March 02, 2009

The Two Elements Of Advertising

The natural world as we know it is composed of 117 elements. Some of these elements we are very familiar with, e.g. oxygen, gold, carbon. Some we have never heard of -- meitnerium, darmstadtium and ununquadium.

Some elements occur naturally and are all around us. Nitrogen, for example, comprises about 75% of the air we breathe. Some we can only create for millionths of a second by smashing atoms of elements together at very high velocities -- or having my daughter drive into them.

The advertising business, on the other hand, is composed of only two elements: ads and bullshit.

Ads used to be the dominant element in advertising. Unfortunately, in recent years the industry has been much more prolific at making bullshit.

Rummaging around in the ad industry, it's often hard to identify the bullshit. Here's a very simple way to recognize it. Everything that goes on in an agency that is not related to the creation or dissemination of ads, is bullshit.

If you would like a nice, close-up look at bullshit, I recommend this video. It is part of a presentation made a few weeks ago about the "new" package for Tropicana orange juice by its designer, Peter Arnell. I put "new" in quotes because the package is now old and dead.

The new package was yanked after about a half hour because it was such a piece of crap and provoked a firestorm of criticism and customer unhappiness.

Going back a few weeks, before the firestorm, and looking at the pretentious bullshit that was being served up is very entertaining and satisfying.

Whenever some designer starts out with, "We started on a journey..." as if he was climbing the fucking Himalayas instead of playing with crayons, you know there's some massive bullshit heading your way.

My favorite line in the video: "We wanted to take the orange and put it somewhere."

Oh, you put it somewhere, all right.

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