People Like Advertising, so Why All the Hate?

“Contrary to popular belief, Americans don’t hate advertising.”
-Roy H. Williams

Americans love watching the Super Bowl for the commercials. People who don’t even watch football watch the game so they don’t miss the ads.

Magazines and trade publications have seen a rise in advertising, and there seems to be no real complaint.

Yet, when you talk with people- especially in a large setting- there seems to be a negative light shone on advertising. Why?

I believe that there are several reasons why people may say they don’t like advertising, but aren’t sure why.

-Misleading ads
-Advertising done poorly or done by non-advertisers
-The lack of advertising/marketing advocates in the foreground
-The abundance of popular advertising “haters”
-The popular Adpeople that make everyone look bad

I am not alone in saying that there are a few professionals in advertising that aren’t exactly ethical. But I would also say that the ethical professionals in advertising and communications far outnumber the bad ones.

But unfortunately, society only hears about the bad ones.

Oh, irony.

The media and government love to run with the news when the FCC cracks down on a misleading advertising campaign. On one occasion, I could have swore I saw Al Franken frothing at the mouth during one such instance.

A story of how an AdPerson kept to their ethics, and pioneered truth in advertising would never hit the headlines.

A story about the Ad Council, and how many of those campaigns are given thousands of dollars from advertising agencies, would never be highlighted during a congressional campaign. Why?

The Ad World knows why. It’s not a sexy story.

Someone told the truth? Who cares.

But then the US gets all up in arms when brands have to correct themselves.

But that isn’t the part that bothers me. What bothers me are people like Frank Luntz. Or maybe his visibility.  He is the marketing researcher who helped coined the phrases ‘death tax’ (versus ‘estate tax’) and ‘War on Terror’ (instead of ‘US Global Man Hunt’, I guess).

Genius? Sure, he has the amazing talent to use words and phrases that resonate.

Ethical? Now that is an interesting question. Perhaps it is my political bias that I simply cannot stand the man and every time he opens his mouth I get angry.

Or perhaps he is his own worst enemy. People categorize what he does for the GoP with what advertising and communications people do for brands- create words, images and phrases that force them to act the way they want.

Are people in the wrong for thinking so? Maybe, but then again, maybe not.

Perhaps it’s his method; using fear and scary words to manipulate the populace. (I’m trying to figure out my displeasure of them, so please bear with me).

Fear is an emotion that is extremely powerful. Fear is our anxiety for what we don’t know. Uncertainty. Tying policies to “death” and “terror” then, would (and did) prove to be extremely impacting. Dare I say, Luntz was impressive.

So communicators have Luntz, the media, and the government against them. That’s fine. But I also see professionals against the profession.

For example, making up words that are against the industry (see ‘unmarketing’, and ‘change agents’). And I find it funny because those words get so popular because those professionals are really really good at marketing.

So what is the point of this post?

1. People like good advertising and communications.
2. Media and government like to point out the bad in advertising to make themselves look like they’re doing something important.
3. Advertising professionals must do a better job highlighting the good folks. Not separate themselves from the industry altogether.
4. Luntz, and people like him, are jerks.

Let’s get our act together, Ad-Brethren. The US is a consumption-based society, so as long as that’s the case, we’ll be around. I don’t care if we’re not liked, but some appreciation couldn’t hurt.


Is Perception Our Reality?

If I were to say that the United States was the freest country in the world, the best economy in the world and that the world is full of democracies, you would believe me, right?

And if I told you that the Obama Administration got nothing done in the past 18 months, you would almost accept that as fact, right?

The national media and politicians have been harping the fact that perception is our reality. But is that true? That is a complicated question, with an even more complicated answer.

Based on the links above, one cannot say that the United States is the best economy in the world, and be supported with facts. Also, if one was to say that Obama has done nothing, that person is only showcasing their limited view and understanding of governance.

But those opinions are popular. And due to the popularity, the Democrats suffered a defeat that, with better preparation, could have been avoided.

