Here is the latest Uber, Grubhub, Public, Fareway Stores, Re/Max, Samsung, Apple, Kia, Budweiser, Fedex, Hudson’s Bay, Lincoln, Heineken, Facebook, Penske, Lexus, Nationwide Insurance, Taco Cabana, Littler Caesar’s, U-Haul, Nissan, Farmer’s Insurance, AT & T, Doordash, Southwest Airlines, Hyundai, Toyota, First Energy, Aldi, John Derre, India Electric Co-Operative, Spectrum, Target, Ford, TESCO, Florida Power and Light, Verizon, Spectrum, Realtor, Acura, Mazda, Runnings, SDCCU, Sprint, Cadillac, BUICK & GMC, Interior Federal Credit Union, 2020 Census, Con Edison, T-Mobile, Enterprise, CVS, Carmax, Ad Council, Indeed, Chick-fil-a, Hyatt, Dunkin Donuts, Google and MasterCard advert.
You can take a look at the advert I’m referring to.
At the end of this little story.
Now, I am not sure exactly how much was spent on this one advert.
But I imagine that the conceptualising, making and media spend behind this one advert went into the billions of pounds.
And whilst – as I say – I am not sure of the exact budget.
I am sure about the Client’s Brief.
And here it is.
Please can you charge us a shitload of money to communicate our brand in exactly the same way as everyone else in and around us?
For maximum pointlessness and invisibility?
And just to check… you’re OK proving, on a global stage, that you don’t understand brand?
Or if you do understand brand, you’re OK to conveniently forget brand altogether?
Including what our brand stands for.
You’re OK to do this because it’s an opportunity for you to make a shitload of money from us really quickly.
And with almost no thought, yes?
Even though all that will happen is that we will be invisible.
No one will remember our brand.
No one will remember what we said.
And no one will remember anything at all about the advert?
You’ll still do it yes?
And you are OK with the fact that this work will – subliminally – weaken our brand.
Because we will be shown not only to be unimaginative, lazy and samey.
But much worse than that we will be perceived to be out of touch and out of alignment with our own brand values.
Because we won’t talk about what matters to us most.
And what matters to our customer base most.
You’re OK not pointing out the futility of the exercise to us, on any level whatsoever, yes?
And you’re OK not pointing out that this kind of communication also erodes the profitability of our brand?
Because we spend money and achieve nothing.
And whatever you do.
Do NOT do anything interesting or different with the creative or execution.
Art Direction should be zero.
Please don’t do anything that would get us noticed or remembered for what our brand actually fucking stands for.
Even though there is the opportunity to send a unique and stand-out message right now.
Because absolutely everyone is saying exactly the same as each other.
Do NOT try to make us stand out.
Do NOT create an intelligent, clear, bold, memorable and brave on-brand message, sensitively but unapologetically positioned against the backdrop of what we all are big enough and mature enough to understand is happening to us, our friends and our families.
Instead, go ‘full-patronising’.
Go timid, cautious and boring.
You can do that?
And incase you accidentally choose ‘visible’ over ‘invisible’.
Or ‘valuable’ over ‘a complete and utter waste of your client’s time and fucking money’.
Here are the specifics.
Here is what everyone else is going to do.
And therefore what we would like to do as well.
Play slow piano music.
Show some empty streets.
Tell them (whoever they are) that we are there for them. Or that we are on their side.
Tell them how long we have been there for them. Or on their side. Look, just say when our business was launched OK?
Use the word, ‘unprecedented’ or ‘challenging. A lot.
Us the word, ‘home’. A lot.
Use the word, ‘together’. A lot.
Play faster piano music. So it’s a bit more upbeat about 70% of the way through.
Show people clapping.
Show the logo.
These are unprecedented times.
(Say that in the ad, actually.
Make sure you say ‘unprecedented’ in the ad).
So you just chose a number for the budget.
Then smirk behind our back.
Then double the number.
Saying to us (something like),
“Well, if you want it this quick.
Even though it’s going to be shit, samey and invisible.
It’s going to cost you, big time”.
Because you know damn well that we don’t want to be left out of the shitshow.
These are not stupid brands.
Not all of them).
These are just brands doing a stupid thing.
But what’s more galling is that.
For every brand doing the stupid thing that is identified here.
There is a stupid-but-clever creative, marketing or ad agency.
Stood behind them.
‘Stupid’ because what they just did is stupid.
‘Clever’ because they made a shitload of money from their client.
The client whose interest they are supposed to be looking after.
The client whose brand they just weakened.
Because the brand will be shown not only to be unimaginative.
But much worse than that.
The brand will be perceived to be out of touch and out of alignment with what they say matters to them most.
This would be funny.
If it was not real.
And if it was not happening right now.
But it is.
As a man, I am sad that this is happening because the money could go to help people.
As a professional, I am sad that this is happening because the industry that I actually quite like.
Is coming up with stupid and invisible work.
Or even worse than that.
The industry that I actually quite like is not ballsy enough to say ‘no’ to their clients.
Business can learn a lot from Ricky Gervais, Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain, Iain Morris and Damon Beesley.
It’s because of how these people do their work.
The more that I absorb how emotional and life-enhancingly relatable ‘After Life’ by Ricky Gervais is.
The more that I appreciate how storyful the content, and how immediately hooky the dialogue in every Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton’s ‘Inside Number 9’ is.
The more that I enjoy discovering the arresting quirks and observations inside Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s ‘Fleabag’.
The more that I choke on how beautifully outrageous and real ‘The Inbetweeners’ by Iain Morris and Damon Beesley is. (Wondering why I, or anyone like me, had never thought to write down the magical shite that teenagers talk quite like this).
The more that I think back to how interesting, refreshing and challenging the (early series of) Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain’s ‘Peepshow’ were.
The more embarrassed I get for almost every other short-form TV sitcom or series that is meant to engage and surprise.
Because to me.
Almost all other programmes are just padding.
Programmes that slot into a genre.
Programmes that read the rules.
And follow them.
The only thing that keeps these programmes alive is that they grip the generation they are targeting – early.
So that that generation sticks with them.
Like the last generation stuck with the previous clone.
Until 5 to 7 years later.
The penny drops.
The viewer realises that the programme is just meaningless padding.
So they leave it behind.
And the programme disappears.
Because I run businesses.
And because today, I am thinking about how my and others businesses are perceived.
I just wanted to say that.
If your business is just doing what everyone else like you does.
In pretty much the same way.
It’s a boring business.
It’s just padding.
And you can do better than that.
The Penny Drops.
Businesses that slot into a category.
Businesses that learn the rules.
And follow them.
The only thing that keeps these businesses alive is that they grip the target market they are for – early.
So that that market sticks with them.
Until a little while later.
The penny drops.
The customer realises that the business is just meaningless padding in their lives.
So they leave it behind.
And the business disappears.
You can do better than that because the creatives mentioned earlier in this story have created emotional, life-enhancingly relatable, storyful, immediately hooky, arrestingly quirky, beautifully outrageous, real, interesting, refreshing and challenging television programmes.
Which means that you can create emotional, life-enhancingly relatable, storyful, immediately hooky, arrestingly quirky, beautifully outrageous, real, interesting, refreshing and challenging businesses.