Halloween Re-Posting of “Advertising after the Zombie Apocalypse.”

As expected, U.S. entries to Cannes were way down this year given the recent Zombie Apocalypse.

Observers are surprised ad people continue to even exist given their worthlessness in a economy that now values productive trades like farmers, electricians, and mechanics. In fact, the few agencies still operating attribute their success almost entirely to being above the second floor.

“You’re not going to see as many TV entries from DDB this year,” remarked CD Jay Russell, speaking from the balcony over Whacker Drive. “The entire production work force of L.A. is infected and…” Russell’s interview was cut short as a horde of undead photographers’ representatives stormed the locked doors below, their withered purplish arms extended, still clutching portfolios and complimentary bagels.

Without television, U.S. agencies’ hopes at Cannes rest on a few out-of-home entries, including McCann’s boring “God help us” messages painted on sheets and hung from their Manhattan office windows. “There are a few decent headlines,” observed Creativity’s Theresa Nelson. “But most are the usual crap like, ‘Need water,’ ‘Need food.’ At least that one team was trying with the ‘John 3:18’ thing.”

A few agencies are breaking out with messaging designed to change the eating behaviors of the zombie hordes. But J. Walter’s “Eat Smart” backfired as zombies simply ate bigger brains. Tribal’s “Dot.Zom” experiment on Facebook failed because zombies can already  “like you” simply by eating your brains. And DDB’s campaign for a heart-healthy diet (“More Gra-a-a-a-a-a-ins, Less Bra-a-a-a-a-ains”) died after focus-group zombies crashed through the one-way mirrors and cracked the researchers’ skulls like rotten Georgia peanuts and ate their pulsing brains forthwith.

Agencies are now trying simply to survive. To divert the zombie hordes away from their agency on 17, creatives at DDB have hung posters in the stairwells positioning the JWT survivors on the 5th floor as “the other white meat.”

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In Praise of the Humble Print Ad.

That teeny caption upper left says: "Reading analysis and eye-tracking data courtesy of Interaction Labratory..."

This is the cover of the new book from London’s D&AD, The Copy Book. I am crazy proud to be one of the featured writers. That said, I would  have trouble looking anyone in the eyes and claiming my work should be featured in this book, and not that of my friend Greg Hahn’s. Or Jim Riswold’s. Or Ari Merkin’s.

(But screw ‘em. Isn’t it great?? Yesssss….)

Ahem … sorry about that … uncalled for. Unprofessional, is what that was. Let’s start again, shall we?

D&AD’s fantastic new book is out now, in a second and updated edition. The layout of new edition is better than the first with many of the featured ads appearing as full spreads, as they originally appeared in the magazines. And alongside the work, the advice of 48 different writers on the craft of copywriting.

At the risk of a wagging finger from its publisher Taschen, I’ll end today by excerpting my short offering in the volume, an essay titled “In Praise of the Humble Print Ad.”

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

In Praise of the Humble Print Ad.

It is no longer as fashionable as it once was to be able to write a great print ad.  A print ad simply isn’t as cool as it once was.

A print ad is not interactive and it doesn’t link to other print ads. To create a print ad, you don’t have to go to LA or to Hyper Island. It usually ends its short life under a puppy and print ads are almost never featured on YouTube. Yet in its bare two dimensions the humble print ad contains all the challenges of the entire creative process.

In fact, when I am looking for talent to hire, I find the most telling pieces in their portfolios are the print ads.

There’s nowhere to hide in a print ad. The idea is right there on the surface or it isn’t. There’s no music to tell me how to feel, no loading bar to tell me the clever bit is about to happen.

You are reading a book that is still devoted (I presume) to print ads. If this edition is anything like the last, it is fairly bursting with good advice from great writers on their creative process. So I’ll limit my remarks today to just this: If you are a student or just starting out in this business, I encourage you to learn (before you learn anything else) how to write a great print ad.

It is the molecular building block of the advertising universe.

Ten cool things Steve Jobs did in this presentation.

