room.

And yet, apparently, this drivel was approved at the highest levels of two of the world's leading marketing organizations.

Wasn't there someone to say "Wait a minute?" Wasn't there someone to say, "What?" Wasn't there someone to say, "Huh?"

Wasn't there someone who giggled when he heard about "emotive forces (that) shape the gestalt of brand identity?" Wasn't there someone who snickered when she heard about the "establishment of a gravitational pull to shift from a 'transactional' experience to an 'invitational' expression?" Wasn't there someone with the guts to ask what in the world redesigning a can of soda had to do with the "relativity of space and time?"

I am certain there are intelligent, clear-thinking people in both organizations. But it seems like the culture of large enterprises like Omnicom and PepsiCo are so saturated with the poison of group-think and boot-licking that no one has the balls to say, "are you fucking kidding me?"

Unfortunately, they are not alone. The marketing industry is a disaster. It is teeming with people who have memorized some words but can't think straight. It is reliant on cliches and mind-numbing jargon instead of clearly defined principles. It is increasingly populated by frauds, poseurs and sycophants. 

It's not just the emperor that has no clothes. It's the whole fucking empire.

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