Letter

The Advertising Game: A Day in the Life
It’s happened. I’m embarrassed to admit that I work in advertising. Last week at my son’s baseball game, I actually hemmed around and did my best not to answer the question: “What do you do?” Understand that I am not embarrassed by the job I do. I’m proud of my work, and the people I work with. I’m just embarrassed by the stupid, sophomoric, self-serving industry of which I am a part.
Let me use the July 3 issue of Adweek to illustrate why. In the news story “7 Shops Show Off to Woo Citibank,” Young & Rubicam goes to great lengths to try and win the business. They hired a director, rented a 100-seat auditorium and put on a play to show Citibank they understand how the brand could interact with consumers. Let me translate: “Hey, we don’t understand reality, but in our little playtime world, we can do lots of neat things. All it takes is your willingness to spend money foolishly, like we just did.”
Merkley Newman Harty’s pitch starts out with a video montage illustrating the chaos of life. What a brilliant insight! Those crazy account planners have really uncovered something here. This is bigger than just banking–if people’s lives are this busy, think of the applications to fast food, grocery shopping, even mufflers.
But what takes the prize is the closing paragraph of this story: “Although the substance of
Kirshenbaum’s pitch could not be determined, the team broke into song during the presentation.” Am I the only one who laughed out loud at the complete irony of this statement?
Let’s go to the Creative section: In his judge’s diary, Jim Ferguson writes that the Cannes festival “is the only international awards show that truly celebrates the work.” I think the best comment on the absurdity of that statement is from Adweek itself, which chose to run only one spread that cryptically describes 11 of the winners, but found room to run two spreads with 32 party pics of beautiful ad types getting drunk and posing with goofy faces, like it was for their high-school yearbook.
I know this is advertising–not fine art, not great literature. But that doesn’t mean the work has to be shallow, ignorant drivel that makes people want to puke. Stop sipping the champagne for a second and take a look around. The crowd (read: consumers) isn’t laughing with us, they’re laughing at us.
Marc Kempter
Partner
Core, St. Louis