Steve Job intrduces ChiatDay’s new campaign

1.) He didn’t work from notes. Notes suck. Notes say, “What I’m saying is so unmemorable, even I had to memorize it.” Speak from the heart.

2.) It didn’t feel like he was presenting. It felt like he was talking with us.

3.) He stopped 23 agencies from pitching for Apple’s business and just assigned it to an agency he admired. God, the pitch process sucks so bad.

4.) He sounds like a creative making the pitch to a client, not a client.

5.) He was actually proud that Apple had done what he called “award-winning work.” These days, even agencies are afraid to say their work win awards. (Today award-winning means the work didn’t sell stuff but was really cool.)

6.) The speech is entirely about brand advertising; about values, about “soft” stuff like that. Yet today Apple is the one of the most valuable brands on the planet and for awhile there, Apple had more cash reserves on hand than the U.S. Government.

7.) I challenge you to find just one speech by a company CEO talking about his company’s “values and vision” that does not either set off your bullshit alarm or put you into a deep, restful, and refreshing sleep.

8.) Makes a cool point about how a company’s market challenges can change wildly, but its values do not; or should not. Companies which have values and stick to them, they last. (Which is what the book Built To Last is all about.)

9.) He made it very clear that Apple’s core value is this: “We believe people with passion can change the world.” And there he was, a walking example of it. How many other brands can  a.)  talk about having such a cool core value,  and b.) can then actually walk the walk?

10.) He used the phrase “the soul of this company.” How many companies have a soul? Apple does. Did  any of the phone companies in your life have a soul? Press 2 if your answer is no.

How do you know which advertising principles suck and which don’t?

Okay, Zen parable time. And I’m gonna update mine a little bit for the modern palate.

Okay, so you got this Zen master dude, right? Dude looks totally like Uma Thurman’s teacher from Kill Bill Vol. 2, always brushing that long white mustache to the side and everything. He’s pouring tea for his student, Grasshopper. (I know, I know, different show, whatever, doesn’t matter.)

Anyhoo, he fills the tea cup all the way to the top but then the Zen master guy, you know, Japanese-Gandalf guy, he just keeps pourin’ the tea, right? It’s overflowin’, overflowin’, and still he keeps pourin’ until finally Grasshopper guy goes, “Dude!  … I mean, … Sensei-dude. WTF?” And Mister Master, he’s all like “What up?” And Grasshopper is all like, “Why you still pourin’ when the cup is like totally overflowin’?”

And that …. that is when the Zenster brings it home. Dude says, “How can I teach you new knowledge when your cup is already full of the old? You feel me?”

Grasshopper doesn’t feel him at first but then he does, he reaches enlightenment, and goes “True dat.”

Okay, here’s where we take a hard left turn from Zen-as-seen-on-The-Wire to the world of advertising.  Students new to advertising should empty their cups, too.

Purge your brain of all the advertising stuff you’ve seen during your 18 or so years of life on the planet. Because on any given day, 90% of the stuff that’s out there, it just blows. In fact, even if you like that other 10% of cool stuff (and who doesn’t like Nike, or Mini?), still, I recommend you empty your cup and be ready to start over.

In fact, if you’ve hated everything you’ve seen growing up, all the better. Many of the best people of advertising today came into this business hating it; hating all the crap they’d seen on TV, online, in magazines. This is true even back to Bill Bernbach and all those famous folks in the Creative Revolution. They hated advertising, too. (What were they revolting against but the usual advertising crap?)

Okay, that said….

….we’ll close with one last observation; that famous line about how “You can’t break the rules until you know what they are.” True dat.

Yes, come into advertising with your disdain of the ordinary intact, with your disdain of all the bad stuff out there. But bring also a willingness to learn what basic principles do work. There are in fact certain principles that don’t suck. There are in fact smart things passed down from the people who have come before us. Your job will be to pick the smart and useful stuff from the pile and leave the crap.

So empty your cup. Start with Zen mind. And, as the Buddha said with his dying  words, “Seek out your own salvation.”

(Sorry. Did I just go “all deep” on everyone?  Oh well, … sue me.)