Archive | October, 2011

Advertising — the Worst Profession in the World

24 Oct

Try this.

Ask a member of the ad industry what percentage of ads they think are crap.

Most will say 90%.

Some will say 95%.

David Ogilvy said 99%*

No one I’ve ever asked has gone below 90% but lets allow a big margin for error.

Let’s say 70% of ads are crap.

I don’t think anyone is going to say it’s less than that.

{where does it stop?}

And the hypothesis also means 30% are good, right?


Can you imagine if bus drivers operated with a 30% success rate?

Or heart surgeons?

Or refs?

There would be carnage on the roads, corpses piling up in hospitals and riots in every football stadium.

No other profession I can think of would tolerate a 30% success rate.

But in advertising it’s par for the course.

Which suggests that as a profession we seem to be OK with being crap.

Of course it’s not all crap.

Any given year Cannes, CLIO, D&AD and The One Show, among others, hand out awards that prove it.

Even if you disagree with some of the stuff that wins, it’s undeniable each year turns up a slew of very good work.

It even gets published in convenient annuals to inspire us to do more good work the next year.

But we keep right on producing 70% crap.

It’s amazing we even get paid for being so ineffective.

Why do we do it in the face of all that excellence?

Not to mention a whole literary sub-genre dedicated to producing great advertising.

From Claude Hopkins’ Scientific Advertising or Ogilvy on Advertising to Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor from Jerry Della Femina through to Sorry for The Lobsters by Neil French.

There are bookcases of erudition aimed at fostering excellence, and most of all, of avoiding crap.

Doesn’t anybody read them?

If they do then, why doesn’t all this knowledge improve things?

Or does it?

Would we be suffering even more than 70% crap without it?

Maybe we should take a closer look at what we mean by crap.

If I don’t like something, I may well say it’s crap.

And I probably like different ads than you do.

So your crap and my crap may be poles apart.

You may even like my crap and vice versa.

Crap is subjective.

A creative person’s criteria for good advertising may be freshness and imagination.

A client’s may centre around ROI.

An account exec’s may revolve around a happy client.

As much as I believe creative advertising is the way to go to maximize ROI.

It’s also undeniable that crap can be effective.

Think about all that dreary financial direct mail.

Or all those bad infomercials.

Someone is crunching the numbers.

They don’t keep them coming because they’re ineffective.

They work.

But just because they work, doesn’t mean they’re not crap.

Since they work, does it matter?

That depends on your point of view.

And what is advertising, if not a point of view?

Theoretically you could give the same brief to two different agencies and get exactly the same ROI.

But one agency’s work would win loads of awards and the others’ would be crap.

So does it really matter?

Well, I like to sell stuff with a bit of dignity, style and wit.

I think it works best and it’s the way I prefer being sold to.

And if it makes the industry a little less crap.

I’m all for it.

* “Ninety-nine percent of advertising doesn’t sell much of anything.”
-David Ogilvy


Rebranding the Airport – Why Stop There?

10 Oct

I just got back from a very nice holiday.

I flew out and back from Toronto’s Pearson Airport.

I was looking forward to seeing Ove Design’s recent rebranding of Terminal 1.

So I was a bit disappointed to fly in and out of Terminal 3.

I was hoping it would be Terminal 1 because I’m intrigued as to what extent design can improve time spent in an airport.

I imagine even the best design can only make an incremental difference to an experience characterised by ever lengthening line ups, over priced food and beverages, and inevitable delays.

Since I didn’t get to see it, I don’t know for sure.

Then I was struck by, dare I say, an entirely bigger thought.

Why stop at airports?

Why not rebrand entire countries?

Countries are not static, they evolve.

And the evolution of nations is somewhat more complex than the evolution of brands.

But national brand identities are invariably remnants of  the past.

A glorious history is all very well, but  sometimes you need to get with the program.

So following the order of my trip, first up for a makeover is the United Kingdom.

Or to give it its full title the “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” – a term coined in 1927.

And badly in need of an overhaul after 84 years.

What with the resurgence of Scottish separatism and the London riots, United seems stretching it a bit.

And isn’t Kingdom just a tad chauvinistic for a country ruled by a Queen?

The Disunited Monarchdom would be more apt, if a bit dour.

So how about the United Drinkdom?

Surely this encapsulates the brand character of a country where everyone is united by being on the lash, hungover, or nipping out for a swift half.

It’s a well-known fact that when you arrange to meet a Brit you‘ll end up in a pub, (which is fun when you’re on holiday).

{fancy a quick one?}

Even if, the legendary stiff upper lip has metamorphosed into, the much-loved-by-the-tabloid-press, rubber legged Friday night.

Maybe Diagio could sponsor all that new signage.

Are you thinking cross promotion?

The English word “Turkey” is derived from the Medieval Latin Turchia circa 1369.*

Not surprisingly, this is a hopelessly outdated brand.

Then, Turkey was famous for Sultans, harems and Constantinople.

Today, Turkey is famous for Istanbul, archeology, beaches and hospitality.

And Turkish hospitality is wonderful because it genuinely stems from cultural values even when there’s a commercial aspect to it.

The Turks know how to make you feel at home with warmth and excellent service that anticipates your needs through extra-sensory powers.

Meze, wine, olives, glasses, ice and raki, uncannily appear seconds before you were going to ask for them, in a fine example of just in time supply chain management.

While your host is being charming in four or five languages.

But the name Turkey hardly reflects this, evoking things that don’t work very well and Christian holiday roasts.


No problem, a simple rebrand to HospiTurkity, and they can own hospitality.

They deserve to, so it’s only fair.

That should see them alright for the next seven centuries.

Which brings me home literally and figuratively to Canada.

A country whose copious natural resources include either the second or third largest oil reserves in the world, depending on the credibility of restated Venezuelan reserves.

With a natural conservatism that has made its banking system the envy of many.

Not to mention  Justin Bieber.

Canada doesn’t quite capture the new Canadian exuberance.

But in homage to the original Iroquoian word, kanata, meaning  village or settlement* Kanada has a bit of bling to it.

And as an abbreviation for the currency, K$ with its connotation of “a grand”, is way cooler than C$.

It’s a timely reminder of our relative economic stability and new-found standing in the global order.

Which is just as well when you have bills to pay.

And when you get back from vacation — you always do.