September 14, 2009

Navel gazing

I just flipped through the latest issue of a local advertising magazine. It's largely about advertising around the city, and across the province--with bits and pieces of stuff gathered from here and there around the world.

And, good Lord, what a bunch of navel gazing.

To be fair, this issue is all about event marketing--highlighting last year's big events, the agencies that organized them, the companies who decorated, the caterers who cooked, the sewers who costumed, the venues, the people who attended. So maybe I shouldn't be too surprised that they seemed to haver left out the--oh, how should I put it?--the dang message. I mean the big picture. The advertising point.

Sure, a creative awards show had a nice venue and great decor and fab lighting and lovely food--but, um, what did it communicate? (I know I know! That 2 agencies lapped up just about everything--I was there, I saw how everyone else vowed not to come back next year for what was, to put it gently, a great wank fest.)

Forgive me if I sound bitter. I don't mean to be. It's just that the more I read about advertising, and attend awards shows, and pay attention to what's going on in the agencies around me, the more I wonder just who we think we are.

Because, as a bunch, we take ourselves too dang seriously.

And we think customers--the people at the end of the line, the ones who ultimately pay all our bills--are a bunch of idiots.

I love being a copywriter. I love the creative process, the creative department, thinking in concepts, playing with words, finding the perfect fit for the brief. It's exhilarating and it sure beats accounting (sorry, accountants!). But to go from there to mistaking what I do for art, or to aim for an award when we should be talking to consumers--sorry. I don't buy it. Advertising has a terrible tendency to elevate itself to some higher plane, judging itself on what's breakthrough and cool and out of the box rather than what works.

And we all fall into it, at some point. We start to see what we do as all-important--as an untouchable bit of higher thought, smarter ideas, incomparable cleverness. But it's advertising. It's communication. It's addressing the almighty consumer.

It's not rocket science, and it's certainly not going to save any lives.

Yet here's this magazine, these award shows, these huge naval-gazing events. And for what? For the glorification of ourselves? The justification of our salaries?

A medical magazine has medical articles. An architect's magazine talks about architecture. So why do advertising magazines talk so much about the people in the industry and so little about making the message, addressing the consumer and doing our work a little better?

Awards are great, don't get me wrong. But this is our work. We should get our noses out of the belly-button lint and remember who we're working for.


  1. Apple should make an iPhone that actually fits in your navel. They would be all the rage at the agencies. You would never have to look up.

    Now for politicians, there is better positioning I can think of.

  2. They'd need a flexi-Exorcist head, but like the idea....

  3. jeaves, I think the cell phone from Zoolander might do the trick. But when you get to the politician model being inserted into a nether region, might I suggest a Motorola circa 1990? (You know, the Rat Patrol version.)

    Teenie, the only advertising publication I occasionally pick up is adbusters. They tilt at a lot of windmills and I disagree with much of the political content, but they're creative as hell and the only ones that really take a critical examination of how things work (or don't).

  4. Jake: There are a lot of good ad mags out there--I guess I just get annoyed by all the self-importance that seems to permeate the industry. So much effort seems to go into winning awards, rather than communicating with the public...