Last Sunday, July 2, was a propitious day. First, and of paramount importance, it was our grandson Francis’ second birthday. Cue cake, toys, family, a few of his friends and much happiness. Less significant is that the day also marked the tenth anniversary of The Cog Blog. The first post was on July 2, 2013. You can see it here.
Back then, I was rather airily aiming at a post a week. In fact, in that first week, I posted three, leading Derek Jones, then at Mediatel, to suggest I spread it out a bit. How right he was.
I haven’t managed to keep to the one-a-week target; my estimate is that over 10 years I’ve posted about 450 times. Missed target or not, the cogs have been whirring.
Reading some of the old posts I’m struck by how optimistic they are, and how short. Over time, like my waistline, they’ve expanded. They’ve also gotten angrier. (They’re all easily found, archived by year at www.bjanda.com/blog, and also here at MediaVillage.)
When I started my career in the late 1960’s I was very proud to work in advertising. I was, indeed still am, fascinated by how we mix creativity and numbers -– to harken back to last week’s post, by magic and logic.
Today I’m more disappointed and frustrated than proud. The majority of people inhabiting what they refer to as the ad business are nothing to do with advertising. Instead, they’re technocrats and sales people more interested in numbers on a spreadsheet than in the ads themselves.
To make it worse, these people don’t understand, nor do they care, about audiences and how they behave. All they care about is maximizing the numbers in the measured audience -- even if the numbers are meaningless. Make them bigger, regardless. That’s ignorance masquerading as a policy.
How we got to this state is a long, long story involving technology understood by the few, vested interests, holding companies driving their media arms to deliver ever-increasing profits to make up for under-deliveries elsewhere, advertisers who don’t want to admit they’ve been focussed on the wrong thing, a trade press concerned with not upsetting the platforms and an agency sector that shies away from controversy to focus on far more easily supportable, societal arguments.
There are of course many good guys -– the strategic planners and thinkers, the fraud researchers, those in the attention measurement game doing all they can to move the industry forward, the indie agencies placing transparency ahead of easy money, advertisers who place creativity ahead of convenience, those always seeking to learn, to do better, and those from my generation raging against the dying of the light.
But we’re not the industry, however much we may think we should be.
Increasingly the debate is less about advertising and more about technology; less about meeting client needs and business objectives and more about selling snake oil.
I must admit I’m finding it increasingly difficult to write a regular weekly post (even if it’s less than weekly in reality) about things I care little about. And which, to be honest, I don’t always fully understand.
Frankly, there are quite enough people pontificating about things they don’t understand. The world doesn’t need another one. And so I’m going to stop doing it.
I won’t stop The Cog Blog altogether. I still care a lot about the ad industry, and I like to think I still have something to say. It’s just that I won’t be saying it quite as often.
I shall, in the words of one of my favorite authors, Alan Bennett, be "keeping on keeping on." You will still be able to find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and on my site. If you subscribe (for free) I’ll still let you know when I post anything of earth-shattering importance.
I’ll still consult, appear on platforms, chair events and work with those who’ll have me.
My hope for the industry has never been that we go back to some golden age (that never really existed) but that we come to our senses and realize we are here to do great work that works for our clients -- even, maybe especially, if they’re heading in the wrong direction.
We’re here to advise, objectively. Whatever the short-term consequences might be for our own bottom line.
I am hopeful. Things go around, principles survive and reappear. We realize this more as we get older. In the words of the great Alan Bennett: "At 80 things do not occur, they recur."
Thanks for reading and au revoir.
Posted at MediaVillage through the Thought Leadership self-publishing platform.
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The opinions expressed here are the author's views and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage.org/MyersBizNet.