The Deal with Perception

On one end, perception is our society’s reality. People trust what other people trust, and will repeat certain thoughts and opinions once it has gone through a vetting process the communications world likes to call “social proofing.” If 10 people believe it, and each of their 10 friends believe it, then it must be true.

The problem I have with perception, is the matter of perspective. Since there can be multiple perspectives, and those perspectives can birth different perceptions, then which is the right one? Because unfortunately, sometimes the perspective with the most votes won’t necessarily have the most facts. And that is a dangerous situation to be in.

Reality Bites

As communications professionals, we must keep a pulse on perception as well as reality. Because if we look at the facts stated above, the United States is the 8th best economy in the world (and declining), and the 24th freest (in the press) in the world. The majority of the world are not democracies. Also, Obama has done more programs, broken more barriers, then most presidents in modern history. That is not perception, that is fact. Ask the common 8th grade literate American however, and they will have a different narrative.

Why is that the case? I’m not sure. The incentive of knowing reality- knowledge- I would think should trump ignorance. However, if that knowledge erases what the ignorance gives them -happiness- I can see why actually knowing facts is unappealing.

Any thoughts on this?



I Want to Meet Rahm Emanuel

Rahm Emanuel, White House Chief of Staff, form...

Image via Wikipedia

I cannot tell a lie. I’m a fan of Rahm Emanuel.

Why? Well much like my post about Afshin Ghazi of Charlotte, this guy doesn’t hide anything about himself and how he does business. He’s fierce, ambitious, passionate, and polarizing.

And I admire that.

What is truly amazing to me is that his tactics and personality traits have been vilified by the media, his own party, and aware observers. I’m not too surprised about the Republican’ts and the ignorant observers, push-back against a liberal that gets stuff done is expected.

Rahm did exactly what he was expected to do:
-Implement the President’s campaign milestones
-Get Congress on board with the policies
-Keep the Dems in check
-Create a consistent environment around the Administration

And he did so almost flawlessly. In a cut-throat political environment like today’s, Rahm was the guy Obama needed to get started.

Today’s political and economical situation calls for more people like Rahm. He has his supporters, and granted, he has plenty of enemies. But he showed that an ambitious attitude and a will can get stuff done in the backwards community of Washington.

Now I don’t want to be BFFs with Rahm (though it would be totally cool!) but I would love to pick his brain as to some of the inside information and activities he had to do to get stuff done.

Along with that, while he has receiving extreme scrutiny and criticism about his approach, he conducted business-as-usual. Talk about resolve. I know Bush and Cheney were bad@$$es too, but I actually like this guy. And he wasn’t the one (technically) in the power chair.

Now when one talks about a Chicago democrat, the past Democratic Machines are brought up into the conversation (if you’re having an intelligent conversation). Is there a new Democrat Boss rising to power? Has the Democrat machine in Chicago ever left? I haven’t studied Chicago politics extensively, nor will I pay attention to the idiot ramblings on CNN, MSN, and the FOX storytellers, so I won’t give an opinion.

But if Rahm is the next Boss-to-be…that’ll be interesting to watch!

So Rahm, let’s talk. There aren’t that many Do’ers left in this society, and we need to stick together. Though I don’t see myself choking a democrat over a ledge to get a vote,  knowledge is power.



An Open Letter to the DNC

Dear Democratic National Committee:

You people are simply astounding.

President Obama and his administration has passed historic legislation, you control both Houses and the Executive Branch, your congresspeople are racing against idiots…

…and you are UNDERDOGS?

I can’t understand how a party like you can be completely in power and powerless at the same time. I am continually amazed at how awesomely bad you democrats are at forming messages.

At first I was amazed. Then I was stupefied. I sat through the painful interview of DNC Chairman Tim Caine on the Daily Show. In Caine’s Democrat fashion, he is oh-so-happy to share the new tagline for the Democrats for InDecision 2010: Don’t Give Them the Keys Back.


No Caine.

You see, it really sucks for me because I actually like you guys. It pains me to see you all have the reigns of power, do quite well wielding the power, and then you have no clue how to tell the American people about it.

