The point is to make the product interesting, not the ad-maker

I ran into an Infiniti salesman who'd read my column about the laughably inept Infiniti ad I ranted on about a couple of columns back.
If you missed it, the ad is purportedly in aid of selling the Infiniti G 35 Coupe, and consists of a little picture of the car topped by four-fifths of a page of light gray copy which begins with the words Work out. Harder.

I ran into an Infiniti salesman who’d read my column about the laughably inept Infiniti ad I ranted on about a couple of columns back.

If you missed it, the ad is purportedly in aid of selling the Infiniti G 35 Coupe, and consists of a little picture of the car topped by four-fifths of a page of light gray copy which begins with the words Work out. Harder. For 33 near-illegible lines, it babbles on about, I think, grooming advice. It says nothing about the car, which I suppose passes in some circles for ‘clever’.

I contrasted this pathetic excuse for an ‘advertisement’ with an article about the same car in the auto section of a national newspaper that had caught my eye. It was ram jam full of information about the car that got me ‘way excited about owning one.

However, the Infiniti sales guy still asked me what was wrong with the ad. And it struck me that, in addition to what I’d said was wrong with it in the column is also what is wrong with so many of the ads and commercials John Burghardt and I bitch about: The ad does not try to make the product interesting. It tries to make the ad-makers interesting.

If the writer of that info-loaded auto section piece had instead shown up in the editor’s office with a piece about grooming instead of a piece about the new Infiniti G 35 Coupe, that writer would now be sleeping on a subway grating on University Avenue.

However, it seems nobody at most ad agencies tells the people who write and art direct ads that it is your job to make THIS PRODUCT INTERESTING. We don’t care if your quirky quips cause fleeting smirks to flicker across the lips of your friends in the bar on Queen West. Go audition at Yuk Yuks. We’re here to sell our clients’ stuff by making their stuff INTERESTING.

And yet, as each day’s living reveals to us, the world is full of people who don’t know what they are supposed to be doing, let alone what other people are supposed to be doing.

You know this when, as an ad person, you pitch your heart out in a new business presentation, and it eventually hits you these people don’t know if we’re any good, because they don’t know what ‘any good’ is.

I once had to hire an architect, to spend more money than I had ever spent before in my life, to renovate offices for us in Toronto’s Flatiron building.

My partners and I summoned four or five firms to come talk to us. Half way through the first meeting, it hit us. We didn’t know a damn thing about architecture. So we listened to them, but we didn’t know what to ask them. Shame on us.

A few weeks back, I drove down to Loyalist College in Belleville, Ont. to speak to a bunch of kids in a two-year advertising course being taught by an old friend of mine. As always, they listen to you, but they don’t know what to ask you. Being a merciful man, I did not tell them what awaited them in the new world of advertising, as described in a funny memo sent along by one Cassandra Sinclair a while back. It goes you work in advertising if…

*Your wardrobe colour scheme is light black, dark black and black black.

*Your social life is primarily dictated by the ‘going away’ party of the week.

*You’ve sat at the same desk for four years and worked for three different organizations.

*Your resume is on a diskette in your pocket.

*You get really excited about a 2% pay raise.

*It’s dark when you drive to and from work.

*You’re already late on the task you just got assigned.

*Free food left over from meetings is your main staple.

*Your supervisor does not have the ability to do your job.

*Salaries of the Executive Board are higher than all Third World countries’ annual budgets combined.

*Family and relatives describe your job as ‘works with computers.’

But listen kids, go for it. Somebody’s gonna be the next Copy Chief on the Infiniti account, and why not you?

Barry Base creates advertising campaigns for a living. He writes this column to promote the cause of what he calls intelligent advertising, and to attract clients who share the notion that many a truth is said in jest. Barry can be reached at (416) 924-5533, or faxed at (416) 960-5255, at the Toronto office of Barry Base & Partners.