I’ve always believed great comedy is born of anger. Comedians are angry people. People who wince at the everyday patterns of nonsense, absurdity, and hypocrisy and who feel compelled to call it out. And I put inventors in the same neighborhood as comedians. I was once invited to a lunch with James Dyson, where he explained how his DA001vacuum cleaner was driven by a singular, personal urge. There had been no focus groups. No addressable audience. The market need was simply his own. He found it profoundly unacceptable that his previous vacuum cleaner needed a bag, got jammed full of lint and sucked in all the wrong ways. As he put it, “no one was crying out for cyclonic suction”. Dyson just got angry, found his present reality unreasonable and did something about it. As George Bernard Shaw once said, “All progress depends on the unreasonable man”.
Inventors and comedians are unreasonable people. Unreasonable people who know that accepting the status quo won’t move the game on. Not any game. And by degrees, we’ve all been there. You see something that jars and grates so much that it cuts, and cuts deeply. You smile tightly, jaw muscles knotting, and decide, “That really needs fixing.” We are driven to seek out ways of changing and improving the things we dislike.
Right now, you might be asking yourself “What does this have to do with advertising?” To which my answer would be, “This has everything to do with advertising.” Both in terms of theory and practice. Advertising has many dictionary definitions. Just ask Google.
To advertise – verb “to call attention to something, in a public medium, in a boastful or ostentatious manner, to induce someone to buy.”
Boastful and ostentatious are not exactly endearing human qualities or the kind of traits we seek out in others. When George Orwell called advertising “the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket”, he was being pretty black and white, if not damning about the Don Drapers of the world. But why the bad rep? And is it deserved? Without question, the advertising model is structurally broken if you observe and operate to the wrong definition.
A bygone ad model built on the throwback conventions of interruption, intrusion, self-aggrandizing messages and an underlying need “to sell” is a dinosaur sinking in the tar. Back in Orwell and Draper’s day, game show hosts would implore their TV viewers to “stay tuned”, that they’d “be right back, after these commercial messages”.
Messages that clearly weren’t what people had tuned in for in the first place. Even today, if we’re talking ad-serving, data skimming, and email marketing bombardment, all driven by not-so-smart algos overlooking our opt-outs, then advertising deserves every tongue-lashing it gets.
This is why my three co-founders and I invented BLiX– a permission-marketing platform designed to break with questionable conventions and pave the way for an enlightened ad model. A model that’s sensitive and empathetic to what people want, where they can volunteer the (first-party) data they want to share and be rewarded for it. BLiX couples the right theory with the opportunity for a far more reasonable set of practices, that bridges the current physical and digital divide. But more of that commentary another time.