The Ad That Went Bad

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(If you’re a regular dim bulber, you know that I love to riff on what’s happening to brands, marketing, media consumption and the greater Known Universe. I had the honor of keynoting the Worldwide Partners‘ annual meeting in Miami earlier this week and for that occasion I wanted to explore a new way of looking at things…so I wrote a poem, which follows. My apologies to Dr. Seuss and anybody who gets headaches from bad rhythm or rhyme)

Our old friend, The Ad, was one day born
as a pitch inscribed in cuneiform.
From the folks who invented both fiction and beer
the ad probably said “get yours right here.”
Over time effectively it didn’t change
through epochs enlightened or deranged,
across generations and spanning nations
served this lingua franca of conversations.

The 20th Century started no less the same,
media massified but the point pointedly plain:
Nobody expected The Ad to listen,
but rather to talk as brands’ intercession.
Tail-fins? Great! Sansabelt? What invention!
Buy this newest option for odor prevention!
Whether or not benefits functional or faux,
The Ad told consumers what they wanted to know.

Then sometime, somewhere, I know not how,
a recalcitrant brand broke the unspoken vow:
in the 60s appeared the first game-changer ad
that was, unequivocally, bad, Bad, BAD.
Sure, things had changed, more options arose-d
like specialty magazines, and someday HBOs.
Consumers were cynical and times a’troubled,
which required the purpose of relevance redoubled. 

We knew conversations were never simply chatter:
The Ad was bad because, for once, it didn’t matter.
Yet we made it funnier, more detached and abstract,
embraced creativity over demonstrable fact,
or swapped out sales for unrepentant art,
like “get it here” replaced with a horse’s lit fart.
Consumers gave up, they ran away,
had no interest in what The Ad chose to say.

And we, the self-proclaimed protectors of brands,
were left sitting on our self-adoring hands.
Now, The Ad that went bad is all alone,
its utility its audience having outgrown.
The conversation instead moved onto the Net
where you can’t try to sell, no, not one bit.
New theories explain what’s transmitted between us,
that consumers have evolved into a wholly new genus.

But I’ve just got to ask this: WHAT THE HELL?
I thought the purpose of marketing was to sell?
Meaning is not to a platform wed,
and consumers don’t want their time wasted instead.
Maybe conversation isn’t the final destination,
but a variable in a much larger equation.
Could truth, authority, and credibility,
guide what’s provided by ad agencies

Perhaps we’re responsible for what’s come to pass.
Did we shoot ourselves in our proverbial…foot?
And perhaps this transformation we’ve misunderstood:
just imagine if that Bad Ad went good.

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