campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 03 September 2010 12:00AM
Many of us do jobs that supposedly demand insight into every facet of human nature; into the wild and gloomy recesses of something so unutterably complex it has defied the comprehension of the most intelligent people ever to walk the earth.
Of course we can understand to some degree. But to know, to really know, what the hell motivates millions of discrete and mysterious entities? No fucking chance.
And yet we (planners more than the rest of us, but we all think we have something of a clue) tout ourselves as experts. We claim to know. We claim to be able to produce words and images that will alter the directions of minds so that they end up bent to the will of those that pay us.
Shysters, the lot of us.
You see, if we were truly able to do that which we claim, we'd be the richest and most powerful people on earth. And why? Because no-one can do it.
Sir Richard Branson, Rupert Murdoch, Sir Martin Sorrell, Stevie Wonder, Barack Obama, David Cameron, Jack Nicholson, Martin Amis, Simon Cowell, Pharrell Williams, Billy Joel, Harry Dean Stanton, Hare Krishna, David Hockney ...
None of them knows. They can all have a good guess, and they might well succeed, but they will also surely fail. And there's no shame in that.
Just as long as you're aware of your crashing, regular, inescapable, dismal propensity to do the wrong thing. For the first step on the road to recovery is admitting you have a problem.
BAYFIELD BALLS-UP CRACKED ME UP
I'm just reading Frankie Boyle's book right now, and it's the funniest book I've read in years. I reckon Frankie probably knows more about comedy than most people in the country.
And he quotes this gag (censored from 8 Out Of 10 Cats) as a favourite of his: "At the Special Olympics this week, somebody was injured during the hammer-throwing. But nobody could work out who it was."
Shades, there, of Jimmy Carr's infamous gag about the Paralympics shooting team ...
It all goes to show you - humour has to play at the edges.
It's like Mel Brooks said: "Tragedy is when I have a slight cold. Comedy is when you fall over and break your leg." Talking of this reminded Jim (Bolton) of going to Cannes.
Jim and I once went swimming in the nude off a raft in Cannes harbour at four in the morning with a couple of girls. But Jim told me he always ended up swimming nude in Cannes. Once, his writer and he had invented a game jumping off a jetty "in the style of ..." somebody or something.
Chas Bayfield, one of the best ad writers ever, attempted to jump "in the style of Harry Potter" by straddling (while nude) a broomstick he'd found in the street. His timing was off and when he landed he knocked himself out, eventually suffering from bruised testicles, concussion and a perforated eardrum.
Now, that's funny.
Steve Henry's blog, www.campaignlive.co.uk
GIVING CLIENTS ANXIETY ATTACKS
Part of how we advertising and marketing hacks stay employed is by keeping our clients in a constant state of anxiety about the future. The more we can convince our clients that everything is changing around them -and they need us to interpret the changes -the longer we stay in business.
Consequently, every few years we come up with a new "thing that will change everything" to get them all hysterical and jumpy. The pundits who predicted that digital technology would spawn the death of ad agencies missed this point entirely. Digital technology isn't destroying the agency business. It's just presenting a new generation of ad and marketing hacks with a new "thing that will change everything" which they can frighten clients with and build businesses around. The thing that makes all the hysteria so silly and unwarranted is how quickly consumers digest and adjust to "the future" and how seamlessly it arrives.
We have a vision of "the future" as a startling new thing that will confuse and disorient us. In fact, it works in quite the opposite way. Someone introduces something astounding -a mobile phone with a touchscreen that can surf the web, play video and take photos -and, in about three weeks, we're ready for something new. Marketers are prone to assuming that technological advances are going to lead to large-scale disruptions of consumer behaviour. They have conferences about it every two weeks.
In fact, consumers have developed a breathtaking ability to incorporate astounding technological advances into their lives without much disruption to their traditional behaviour patterns.
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk