What's the useful?
"You don't need to be perfect, you just need to be right."
The point was about advertising staying relevant during upheaval.
It was said by a panelist on an advertising industry Zoom call.
She's one of those smart people who often has a three-letter job title that begins with the letter "C" and ends in "O."
Don't be perfect, just be right.
I heard this and thought, Well, that starts to describe some of the advertising creative out there right now: not perfect, and an effort to be right.
The Fabulous Honey Parker and I were discussing this. I said, "That's not really the end game. You can be right. But are you being useful?"
Lately, there are all kinds of advertising messages that aren't perfect.
They might even be technically correct. But are they useful? See also: the avalanche of race-conscious messages pouring into the email.
They come ad infinitum from a range of senders, from sporting goods companies to ride sharing services to restaurant review platforms.
They're not perfect.
Technically, they are right.
Are they useful?
Sometimes, they come off as a misguided way to assuage feelings of guilt and helplessness.
Too often, they come off as an effort to say, "Look at us, we're righteous!"
But the worst message in my mail box so far has felt beyond righteous.
When it arrived, the subject line prompted incredulity. Were they really doing this?
Reading the email, I thought, Why am I getting this? Why are they trotting out this dog and this pony during the national horror show?
The body of the message was all about them. In an effort to talk about the problem, they made the message about their own problem with the problem.
It came off as braggadocios, self-important, and an effort to ride on the coattails of tragedy for business gain.
The best message so far was much different.
The subject line was intriguing. It drew me in. It made me say, "Tell me more."
The body of the email did not disappoint.
I thought, Wow. This is good. It's not telling me the same telling about the problem. It's showing me real, focused stories behind the problem. It's authentic and human. Instead of an empty rind, it brings the juice
To borrow from The Bard, it's as if the mirror were being held up to nature (You know: social proof.)
The most ironic part of all this?
That worst message and that best message both came from the same brand.
Maybe someone asked them if the first message was useful.
Last week, in an effort to be useful, the screed posed this question: "What specific marketing or advertising challenges are you facing during these times of Uncertainty Rhetoric?"
A reply came from the screed's most interesting and challenging reader. This person pulls no punches and throws words like darts. We'll call this reader Q. I hope Q is a copywriter. I've never asked.
Q says, "My challenge is not losing my temper with all these brands/businesses who are suddenly so on our side as poor, downtrodden, soon-to-be murdered, ignorant Black people. Not losing my temper with all the stories about how the Millennials are the most downtrodden generation in history when in fact History shows that great fortunes are built during the time of most upheaval. And how to reach people without letting my temper show....
Q signed off saying, "Have Fun with that...I am."
The screed always tries to be useful. But a week later, that message still haunts me. And it does so precisely because as I question my usefulness, I'm feeling bombarded by self-serving blather from brands who are suddenly battling injustice when yesterday they were just selling soap.
Are you right? Great. Please don't continue telling us about the problem.
What's useful? Can you show us something that matters?
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
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Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.