Equality, innovation, honesty, and advancement are all the words we pick from a pre-conceived list.
During a lifetime in advertising and marketing, dating back to the mid 1970s, I’ve always adhered to Bill Bernbach’s Principal Quotes as the one and only “advertising strategy” that works. The founder of New York’s premier agency for much of the 20th century often said: “Everything you write … everything on a page-every word, every graphic symbol, every shadow-should further the message you’re trying to convey.” If Bernbach believed a product could not live up to its advertising, he would not take on the client. No matter the budget. That’s integrity!
Compare that to advertising today and sadly realize that the industry over-all has degraded to vague, inspirational nonsense to try and capture people’s attention. Just watch the stupendous pharmaceutical commercials these days and cringe as a narrator’s voice spews incomprehensible words and terms into your living room in an effort to convince us that they have the answer to what maybe ailing us.
Bernbach would have agreeably smiled however over the words New York copy writer Kendra Eash wrote in an amazing bit of satire mocking how the ad industry these days likes to use vaguely formulated nonsense to capture people’s attention. So when Dissolve, a stock video distributor, that provides many of the emotionally loaded scenes used in commercials took her words and visualized them in an amazingly nondescript, faux-inspirational video (from stock footage) that tells you absolutely nothing at all, I had to naturally think off Bill Bernbach. Watch the video…it’s kind of hilarious. 2:19 is my favorite moment.
If you run an ad agency, please use this as a clarion call to say actual things in your clients’ commercials. Things that actually add something to the discourse. Stop being bombastic.
For the reader’s convenience I have included the written copy.
Narrator: We think first of vague words that are synonyms for progress and pair them with footage of a high-speed train. Science is doing lots of stuff that may or may not have anything to do with us. See how this guy in the lab coat holds up a beaker? That means we do research. Here’s a picture of DNA.
There are a shitload of people in the world, especially in India. See how we’re part of the global economy? Look at those farmers in China, but we also do business in the U.S.A. Or want you to think we do. Check out this wind energy thing in Indiana, and this blue-collar guy with dirt on his face. Whew. Also, we care about the environment, loosely. Here’s some powerful, rushing water, and people planting trees. Our policies could be related to these panoramic views of Costa Rica.
In today’s high-speed environment, stop-motion footage of a city at night with cars turning quickly makes you think about doing things efficiently and time passing. Lest you think we’re a faceless entity, look at all these attractive people. Here’s some of them talking and laughing, and closeups of hands passing canned goods to each other in a setting that evokes community service.
Equality, innovation, honesty, and advancement are all the words we choose from a list. Our profits are awe-inspiring like this guy who’s looking up and pointing at a skyscraper or a kite while smiling and explaining something to his child. Using a specific ratio of Asian people to black people to women to white men, we want to make sure we represent your needs and interests, or at least a version of your skin color in our ads. Did we put a baby in here? What about an ethnic old man and his wrinkled smile represents the happiness and wisdom of the poor. Yep.
If only Miss Eash would have put a dancing puppy or adorable kitty somewhere in this wonderful essay, satirical perfection would have been accomplished.