I had the distinct privilege yesterday morning to catch the Advertising Week funeral for advertising put on by the folks at JWT. These guys went all out with a real casket, live gospel choir, ushers consoling the bereaved and, of course, slow motion footage of white doves. It was hilarious.
The gospel choir started us off with a touching rendition of Purina’s ‘Meow Mix’ ditty, setting the tone of faux seriousness that would dominate the proceedings. The casket was wheeled out and the stage was completed – advertising has died.
First to speak on the untimely demise was Matt MacDonald – Co-CCO of JWT New York. Matt spoke on all the things we took for granted when advertising was alive – free TV shows, $2 magazines, knowledge of how to save money on car insurance – and how we didn’t know what we had, as is often the case, until it was gone. With plenty of news headlines proclaiming advertising’s death, MacDonald gave us plenty of “evidence” of the passing.
Of course you know where we go from here, the Oscar-esque highlight reel of advertising of the past set to Boyz II Men, very touching indeed. After a quick version of Oscar Meyer’s famous “Oscar Meyer Weiner” song (that was extra amusing to the immature in the room) we next heard from Gerry Graf, Founder and CCO of Barton F. Graf 9000. His agency has been known to do some really funny and downright silly commercials for Little Cesar’s, Ragu, and others, and this eulogy was right on par. Mr. Graf lampooned the death of TV advertising and TV in general. He mentioned the many attacks on it in the past: “it burns your eyes if you sit to close” or “I read books, I’m smarter than TV”. TV’s response to all these attacks was it just wanted to show you Love Boat and made the point that “I’m f’ing free! All you have to do is watch a few seconds of a rabbit who wants some cereal.” Good point TV. Good point. It didn’t end there for Graf though. He warned of the TV zombie who has come back from the dead, aka TV shows online. Graf mentioned that if he wants to watch Fringe on Fox.com he was to watch a video that takes him to Lowe’s to learn about how to build a porch! Then of course, he has no time to catch up on TV, because he’s too busy buying lumber. WHAT HAVE WE DONE!?
But how did this happen!? How did advertising die!? Well, hold on to your horses (brought to you by Old Spice) we’ll get there after some more gospel choir action. This time a beautiful “Band-Aid” jingle with some excellent solo’s. Shout out to The Madison Avenue Gospel Choir for bringing the soul. To get at the reason of why, we heard from Charlotte Beers (former CEO of Ogilvy & Mather) and Cindy Gallop (Founder and CEO, IfWeRanTheWorld). Beers gave a litany of possible reasons including excessive research, the CEO’s, and splintered media – before exonerating them all. Gallop spoke more on the death of creativity as a cause. She said that if all our new advances in advertising are about helping people skip ads; maybe we’re doing something wrong. Maybe we need to find a way to make people want to engage with ads again, instead of thinking of them as the enemy to content.
After sage advice from Lee Clow’s Beard that no one remembers a bad ad, we heard from Ryan Kutscher (Co-CCO of JWT NY) with closing remarks. Quickly into his bit he was interrupted by advertising voices from the past, including Ogilvy, Mather and other ghosts of advertising who set everybody straight that advertising isn’t dead. The said people have been saying it for years but advertising is as strong as ever. They encouraged Kutscher and MacDonald to open the casket, which was indeed empty! Hallelujah!
As the choir wrapped it up with “Oh Happy Day”, everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Advertising wasn’t dead after all. With that, everyone went back to the office to ‘celebrate’ by catching up with emails and perhaps with a little disappointment at the revelation…it was Monday after all.
Tom Costello – Microsoft Advertising