Tuesday night at ad:tech Chicago wrapped up with a keynote by author Clay Shirky, "Here Comes Every Customer: The Former Audience is Talking Around You."
The Big Idea, if intro speaker Drew Ianni is any authority: "The internet is the most important thing to happen to the human species."
That's a pretty high and mighty manifesto. Upon taking the stage, Shirky tried conveying the same idea with more precision -- and a much higher word count.
Here we go again. Apparently, it's OK to blow up stuff in TV commercials (see Verizon's Michael Bay commercial) but OMFG, show a fleeting glimpse of a natural human body part and the country freaks to high alert, places a blindfold over the collective eyeballs of every kid in the country (nudity is bad!!) and launches the cause group machine.
Yes. This is America. Nudity is bad. Nudity is something to be shunned. Natural beauty? Screw that. Put a potato sack on! Cover that God-given beauty. Sex is bad. Sex dirty. Sex is nasty. Sex should never be thought about. Sex should be shunned.
Four years ago when Keira Knightley starred in King Aurthur, the studio had her breasts digitally enlarged for the movie's promotional materials. Knightley, now 23 and starring in the film The Duchess, refused requests from studio heads to toy with her chest, claiming she's happy with her body the way it is.
Oh yes, we all love period piece cleavage, what with the era's corseted gowns and plunging necklines, but every woman should be able to feel completely comfortable with her own body without society dictating that they be a C or D cup.
Knightley, who caved to studio breast enhancement requests in 2004, put her foot down this time. Last year she told Britain's GMTV, "I would love to have breasts! I'm never going to get them. I'm naturally who I am."
While we'd all love to be perfect, we know perfection doesn't really exist. And creating the illusion that it's attainable only spawns unrealistic goals that can do serious damage to a person's psyche.
Son: Dad, what's that?
Dad: It's an ad.
S: But it just looks like a plain piece of paper.
D: No, it's an ad.
S: Well what's it an ad for?
D: I 'm not sure but I know it's an ad.
S: How do you know?
D: Because there's nothing offensive about it.
S: So ads can't be offensive?
D: Oh no. Not at all. And that's how I know it's an ad.
Hmm. Let's see if we can drag this "OMG, it's gay bashing" Snickers kerfuffle out just a bit longer and try to snag a few more vociferous comments. Hey, Advertising Age is doing it. Why not Adrants? Rather than move on, much like the rest of the non-ad world has..if they even heard the whining in the first place, Advertising Age decided to do...yes...a trend piece on banned ads adding to Snickers the Verizon Pit Bull ad and the swearing Churchill Insurance dog.
Is this really what the industry needs to spend its time debating? Oh wait, of course it does. That's all this industry does; bitch about the work of others' while inflating ego balloons over their own. And that's before the cause groups enter the debate.
During this week's Television Critic's Association Press Tour held at the Beverly Hilton, MarKyr Media Co-Founder Marjorie Kase interviewed Mad Men Creator Matthew Weiner for Adrants. Mad Men, a show about advertising that's set in the early sixties, debuts its second season this Sunday, July 27, on AMC at 10PM.
MK: How has the Ad game evolved since the early days of Mad Men?
MW: I think the biggest difference is all of the conglomerates in advertising. They take the competition out of the market place. The ads themselves, I don't think are particularly bad or anything. There are still great ads being made with amazing amount of talent in advertising. I meet them and I see their work and I'm impressed and I'm amused and I enjoy it.
MK: Aside from all the sexism, drinking and smoking, how has the industry office culture changed?
MW: Well I don't think that's changed. I think that when you go to an advertising convention, the drinking is still there, and all the smoking is happening out in front of the building. I think people still go to strip clubs. There was a joke about Peggy last year that made Pete punch a guy in the face that was "She's like a lobster, all the meat's in the tail". That's from the New York Stock Exchange last year, that's not historical research; I was worried that would sound too contemporary.
Yesterday I read an article on JAMZ about Mad Men and how diversity advocates might threaten the show's authenticity. The author called Mad Men un-nostalgic and a "world where white men were kings." In what appears to be a reasonable justification to crystallize Mad Men as its own white male ecosystem, the author concludes:
Everyone is smoking, drinking, closeted, desperately unhappy. Choices and options are limited. That's the fabric that holds 'Mad Men' together. To suddenly throw in a little diversity would rip it to shreds.
I get the dude. It would be unrealistic to pepper those executive suits with black and brown faces for the sake of the PC police.
But it's also dangerous to use Mad Men as an excuse to shut diversity out -- something agencies are still too good at. That's gratuitous and unrealistically romantic. There's plenty of room to broaden Mad Men's scope without harming its precious and purported authenticity.
Saatchi & Saatchi's The Breakfast Club campaign for JCPenney has been crapped by everyone on since it launched. Today, it's Rebecca Cullers' turn. On AdFreak, Rebecca does the math, writing, "I was 3 years old when The Breakfast Club came out in 1985. I didn't know the film existed until I was in college, where it was included in a class on culturally significant movies for Gen X. Now, there's more or less a decade separating me from today's incoming high-school students. Does anyone really think they will get the reference?"
She is absolutely correct in her analysis of the problem and for anyone at Saatchi or JCPenney not to have realized this is further confirmation far too many advertisers and their agencies, despite believing the contrary, are completely out of touch with reality.
On Sunday I moderated an ad agency panel for Shoot! the Day, a day-long photographer conference put together by PhotoShelter.
A few things I picked up amidst coleslaw mountains and sassy stock:
- ADs and art buyers depend pretty heavily on stock photography, but feel like they've seen everything the industry has to offer -- including its paltry selection of models. "It's become a running joke," said Molly Aaker of Unit7. "'There's that same girl, except with her hair up!'"
- Diversity is an issue, but it can't be solved just by changing the color of people's faces. Belinda Lopez of StrawberryFrog wants to see more "documentary-style" imagery -- people in natural poses, expressing real emotions, and doing things a person in that situation and/or of that ethnicity is likely to do.
- Everybody seems crazy about PhotoShelter -- which is probably why they attended the first annual Shoot! the Day in the first place.
It's a forgone conclusion that Verizon ads suck and deserve to be pummeled by bitchy ad critics such as those employed at trade rags like Adrants. Oh wait, that's us. Oops. That would be...leading industry publication Adrants. Now that we have that settled...
It's official. America has no sense of humor and has become so literal, no one can say anything at all without offending various cause group members who, due to an onslaught of grade school self-esteem-focused curricula which have rendered them incapable of chilling out and enjoying life without looking at it through a microscope.
So what's all the fuss about this time?