Sunday, October 6, 2013
History Repeats Itself
Over the weekend, I got a chance to have coffee with a guy I got to know back in my High School days.
For those of you who are reading this, that was more than 35 years ago… for me. My friend, Steven is a couple of years older.
When we met up for coffee, he gave me a gift. He said he found it in one of the antique stores down in what is now his “hometown,” Jackson, Mississippi.
The name of the book is Advertising published by The Alexander Hamilton Institute in New York back 1914. That’s now 100 years ago.
The author is a Mr. Harry Tipper who was the advertising manager of the Texas Company, president of the Association of National Advertisers and a lecturer of the Men’s League of New York.
The first chapter gives a recount of the history of advertising. It’s eleven pages long. Back then, there was no television, no radio, limited outdoor and Lord only knows… no Internet or social media.
What I find fascinating about the book is its length…430 pages.
There are very intriguing chapters.
The first chapter of a section titled “Planning The Campaign” is named “Preliminary Investigation” and it talks about things like “important considerations” and the “consumption capacity of territory.”
Sounds a lot like what I do now 100 years later.
My bet is here in the midst of the information age, it’s just as important for businesses to read that chapter as it was back in 1914.
Times might change, but the human element does not.
There’s also a chapter titled “Advertising Agencies” with part of the chapter dedicated to “where the agency sometimes error” and the “weaknesses of agency services.”
As the author writes… “Although the advertising agency is generally able to furnish the manufacturer with valuable ideas, it will not as a rule afford much help with regard to marketing methods.”
Sounds like something I often relay to clients.
The author concludes the chapter with this… “Nor must it be forgotten that the interests of the advertising agent as advertising counsel, on the one hand, and commission man, on the other, are always diametrically opposed to each other.”
As I share with many clients, you can call it retainer fee or project fee, but if you don’t think that agency is working with 15% commission on the media and 20% mark-up on the production, run those numbers and see how close they are to what that annual retainer totals at the end of 12 months.
There’s a chapter on “Reason-Why Copy” followed by “Human-Interest Copy” as well as a chapter on “Copy As Affected By Display: and “Copy As Affected By Mediums.”
I share with clients something similar to the latter when I say, “the medium is the message and the message is the medium.”
There’s even a chapter on Advertising Research and the tracking of results including keeping a tally on who responds to the advertising and where they are residing.
Back in those high school days, I had no idea that I would one day end up doing what I am doing today from a business perspective, but I was very much centered around understanding creativity and how it could be generated and developed.
I know what many of you are thinking.
When you think of your high school days, I would wager few share that common ground of remembrance.
This past couple weeks, my very first client that I landed, an academic healthcare medical center, is breaking with a new campaign created by a New York ad agency.
Over the course of the five years in which we worked together, we moved their brand forward with a super brand platform that was anchored around the emotional experience of medical advancement and innovative options that patients had who came to their centers for disease treatment.
Just like the Advertising book addresses in what it terms “Human-Interest Copy,” the brand platform raised the mechanics of research and academic perspectives into a context that the “man-on-the-street” got excited about and desired to learn more.
Perhaps its because my second home is now a country get-away located adjacent to a town that is totally driven by a university campus, I can say what I next will say… or, its because I have taken the time to teach a few courses myself…
…But academics live in a very separate world than the rest of us.
Its one where ad agencies seem to intrigue many, and there are limited control points in place to avoid agencies coming in with limited perspectives of the dynamics of the market and “selling in the sizzle.”
I can see it now.
The posh, well-scripted ad agency flew down from their New York City digs and spoke with a few of the academics and became intrigued with the academic perspective of the impending changes of the Health Reform Act.
Those New York ad slicks probably also were very much taken back by some patient perspectives that the Medical Center team might even be perceived as aloft… even arrogant… in their personality and bedside manor.
Something they concluded as bad for the brand image.
So… out of their New York offices, they produced the new campaign that replaced “Advancing The Possibilities” with “We’re All In This Together.”
A campaign that is driven by “Fixing Healthcare,” “Family” and “Big City Healthcare.” All nice, warm scenes of extended families, smiling doctors and pretty pictures of the countryside.
Be still my heart.
Be still the market too.
Be still that person diagnosed with cancer and told that conventional avenues are not likely going to work.
Be still that person diagnosed with advanced heart disease in which future activity will be severely limited.
And be still that physician that after 20 hours of surgery has found a way to get a person put back together again.
Ahhhh… but those new ads are all anchored is the Shangri-La of feel-good… the beautiful filming and the thrill of the New York ad agency.
They say that age does breed wisdom.
While I might want to scream when I see clients do really, really dumb stupid things, it seldom means much to the business with the bucks… at least for now.
When I read the pages of a book written 100 years ago, I quickly realize that I am not alone in the observations.
Sometimes, looking back in time and re-connecting… like I was lucky to do with my friend Steven… helps to anchor us in our trials of surviving the here and now.
I will elect to stay positive.
Another good friend of mine who is a psychologist said to me one night… trust me, they will come back.