September 19, 2011

Oh No, I'm Dead!

For the past four years, one of the mainstays of this blog has been making fun of the silly  "______ Is Dead" brand of marketing journalism.

If you'd like to see your name on the byline of an article, but you have no idea what to write about, just pick any topic -- let's say "shopping" -- and write an article called "Shopping Is Dead."

The great thing is, you don't need any facts. You just make up a few assertions based on nothing but the latest industry babble, and they publish it. It's great!

We've been through "Advertising Is Dead" and "Television Is Dead" and just about everything else associated with Life Before The Internet (LBTI) is dead, too.

The fact that things go on pretty much as before is irrelevant to the minds that produce and believe this nonsense. So what if television viewing is at its highest point ever? So what if the world is drowning in advertising as never before? Web maniacs want them dead so, what the hell, let's just say they're dead. 

The reason that facts have no place in this type of journalism is that these pieces aren't really about what they claim to be about. They are about a particular brand of religion -- The Divine Church Of The Internet -- and these paeans are part of an evolving liturgy written in adoration of the new god. Sadly, he's a jealous god who cannot be satisfied until he vanquishes everything that came before.

In this new religion we don't just have a new god, we also have a New Man. The New Man has shed the wickedness of his previously pagan existence and is now cleansed and enlightened by the shining light of the Internet.

Today we present a lovely example of the genre. It's called The Copywriter Is Dead. It appeared last week in a blog called The Future Of Media. According to this latest addition to the Encyclopedia Of Things That Are Dead, we copywriters have "perfected the art of lying to consumers" and for that and our other sins we have now been exiled to the boneyard.

Can you guess what killed us? Hint: It not only killed us, it also changed everything. Ah, you clever boy, you've got it. We were killed by social media.

The article gives us a full curriculum on the amazing blessings of social media, including all the usual stuff  -- "cultural curation", "lines of conversation","avenues of authenticity." (Strangely, however, nothing about congressmen tweeting pictures of their weenies.)

Apparently, the reason for the tragic demise of us poor copywriters is that now in the age of social media...
"...the voice of the real individual has triumphed -- only the recommendation of a like-minded consumer, journalist or objective reviewer holds sway."
Really? That's a pretty sweeping statement. So I decided to do a little research and find out in what proportion these "like-minded consumers, journalists, and objective reviewers" are responsible for my untimely demise.

I parked myself in front of the Safeway in my neighborhood with a clipboard and pencil. As people came out with their shopping carts, I stopped them, picked one or two items out of their basket and asked them this question: "Who did you consult before you bought this jar of peanut butter and those frozen chicken fingers: a like-minded consumer, a journalist, or an objective reviewer?"

Here are the tabulated responses:
- Like-minded consumer:                                  0
- Journalist:                                                         0
- Objective Reviewer:                                        0
- Nobody:                                                         585
- Get The Fuck Out of Here, Asshole:     1,207
Although these numbers tend not to support the author's hypothesis, being a fair-minded person I must admit that my local Safeway is probably a little down-market compared to the author of the piece, whose credentials include producing "experiential" work for "global brands." I imagine in those rarefied quarters where global brands are experientiated you probably can't swing a dead yoga mat without hitting a card-carrying cultural curator.

As a result of my research project, I have come to the conclusion that what consumers rely on mostly is their own freakin' experience. Can it be that the personal experience of enjoying a product is even more powerful than the triumphant voices of all the twittering "like-minded consumers, journalists, and objective reviewers?" Can it be that we're not all slaves to what others "like?"

And that's where copywriters come in.

The job of the copywriter is to persuade us to experience a product. It's a job that requires a good deal of artistry, finesse, and tact -- characteristics rarely encountered in the silly jabber of web zealots.

No comments: