The funny thing about the ad biz, is how little things have changed over the years. In spite of digital, viral, crowd sourcing, flash mobbing, and the current holy grail of “Social Networking,” which has grabbed the industry by the throat and is shaking us to the point where our teeth are about to fall out, what we do hasn’t really changed at all.
Yes, the mechanics of the way we do it have been transformed. We arrive at “insights” “messaging” & “touch points.” We “curate,” we are “artisanal.” We make things go viral, we create conversations, and we are encouraged to “Friend” hemorrhoid creams. But, at the end of the day, 90 per cent of what we produce is not only infantile and an insult to the intelligence of the audience we are trying to influence, more often than not, it has very little effect on sales.
You don’t believe me? Watch a few hours of commercials on network television. (And, in spite of what you read on your mobile device, television is still the most popular media out there.) Daytime TV is full of mums having orgasms ‘cos their whites are now unbelievably white, thanks to new Blasto Detergent with miracle speckles. Prime time news is full of drug ads featuring bronzed geriatrics climbing Half Dome thanks to Blasto Titanium Joint Crème. The last couple of minutes of each spot featuring the obligatory, breathlessly read, warning us that Blasto might also cause blindness, wooden leg rot, and depression leading to suicide.
However, the Titanium Douchenozzle award goes to the men’s toiletries industry. These guys are positive Neanderthals when it comes to original thinking. Yeah, I know the current Old Spice campaign with the ex football player flashing his abs and riding his horse backwards has created a buzz, is pretty funny, and has even been claimed to have increased sales. The fact that significant discounting promotions were taking place at the same time are conveniently ignored.
Funny thing is, I used to work on Old Spice at Dorlands, London, back in the late seventies… That was before virtually everyone reading this was born. We used to call it the “3B” account… It was mandatory that all the commercials should contain three essential ingredients. Boats – Birds – Boobs. This required us to shoot everything in the South of France, staying at the luxurious Hotel Negresco, whilst attempting to drink the bar dry every evening. Our days were spent on board Onassis sized yachts filming Brigitte Bardot look-alikes wearing dental floss bikinis that were hell bent on ravishing Marcello Mastroianni lookalikes wearing sailor suits… Why, you may ask, were these young ladies driven to such paroxysms of lust? Obviously, ‘cos the guys in the sailor suits were wearing Old Spice.
40 years later, nothing has really changed. Every man’s toiletries product is marketed on the same premise… “Splash this on… Get laid!”
40 years from now, I guarantee it will be the same. Not that I’ll be around to see it. I’ll be at the bar in the Negresco with one of the Bardot lookalikes. Current vintage!
George Parker has spent more than 40 years on Madison Avenue. He’s won Lions, CLIOs, EFFIES, and the David Ogilvy Award. His blog is adscam.typepad.com, which he describes as, “required reading for those looking for a piss & vinegar view of the world’s second oldest profession.” His latest book, “Confessions of a Mad Man,” makes the TV show “Mad Men” look like “Sesame Street.” Update: He just got named as one of the 22 Most Influential Ad Bloggers, in the known universe, by: Guess who?
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