DNC, the phrase “Don’t Give Them the Keys Back” is way too cerebral for the American people. The Republicans win the people over in two ways: dumbing it down so morons understand, or scaring the daylights out of them.

It’s cute to see that the DNC believes in the intellect of the American populace, but if you want to stay in power, you got to face the facts.

The people that will decide the election are not the brainiacs  you target. The centrist and scare doctors will win the people. Pure and simple.

I wish it wasn’t the case either. See my previous post about changing the voting system in America.

Look, please don’t mess this up. The republicans have done anything and everything to see the Obama Administration fail, and nothing has worked for them. The Democrats have killer ammunition to go after these GOP fogies, and all you have to do is use it!

Here is a very short, 5-step way the Democrats can take back the lead in all the polls:

1. Create a Top 10 things we’ve done for the American People list.

2. Make sure the list is written at an eighth-grade level (because remember, the American populace isn’t as bright as you think)

3. Share the list with all the democrats running for office.

4. Make sure they all stay on point. And don’t elaborate on the points.

5. Anyone who deviates should be replaced by someone who won’t

Ta-da. Basically it’s being a republican disguised as a Democrat.

But you’ll win.



Who Doesn’t Love a Little Propaganda?

The spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person.”

That doesn’t sound too bad now, does it?

Propaganda, I believe, gets a bad rap. Of course propaganda doesn’t allow two-way communication, that is not what it is meant for. Studiers of communication theory learn about many different ways to communicate. Propaganda is one of them. Is it right? That’s a difficult question to answer. I believe that there are certain instances where propaganda can be fruitful, and ways it can be damaging.

Edward Bernays, the man known as the “Father of public relations” was a fan of propaganda. What he was against was, which I would believe the majority of people are, is what he called “impropaganda”. Bernays believed this to be “using propaganda techniques not in accordance with good sense, good faith, or good morals.”

Now if we looked at the Merriam-Webster definition of propaganda, which is in the beginning of the article, we can see that the sentence covers both propaganda and impropaganda. Whereas the former would be spreading information and “helping” while the latter fulfills the “injuring.”

So when we hear the terms ‘NObama’, ‘Obamacare’, ‘Teabaggers’, ‘Death Tax’, ‘Checkbook tax’, so forth and so on, is that simply political chatter?

Or simply propaganda? Or impropaganda?

A Single Message

Propaganda can be effective because it gets behind a single message, for a specific period of time, to a specific audience. It consistently pushes out information centered around one line of thought. It pays no regard to any feedback, and continues until it gets the message across.

When Propaganda is Used

If used at all, it should be used carefully. Due to the “womp womp” attitude surrounding the word, propaganda can only be heard in the hallways and classrooms of universities and institutions, or if accessible, government chambers.

Why is this post even necessary, you may be asking if you have gotten this far. People (even communicators, even though they learned this) are afraid to touch this issue. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe the negative connotation is enough to scare away even the bravest and biggest thought leader in marketing and public relations. Or, maybe they are afraid to showing light to what businesses and political machines are doing.

But then again, maybe not.

In any case, I would advise you to continue to keep your mind on a swivel. Continue thinking for yourself and questioning everything you see. Ask why certain businesses or organizations engage in certain things.

Marketing and communicating is fun, and it can be even more exciting once both our audience and communicators wake up.

Thoughts appreciated.


WANTED: Definitions

I have had the pleasure to be a part of several conversations that have focused on definitions. Definitions of words, phrases, ideas, and anything that takes space in our reality. I believe that our society grows when we force ourselves to define new things, and challenge the definitions of old.

Before we dive in, let’s set the foundation:

Define (v):
1a. to determine or identify the essential qualities or meaning of
1b. to discover and set forth the meaning of

Those two actions outlined above (from Webster’s Dictionary) happen in our everyday lives. Whether we are “defining” a relationship with another human being, to figuring out the color of a certain shirt, we are constantly creating parameters  in our environment.

Why? Because we need those parameters- those definitions we create- to understand.

