Skrip - tyur' - i - ent: adj. Possessing the violent desire to write.


#289 In which our hero makes a pointless post.

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that most of what I do at my job is pointless.

As my long-time readers (both of you) already know, I work in advertising. I actually love it, which seems to fly in the face of what I’ve written above. But I don’t see advertising like other people do, i.e., blaringly loud TV commercials that interrupt your favorite show just as it’s getting good, or obnoxiously scented ads that fall into your lap when you open your favorite magazine.

I see it as a dynamic job in which I help connect people with products they need in creative, entertaining ways. I get to do something different every day, and am faced with new challenges that push me to improve my skills.

That is to say, that’s what my job should be. That’s not the day-to-day reality.

No, the fact is that at my current agency my real job is to creative advertising that makes the client happy. That’s job 1. Not connecting with customers, or positioning the brand or, even, selling product. It’s making the client happy.

And not even that, really. What I’m really tasked with is not making the client unhappy. So, if I work on advertising that touches on brand promises, clears their legal department easily and doesn’t offend anyone… they’re happy. Not happy like “Wow! That’s great advertising! This is really going to move some product!” More like, “Good, this won’t rock the boat and force me to do more work then the bare minimum I need to.”

Let me give an example. Well, not an example really… I don’t want to lose my job, so I’ll speak in generalities.

One of the clients I work for is a large food manufacturer. One of those mega-conglomerates that makes everything from frozen pizza to gumballs. One of the many things we create and execute for this client are FSIs. FSI stands for “free-standing insert,” and it is that loose piece of paper printed with a coupon that you find stuffed into the center of your Sunday paper.

And coupon is the critical part of that description. The only reason that FSIs exist are as a vehicle to get that coupon into the hands of a shopper. They aren’t designed to build brand awareness, make you feel good about the company, or any of the touchy-feeling stuff that Marketing Directors love to talk about. One reason: coupon into hand.

And I’m sure you get that. I mean, if you’re a coupon clipper you’re used to flipping through all those sheets and putting aside the coupons for products that you like or would like to try. I seriously doubt that you take the time to really read the rest of the page… the part that talks about the wholesome ingredients or the earth-friendly manufacturing process or whatever. You just want the 50 cents off.

The clients I work with, however, do NOT get this. They think that this FSI is just as valuable as a marketing tool as it is a coupon delivery tool. And part of me gets where they’re coming from. They’ve been taught through marketing classes or from their superiors that each touchpoint on the path to purchase is an opportunity to herald that brand position and blah, blah, blah.

Coupon. Into. Hand.

But these clients labor over every tiny aspect of the FSI. Should it say “delicious ingredients” or “taste-tempting ingredients”? Are we showing enough racial diversity in this ad for hot dogs? We need to change the photo because the kid shown is a little overweight, and that doesn’t support our health and wellness platform.

And so on.

I want to shout at them, “Hey! The only part that people look at is the coupon! If you want to up your redemption, make the whole fucking page your coupon!” Honestly, that’s all you need to do: slap on a nicely shot photo of a slice of your frozen pizza or mini corndog or whatever and make the 75 CENTS OFF as big as you can. Or better yet, if you want people to buy your stuff, give them more money off. A $1 coupon will redeem better than a 75 cents coupon any day of the week.

Instead, I say things like, “Okay, we’ll try to find some stock photography with a more fit child,” or “Okay, we’ll try stacking the packaging vertically instead of horizontally,” or “I’ll change ‘healthy’ to ‘healthful’ to make the lawyers happy.”

This pointless revision and effort over such minor advertising vehicles is exhausting. And, worst of all, it seems like that’s most of what I do nowadays.


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