Tuesday, December 17, 2013

I'm such a tool

It's typical for a man my age, 43, to look back on his life and start wondering about some of the choices that have been made or the roads that have been followed.

I've been doing a little bit of soul searching lately and come to the undeniable conclusion that I am a Grade A Douchebag.

Particularly when it comes to the particulars of my career.

For years, I thought the proper -- the only -- way to go about making a TV commercial for our high paying clients was to dig into their business, understand their position in the marketplace, rethink their approach and then create and devise a strategic piece of communication that would alter their public perception and drive consumers to their products or services.

What the fuck was I smoking?

When I watch a commercial today it becomes painfully obvious that I wasted so much time and energy trying to bring some silly high-minded concept to the small screen.

I can feel my kidneys clench when I mull over all those scripts, all those hours, all those heated discussions with planners, account people and clients, just trying to will my way to something worthwhile.

Now, in retrospect, it's all clear to me, 'ideas' are so 1990's.

If I were a junior copywriter coming up through the ranks today, I'd do it all different. I'd put down the acrimony and pick up The Formula. Oh you know The Formula. It may not have been formally committed to paper, but it is the How-To Manual for almost everything that shows up on TV today.

1. Get a Top Ten Song. Thanks to the advent of iTunes, these are easy to find. No need for expensive scoring or laborious searches for just the right soundtrack. Pick a song people know, preferably sung or arranged by an alternative indie band. Ideally, a photogenic alternative indie band. When in doubt, look for beanie caps, full sleeve tats and Amish beards. This way you'll have some youthful eye candy for the obligatory behind-the-scenes making of the commercial video that people flock to on youtube.

2. Hire yourself a B list director. These are typically former A list directors who have grown accustomed to a certain lifestyle. Now, no longer in feverish demand, they have dropped a rung or two on the ladder but still enjoy hob-knobbing in Cannes. To do so, they will do what they do, with much less opinionating and much more accommodating. Oh and they're a lot cheaper.

3. The Abercrombie & Fitch approach to casting. It goes without saying that every spot should be a Rainbow Coalition of people. Three white males must always be accompanied by an African American. And two white females must always have a sassy sister. And all of them must be pretty damn hot or cute, preferably both. No one wants to see ugly people. Ugly people shop at Walmart. So you must cast impossibly attractive actors. Even if you're shooting a spot for Walmart.

4. Change the world, at least pretend to. In case you hadn't noticed people like companies that like people. Companies that want to enrich our planet while enriching their bank accounts. Anybody can sell drain cleaners or paper towels or melted cheese in a squeezable bottle, but the buying public wants to conduct commerce with companies who care. Being attached to a cause is the cost of doing business these days. That applies to everyone, including manufacturers of pourable cheddar-like substances.

5. Say everything but say nothing. Or Platitudes not Attitudes. Planners know exactly what it is consumers want to see and hear. That's why they're planners. Take their supernatural wisdom for the pure gold that it is and pour it all into a celebrity-read announcer read. It matters little, whether you are selling planes, trains, automobiles or even soft drinks. A good spot will include references to innovation, commitment, technology, caring, design for people's sake, sustainability, and excellence.

There you have it. I've done everything but regurgitate the brief...uhhhh, write the script for you.

Which I'll be happy to do in 2014 with the new adjusted-for-inflation-and-my-daughter's-college-tuition 2014 Day Rates. Did I mention that a portion of every day rate earned will be donated to the St. Jude's Research Hospital.

One postscript - don't forget those hashtags.


George Tannenbaum said...

Your best post ever.

Sherry Pollack said...

Rich's great insight nails it again

Sherry Pollack said...

Rich, never disappoints