Friday, October 05, 2007

Death of an Ad Man

Ken Wheaton in Ad Age (AdAges) asks interesting questions. Why the ad man is a dead species. My take.

The ad man is a dying breed because what companies once did with their brains they now do with brawn. Take an article out of this week's Advertising Age Magazine for example.
Procter & Gamble wants to sue Kimberly-Clark over its ads that show bricks in purported Pampers. Why is Procter & Gamble "Thick as a brick?"

The marketers and management no longer know how to turn lemons into lemonade. Or to poke fun at themselves and have a good time. In essence, they've become the creative morlocks (the race of sub-humanoid creatures that moved underground in that H.G. Wells classic The Time Machine).

Why not just run with the joke started by Kimberly-Clark? Produce a rebuttal ad that replaces the brick with a baby. In the background you hear New York City construction sounds...maybe a few of those famous cat calls too. Then the voice over cuts in on a close up of the baby and says something seemingly apologetic like "Pardon our appearance while under construction." "Pampers." Cute. Cut.

Thinking further, the decline in business creativity also coincides with A.G. Lafley's tenure as Procture & Gamble's Chairman. On his watch retailers (the tail) wagged the dog for the first time in history. Costco so much as told P&G that unless P&G made a special formula Tide for exclusive Costco distribution Costco would not sell P&G detergents in their stores.
An that's the consequence of not being able to create highly differentiated products and product positioning strategies. And there's nothing the linear-thinking, straight-forward problem-solving quant-jocks can do about it until one of them morlocks decides to poke his or her head back into the creative sunlight founded by the earliest "qualitative pioneers". Do a Google search on that term!

There is something else that gets in the way of today's companies use of creativity in business. It's called "Search Satisfaction." People in companies, such as Procter & Gamble's legal/brand marketing brick layers stop looking for better answers once they've found a solution they like. (Hey, let's sue them!) So they don't look any further. Search Satisfaction also afflicts doctors who stop looking for a diagnosis once they've found an answer that fits the symptoms patients present. What's wrong with that? Well....doctors misdiagnose their patients a much higher percentage of the time than anyone wants to admit.

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