I own a small creative shop in Washington D.C.. When people ask what I do for a living I say I am in “Advertising”. But, am I really?.
Advertising is unwanted, unwelcome and uninspiring for the most part. No matter how attractive we try to make advertising, to the consumer, it is an interruption, an annoyance and simply another pitch. There is just not enough lipstick in the world to make this pig attractive as long as the pig is trying to sell something. Because none of us want to be sold anymore. We are just sick of being pitched. Majority of advertising sucks. That is why we all love commercial-free content. We go to great extends to avoid advertising interruptions. We pay premium dollars just to avoid advertising. Getting rid of advertising interruptions for a service we subscribe to is considered an “upgrade”.
So, why does a multi-billion dollar industry continues to thrive where all it does is release stink bugs into people’s homes, cars and work places? Halyomorpha halys, the brown marmorated stink bug, is an insect which has invaded our lives over the past ten years in the U.S.. Advertising has invaded our lives since the invention of money. The most prevalent commonality between stink bugs and advertising is there is no known deterrent for either one. You cannot escape either no matter how hard you try. Stink bugs will show up at the most odd places from your vanity mirror to kitchen cabinets. Your pillow to your curtains. Your computer screens to newspapers. Advertising, likewise, shows up in your classrooms, bedrooms, board rooms, bathrooms. It will pop up in hats, mats, in backpacks and bus backs, in line and online. We will not squash a stink bug in fear of discovering why they are called stink bugs. (they release an awful scent when squashed) We will not squash advertising in fear of crippling our capitalism. Of course, similar to the elements of a poor advertising campaign, stink bugs are by far the dumbest and most persistent insects ever. They have no strategy, no goal and no flight plan. They just show up. When you swat them away they barely move. They have no knowledge, no reflex, no instincts. When you pick one up and flush it down the toilet they don’t die. They just relocate. They pop up somewhere else like a useless online banner ad merely to piss off the consumer. When you turn your radio off to swat away that screaming car dealer spot it doesn’t go away. It just shows up on your TV during the 6 o’clock news repeating its assault on your intelligence.
So, I now tell people I am in the stink bug extermination business. While I can’t kill them all, I aspire to release butterflies into air. Dazzling, gorgeous butterflies with short lives and long impressions. Just like a powerful creative with a sound strategy designed to build relationships, inspire hearts and generate love stories known as brand loyalty.
As long as capitalism is alive (and, I am totally fine with that) advertising will survive under all circumstances. But it sure is shedding its Mad Men-like mentality. Elite ad shops across the country are catching on to the reality that cost-per-point doesn’t dictate decisions anymore. Big ideas do. I hope we continue to witness majority of ads transform from stink bugs to butterflies. Because, butterflies do not interrupt. They enhance. The only way to compel the consumer to spend money is to capture their hearts first.