April 25, 2016

Let's Call Content "Shit"

Here at the Ketel One Conference Center on the California Campus of The Ad Contrarian Global Headquarters we are unnaturally obsessed with the meaning of words.

This probably stems from spending too much time doing crossword puzzles when we should be working on the book we are supposedly writing. But let's not dwell on unpleasantries.

Today let's talk about one of our favorite topics -- content.

Content is the grand obsession of the advertising industry these days. Although, frankly, the obsessions come and go so fast that if you miss three days of LinkedIn you may not even know that last week's obsession is now officially dead and something else has come along to change everything.

Today I want to propose that we replace the word "content" with "shit." This idea came to me after reading a piece in the Harvard Business Review by Greg Satell. I want to expand on Greg's idea, and I think I can make a pretty compelling case for this recommendation.

Here's the logic.

Everything meaningful has a specific designation. So if you write something with meaning and value it's called a book, or a play, or a poem, or an essay.

But if you write something that does not have a specific designation -- if it is not a book, or a play, or a poem, or an essay --  if it's just a cluster of words you have gathered to "engage" an unsuspecting reader with your brand or your persona, it's almost certainly a piece of shit.

If it just stayed put it would remain a piece of shit. But when you upload it to the web, it automatically gets promoted to content.

The same is true of a film or video recording. If it's good, it's a movie, or a program, or a video. But if it's, say, a recording of your client's manifesto about how he's going to disrupt the frozen chicken industry then it's content. And it's almost certainly, shit.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that your client is shit or that your directorial skills are shit, or that the frozen chicken is shit. I'm just saying that as an undertaking the aesthetic essence of the project is likely to be shit, and we should acknowledge it as such rather than hide it behind the polite term "content." Let's be proud of our shit!

You would never call a sonnet, or a ballet, or a movie "content." They have specific identities and formal designations because they require talent and skill. But stuff that doesn't require talent and skill? It's shit by any name.

Like those pictures you take. The good ones are either art, or portraits, or, at worst, photography. But the really awful ones you put on Facebook -- that picture of the tunafish sandwich you had for lunch, or your dog licking himself, or the adoring selfie -- that shit is content. And that content is shit!

I hope I have convinced you because it is now time for me to get back to working on my book and stop wasting my time on this, um, content.

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