Good Advertising and Other Sh*t

So other day I am walking down a bike path that cuts through our neighborhood out here west of Houston. I look down just in time to see a small, cylindrical, earthy colored tube. A little less delicately put, it appeared a doogie had performed its morning constitution on the path. Rather than being grossed out, angry or disturbed, the first thought that came to mind was

The world looks mighty good to me
‘Cause Tootsie Rolls are all I see.

I had to laugh.

I don’t know if this ad is still around or not. I have not seen it in some time. But there it is, permanently tattooed on my brain.

This tiny incident made me think a lot about the proclamation that advertising is dead. Maybe it is. When was the last time you heard a jingle, a catch phrase or a line that resonated with you so immediately that in less than the blink of an eye your first thought was brand’s message from long ago?

This begs the question: 40 years from now, will anyone say “Dilly Dilly”? Or worse, will anyone ever utter “It’s your thing. That’s our thing.” Which I’ve heard ad nauseum lately from AT&T. Unlikely.

Advertising, at least the advertising that brought Tootsie Roll to life, is long dead. Yet that same thinking still permeates the agencies that created the AT&T pablum, as they try to make the next break-through, memorable ads. Unfortunately, the results are nowhere near as impactful. Or memorable for that matter.

I believe that advertising is far from dead. In fact, I could argue it is more alive than ever before. So much so that rather than being a nuance that consumers will actively go out of their way to avoid, it is quickly becoming a necessity for business to survive as we get deeper and deeper into the Information Age. What’s disturbing, though, is that with all the necessity, the creative is not there to meet these needs.

Even Apple, who for years, led the way with not only breath-taking technology, but also with innovative ways of talking about it. Their marketing and branding efforts convinced millions to part with small fortunes for their little electronic do-dads. To their credit, they tried to recapture some of their old advertising mojo recently with the animated ad where the girl writes on her MacBook but is too scarred to share her work with the world. But how successful was that ad? Although a sweet, lovely story excelling produced, it vanished as quickly as it appeared, with another AT&T ad, car lot spot or other form of cultural noise eager to takes its place.

Now, to be clear, I am not saying the Tootsie Roll jingle is the pinnacle of advertising excellence. Or is it? Something so simple yet it still resonates decades later, bringing an old brand to the top of mind. That is powerful.

We’re in a tough spot here, gang. The business world is clamoring to reach new customers. Businesses NEED great advertising. There are so many channels, so many opportunities to do great things that can make a huge difference, but it is high time to take the gee whiz out of the technology used to communicate and put it back into the messaging. Where it belongs.