Wednesday, January 10, 2007

It's Your Year; Ad Age Says So, Too

In science, we attempt to build knowldge through programmatic steps (see Structure of Scientific Revolutions for more depth, here). We need to know about the work of others in our field.

However, when I am trying to do something creative, I never want to know what other people are thinking. When I used to write headlines for newspapers in New Mexico and California, I hated suggestions from other people.

As soon as an idea is out there, it cannot be retracted. It is like an anchor in space (indeed there are some cognitive theories that use this notion of anchoring), and you cannot avoid it. Now you must either embrace the new idea or avoid it altogether.

And this is true even if you would have arrived at a very similar idea independently. Imagine your friend buying a new blue Honda civic hybrid. Even if you were going to buy a silver version of the exact same car, you cannot now do so without looking as if you copied the idea.

This is OK in many aspects of life (e.g., I hope physicians copy clever ways to diagnose disease), but it's no good for creativity (see thoughts on creativity here).

Rewind a few weeks, and Time magazine names you the person of the year for the growth of Youtube, etc. (see my thoughts here).

OK, I thought the idea was lame. But it seemed original. Until this week. Now you are ALSO the advertising agency of the year.

Come on, people! Really! Can I also be the Motor Trend car of the year?

The voters at Advertising Age noted, they thought about changing their minds when they saw the Time magazine selection ... but they did not.

I get their point. But still. They come off as cheap and duplicative.

"We threw around more agency names but kept coming back to that idea of consumer as agency. The arguments piled up: Lonelygirl15; the Mentos/Coke experiments; TBWA London asking the public for ideas; recognition of the importance of consumer-to-consumer communication; marketers' oft-stated belief that the consumer is in control. Of course, consumers aren't agencies, but they have become arguably the most effective creators and distributors of commercial content. If we were ever going to do something different with our selection, this was the year to do it."

I agree with all of this. However, it still could not be you. They should have made Lonelygirl15 the agency. Or any of the others. But not you. This is advertising, people. We teach positioning. If some other brand takes the position first, you lost it. Sorry. Burger King does flame-broiled.

You may make some pretty-good flame-broiled burgers. But you cannot own this position. Sorry.

If you want to see some good consumer-created content, look at the Doritos ads here. Just don't name me anything of the year anymore.

P.S. For example, I had the smart alleck thought about listing the "Person of the year" thing on my resume (called a CV in academe). But my former colleague Matt Nisbet beat me to it, so all I can do is give him props.

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