taking the passive out of passive-aggressive

Thursday, April 24, 2003

So last night I went to this event where this branding guy was speaking. OK, there's nothing more stupid than "branding". I've been living around this crappy idea long enough to see that the emperor's got no clothes. Nice enough guy, decent speech, but I swear to God if I have to sit in a hotel ballroom one more time listening to these types--people who are too creative to sell insurance, but not brilliant or self-sacrificing enough to publish a novel--sublimate their creativity into corporate work and pretend it's not what it is... I just hate the fucking denial, I am so tired of it.

Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with selling shit. In advertising, that's what we're doing. The clients admit it, but the agencies (even those few that pay lip service to the idea) won't admit it. It's got to be all high-minded: brand, identity, integrity. It's SALES, people! Please. You've got to make the close. Sure, it's fun to play with brand--wow! it's like reinventing myself in the form of a company! cool! a few new words, a new typeface, some "big ideas" (read: simpleminded platitudes) and we're reinvented! Please.

This guy last night was talking about using honest language to speak for your company. It's commercial language--it's not even protected by the constitution--how honest can it be? Like a poem written by or in the service of a corporation can be meaningful? That is SUCH bullshit.

At the same time, there's absolutely nothing wrong with selling stuff to people and using language to do it. But DON'T tell me you're bringing some great thing to consumers, that's it's world- or life-changing, or that it's meaningful. It's not. It's products. We can give people aspirations and fulfill them. I'm all for it--personally, I love the way a new pair of shoes makes me feel. But I also know that feeling is fleeting, at best.

The self-congratulatory nature of the agency world is pathetic. The movie "Glengarry Glen Ross" is more analagous to what we do than, say, the work of Don DeLillo. Besides, the agency people I've met are generally less well-read than I'd expect. So for these people--most of whom probably read more business books than novels--to talk about narrative is a fucking joke.

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