Thursday, July 25, 2013

It won't fit

Here's one of the fringe benefits of being a freelancer. And writing a blog.

I bop around all over town, sometimes all over the country, to work at many different ad agencies. So,when I choose to pen some honest criticism at insidious agency behavior there's really no telling which one I am pointing my finger at.

The truth is, in some small fashion or other, I am talking about all of them.

Take the picture above. Clearly this is linkbait.

But it also illustrates one of the major issues facing art directors and copywriters today, that is the daily stuffing of 10 lbs. of potatoes into a 5 lbs. sack. Or, less colloquially, cramming the entire brief, with its planner-mandated product points, into a 30 second spot.

As problems go, this ranks up there with, "What shade of Royal Blue shall we paint the new Baby King's bedroom?" But for those of us in the biz, it is all consuming and in the end, completely demoralizing.

It points out the people at the top, the ones making the decisions, the C-suite captains who dare to call themselves Chiefs because of their alleged expertise in the art of persuasion, are nothing more than empty-headed animal food trough wipers. They have all the persuasive power of a Florida District Attorney.

I'll give you an example.

Years ago, we were presenting a rough cut to an automotive client. The spot was a Tier II :25/:05. For laymen, that's a 25 second message followed by a local tag like, "Test Drive the new #$%%@ at your local $%^&# dealer."

In the 25 second body of the spot, we made the simple point that the car came equipped with Anti-Lock Brakes, Cruise Control and 6 speed automatic transmission. And the client agreed it demonstrated those  features quite well. Then asked if the 5 second tag could also mention the air conditioning, CD Player and power moonroof. Oh and the $299 a month lease rate. At participating dealers.

If he knew we had the ability to speed up the voiceover via the SpeedUpAthon 9000, he also would have had us mention the free coffee at the dealership.

This problem is by no means limited to the dimmer among us.

In his book Insanely Simple, Ken Segall (terrible spelling) points out a top level meeting between Steve Jobs and Lee Clow. After reviewing a script, Steve had asked if the commercial could make some additional points. Clow rolled up several paper balls in one hand and one paper ball in the other. He turned to Jobs and said, "If I ask you to catch the paper balls, which hand would you prefer I throw at you?"

Jobs correctly selected the hand with one ball.

I fear a different response from today's CMOs.
"Throw them all at me."


Anonymous said...

I remember when we used to bitch all the time about :30s being too short. These days, :30 spots are a luxury. Many clients have been told by media agencies that they can get more bang for their buck if they switch exclusively to :15 spots. Of course, they still want us to deliver 10 pounds of shit, but now it's in a 2.5 pound bag.

Jeff said...

I notice in Lee's other hand there seems to be a little room left. I'd like to add some more paper balls...

"They have all the persuasive power of a Florida District Attorney." Nice.

Age old problem that only gets worse as time goes by. Excellent post. Dead on.