Society (as we define it) is changing quickly, and the marketing industry is trying to be one step faster. As professional communicators and as citizens, we all are scrambling to apply current definitions to the new trends that are appearing before our eyes and fingertips.

We need to do better.

In previous posts, I have rambled on about bringing creativity back, encouraging playtime, and the like. Now I am challenging all of us to trash many of the definitions we know, and create new ones that fit our 2010 lives, whatever that may mean.

I realize that there are quite a few “thought leaders” who took a shot of doing the job for us, but we can’t let people think for us. That is not good for you. That is not good for me. And quite frankly, it is not good for them. A definition, to me, is like theory. It must be challenged, again and again, from all angles, until it can be accepted.

For example:

1. What exactly do we mean by two-way communications? Is that enough?

2. Does being politically correct mean we cannot offend anyone?

3. What’s the difference between ‘marketing‘, ‘advertising‘, and ‘sales’ ?

4.  Are there really experts anymore? (see Open4 Definition)

5. We are not a free enterprise system. Or are we?

6. What Generally Accepted Ideas in our society are wrong?

Just to start the mind thinking. Maybe those are good questions, maybe not. My overall qualm with our current state of interaction this that we have become too complacent with giving the soapbox to someone, and then not question a single thing that flows from their lips. The term “due diligence” is almost as archaic as good Nickelodeon cartoons (Rugrats, Are You Afraid of the Dark- my heart lies with you).

Definitions are the foundation of the consideration sets we create to form our perception of our environment (consumer behaviorists and psychologists eat your heart out).

The better, newer definitions we create, the better our human community becomes.

Why Smart People Don’t Go Into Politics

With the new wave of political thought in the air, it seems that one trend stays the same: the majority of the intelligent population tend to stay out of politics.

“Dwayne,” one may say “intelligent in what sense?” Let me be sure to cover my base, saying that I am in no way insulting our current leaders’ mental capacity. I will be the first to say that many of our politicians are much smarter than I am (and thankfully I can comfortably say that about our current President).

I am referring to human behavior. From my outside and perhaps too businesslike view, below are a few reasons why I believe the “intelligent” stay out of politics.

1. Government is Inefficient
From the community level, all the way up to the federal, if you want something done quickly, do NOT go into politics.  All of the rules, regulations, operating procedures, and “watchdogs” (as well as the lack thereof) are so counter-productive, that nothing gets done. The phrase “red tape” and “bureaucracy” belong in the government realm for a reason.

2.  Want to Please Everyone, but Protect the Minority?
Our system is built on the thought that the minority must be protected against the majority. That’s where the Electoral College came from. That’s where the House of Representatives and the Senate came from. So, how are we supposed to expect fairness and equality? Fairness according to whom? The system? The majority? Or the minority? You decide. Oh wait…

3. Too Many Hands in One Pot
Everyone wants to have a say in something. Do we really need a bunch of egomaniacs who think they know what’s best for their constituents (when in reality they are more worried about reelection than actual policy)? I am not implying that I know a better system, but I would much rather sit outside and enjoy the show.

4. Government is Entangled with Economics…Ahh!
Once again, there is a place for government to interfere in certain business practices. It can be a consumer, and it could also be a competitor. But for it to disallow certain practices?  Come on now, the market (if we believe in free enterprise, of course) should be able to decide the winners and losers. Oh wait…enter today’s financial crisis. Government “by free enterprise, uh, we meant-” nope, no excuse needed. You all in charge can be replaced. Thank you democracy.

5. The Private Sector is in Charge Anyways
Ah yes, Capitalism. Until government policy is no longer affected by the Corporate powers-that-be, why go into politics? I have never seen a group of people so willing to be puppets.

Now here is where I contradict myself, and willingly so. Human nature needs order. Thankfully, our government gives this population the perception of order, which is fantastic. The theory of public citizenship is wonderful, and democracy-giving people the power and belief that their vote matters- is sorely needed. So, although my views of the political arena is poisoned with what I would consider as reality, I am very thankful for those who think otherwise.