Constantly on the lookout for new features for this useless blog, I stumbled upon the idea of commenting on advertising that I notice each day. It is a subject that constantly confronts us and about which everyone has an opinion (like most, usually of a worthless nature).
Advertising is merely a form of communication: someone wants to tell someone else about something. It is used to pay for other forms of communication (newspapers, magazines, etc.) or entertainment (television, radio, etc.). At its best, advertising can be very entertaining; at its worst, it can be aggravating.
I am not sure when I became aware of/interested in advertising. It has been background noise and visuals for my entire life. My oldest memory is probably Chevrolet ads on Sunday night television (“See the USA in your Chevrolet”). I am certain that I begged my mother to buy something for me that was advertised on television, but cannot recall a single instance. I do recall reading closely advertisements in The New Yorker on cold Vermont nights in my college dorm room. It cannot have been boredom that drove me to study the full page color ads or the tiny black and white texts ads, which lined back pages of each issue. Many fueled my imagination and drove me to visit distant lands or sample life evoked in pictures.
I spent many years working at a major advertising agency and many years being responsible for the advertising of a global brand. I learned a bit about the subject and had experience with making both good and bad advertising. Besides having become a good judge of what makes an effective advertisement, I know what I like and what I dislike. It takes knowledge and talent to “buy” advertising for a company. Unfortunately, too many managers do not understand the importance of advertising or do not appreciate its intricacy. Incompetent or untrained people are put in positions of responsibility. Poor decisions are made, perhaps because too many think that having an opinion about advertising makes it easy to decide about ads. This is one explanation for the prevalence of bad and/or aggravating advertising. I will leave the subject of excessive and unnecessary testing of advertising (a pet peeve) for another day, a factor that contributes to much of the garbage we must endure each day. The cause is insecurity of incompetent people in large organizations.
The first advertising campaign that I wish to point out is that of Nikon. This is a great brand with fine products, many of which I have used over the years. Their current advertising is line is incomprehensible and does not do justice to products. Nice visuals—the least that a photography company should be able to deliver—are overshadowed by this stupid line. I have no idea what they are trying to say with “I am Nikon”, so the communication fails. (NB. I saw the work of one agency that pitched for this account, which ultimately was awarded to the creators of this perplexing campaign. I have no idea why the company chose inferior work and doubt that it will solve the strategic problems facing this brand.)
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.