February 10, 2014
The Danger Of Paying Too Much Attention
For a guy who writes relentlessly about the ad industry, I pay remarkably little attention to it.
I never read Ad Age or Adweek or Brand Anything. I read very few ad blogs or marketing articles. I could no sooner tell you who won a Gold Lion than I could tell you who won the Swedish lacrosse championship.
While I have tremendous respect for excellent work, I don't know who the great copywriters or art directors of our day are, and I don't know who runs what agency or who just got hired or fired.
I am not bragging about my ignorance. The truth is I am interested in advertising, but I am not interested in the ad industry.
I find that the only way I can maintain perspective about the impact of advertising on real people in the real world is to live among them. If I really want a sense of how it works and how it doesn't work it is best to see it as a consumer sees it, not as a practitioner sees it.
When you pay a lot of attention to the industry, you start to give too much weight to popular notions. You question the evidence of your own eyes, and your own common sense. You forget that the assertions of experts, loudmouths, and zealots are mostly just opinions tarted up to resemble facts.
You start believing that people have a strong bond with your brand of gasoline, and that when you run TV spots next quarter you can calculate a precise ROI.
Or you believe that people want to go on line and have conversations about your cream cheese. And that these conversations will lead their friends to share this enthusiasm and will result in great marketing success.
In other words, you become a moron.
No sensible civilian would believe this nonsense. Only a marketing professional could be so silly.
The best way to keep a proper perspective about advertising is to remain at a safe distance from its legendary lack of self-restraint, and notice for yourself what is working and what isn't.
Observe what real people do and, to the extent possible, try to be one.