George Tannenbaum has forty years experience working for some of the world’s biggest brands for some of the world’s biggest agencies. He’s continuing to work for some of the world’s biggest brands while hanging out his own shingle. He’s also continuing to write about the future of advertising, the decline of the English Language and other frivolities.
I believe in factory tours.
I believe in doing research.
I believe in listening more than speaking.
And in learning everything I can about the clients I work for,
the products they make, their origin story, their reason for being,
who they help, what they do, their people, their customers.
In the modern world of advertising,
we’re expected to deliver cheap, fast and good.
Agencies act like they’re proud of that.
But it’s impossible.
You could call it agile alchemy.
We’re scoped for eight hours.
Just enough time to know nothing.
And with that paucity of hours,
we produce what you’d expect.
Something that has the depth of a wading pool.
Something that has no truth.
Something that’s the product of too little time and too much pressure to deliver.
Work that feels like a deck regurgitated.
And everything about the work is plasticene.
Including the phony award from a phony award show
that you get at the end of the project.
Nothing is real or unique or goes deep.
There’s no understanding of the customer.
There’s no empathy.
There’s nothing communicated about the product that people don’t already know.
So what’s the point?
No wonder people say they hate commercials.
No wonder CMOs last about as long as a keg at a frat party.
No wonder clients cut their budgets.
The work we make doesn’t work because we don’t take the time or make the effort it takes to do it right.
We’re told that’s too expensive.
And we accept it lest we piss clients off.
Robert Caro may be the world’s greatest living historian.
He’s won a National Book Award and two Pulitzer Prizes.
He has two rules we can learn from.
As I am starting, successfully, my own business, two rules I abide by.
1. Turn every page. i.e. there’s no shortcut in learning about a brand. You have to do the research.
2. Time equals truth. It takes time to get below the surface and find something real.
I guess this is what makes the business today so sad. Bernbach told us the right way. Yet no one, not agency people, not clients and certainly not holding-company chieftains knows or follows Bernbach.
If you think about any time you’ve liked a painting, a podcast, a movie, a book or a TV spot, it’s likely they contained what Bernbach said we are all looking for: “Simple, timeless human truths.”
Our business is about finding them.
About finding empathy.
About finding humanity.
Or a point of difference.
Or a laugh.
All in the service of the clients who pay us.
That takes time.
But when you do it right, it works like nothing else.