who told people the recession was almost over?

24 11 2009

Seriously.  I want the person who told people – out loud – that the recession would be over by the holiday on my doorstep.

Whoopdy doo – good news.   Yay for money and jobs!

But really now, we’ve come head to head with my love/hate relationship.  Advertising.  I like ads for the most part, but they should be in their place – not hidden inside magazine articles or designed to look like instructions on something that should be useful.  Holiday editions of magazines are THE WORST.  It’s not like they’re showing a shopping guide (I like those.)  It’s that 3/4 of the magazine is advertising and the other 1/4 is so badly done that the ads are more attractive.   It’s not like someone just announced that suddenly it was going to be Christmas in December and it’s this new thing we need to rush around for.  Come on now, isn’t there like an archive of something or other you can set aside say sometime in July?

I was 3 pages into a decorating article before I realized it wasn’t just another shitty ad from Pottery Barn. (Really, have you just caught on to the whole “people decorate with brown and a pastel” trend yet?  My bedroom has been two shades of brown with “pops” of color for over 5 years now.  Even all my Ikea furniture matches.)

Last year, magazines were slender because advertisers were using their cash efficiently and thriftily. I have a tiny shelf unit in my bookcase that holds 18 months of Real Simple and a year of Architectural Digest.  It’s maybe 18″ of shelf space.

This year, they’re 200 pages with 50 pages of actual content that’s squeezed into half a page because of the Hellman’s mayo ad taking up the opposite page and spilling over.   My Real Simple came in the mail and is an entire inch thick!  (I measured it.  It really is.)  I got home from the hospital yesterday and saw it on the edge of the couch and Shaun said “it’s huge!  It will take you a week to read it!”  But no.  It was mostly advertising.

See – the sandwich method is being fucked up!

The Sandwich Method is an informal rule you’ll probably only learn person to person in the breakroom at work.  It’s a bald-faced manipulation tactic that is used mainly on evil supervisors or stodgy neighbors.

Here’s how it works:  when you give someone bad news, first you say something good then say the bad thing then immediately follow up with more good news.  It goes like this:  Hey Jimmy, I noticed that your flowers outside bloomed while I was checking on the soft spot in the grass.  It turns out your septic tank is leaking.  Hey, did you hear about the 50% off sale at Home Depot?

Your target is still getting the info – the septic tank is leaking – but you at least have a pleasant lead-in and a get-away plan.  The sandwich method is not to form an action plan.  It is meant to inform and escape.  Then after the escape, your target can think about what you said in the middle at their own pace.

This is also the basic theorem of advertising within content.  You have 10 minutes of TV, then 2 minutes of 30 second commercials with the expectation that if you sit there and watch them, soon you will get 10 more minutes of content you care about.  If it’s any longer of a time, the target will run away or take up under-water basket weaving or something.

Because what you want the customer to SEE is the middle.  That’s the meat.  What the customer is there for is the package – the sandwich.  What your advertising should be is the MAYONNAISE!  The customer takes a bit thinking “wow, turkey and bread are great, we should do this more often.”  Then they taste the mayo and go WOW, mayo is awesome!  Then you keep slipping in stuff and they start to expect the cleverness and interest your mayo adds to their experience.

The problem is when your sandwich comes with 6 oz of mayo, a thin slice of turkey, and a handful of croutons that were graciously called “bread” last week.   Then your customer is not only gone, but they’re pissed off.  When they think of your brand they’re going to think of a giant, goo of white fat that has overtaken the awesome memories of a plain ole turkey sandwich.

What you have said is “Jimmy, I got out of my car and noticed your yard was sinking into a puddle of shit.  Your flowers look nice, but that’s only because of the “extra fertilizer.”  Here’s the name of the most expensive guy in town and he’ll even beat you with a monkey wrench if you complain about the bill.”

And now advertisers have money again and they’ve forgotten about their role as unexpected, awesome goodness that’s needed as a layer of fat and flavor in between actual content.

Magazine editors – you should be ashamed of yourselves!  You cheap floozies!  So yeah, we toughed it out for a while, but if you’re going to suck this bad just sell the company to the advertiser and let them frame some made-up content with pretty pictures.    It appears that your skilled writers and photographers all work for the advertising companies now.

I can honestly say that in this 200 page magazine I just finished had 2 interesting things in it.  (Normally I flag 30 or so things to follow-up on.)  It was a giant mayo glob with poo pellets and some regurgitated wheat germ.

This is also an apt analogy from one of my favorite movies, Robin Hood:Men in Tights

(apparently my rant has now turned into another episode of the “free business analysis for how to not suck” segment of my blog.)

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