5 Common Fetishes of the Advertising Professional
We ad people aren't exactly known for our quiet reserve and inhibition. We love a provocative idea. We're open to trying new things. But not every whim is a good one. Here, I attempt to capture the most egregious fetishes—or fetish-like behaviors—I've observed in the business over the years. Maybe you've witnessed these yourself, or perhaps, like me, you've even engaged in a few. Either way, buckle in as we delve into the mischievous mind of the modern ad professional.
Titillation stemming from worship of and submission to trending technology and social platforms.
Trending ad tech and social platforms are seductive. They offer sexy new ways to reach and engage with audiences. We're apoplectic about their APIs. We drool over their daily active users. But deifying these platforms before we know the whole truth—who they really reach, where they get their data, how they're best used—means we aren't giving them the cold, hard, unbiased look we should in order to advise our clients. That hot take on the latest "it" platform may just be pulling your attention away from a potentially more efficient, effective way to reach your audience. Don't be sucked in too soon. At least wait until SNL does a spot-on TikTok parody before jumping headlong in.
Deriving masochistic pleasure in publicly flogging the advertising profession to which you belong.
As an industry, we love to hate ourselves. We introduce ourselves at a party and say wryly, "I'm in advertising. Just behind used car salespeople for the world's least trusted profession!" I'm guilty of aphorisms like, "We're not curing cancer here, we're selling Cheetos." Yes, that's very true. And we could all benefit from remembering exactly what we do on those days when we're taking ourselves too seriously. But it's also true that this is an amazing business. And believe it or not, there are special moments when advertising can accelerate real cultural shifts and inspire change in our communities. Most importantly, if we want to welcome more interesting, diverse and creative points of view into this industry (which we most definitely need), we have to stop selling ourselves short.
Autonomous Sensory Measurement Response (ASMR)
A tingling sensation triggered by overstimulation of the brain from data and analytics.
We love a dashboard, don't we? So fascinating. Full of pretty colors and numbers. It's all our efforts visualized as positively affirming, neatly advancing lines and arrows. If we twiddle this knob, that happens. If we pull that lever, this happens. "It's not just data, it's data science!" But when we worship KPIs above all else, we run the risk of losing sight of the human desires, behaviors and emotions those numbers represent. Every tick mark is a person. And people don't always make decisions rationally—in neat, straight lines. Sure, it's science. But there is such art in turning that data into human truths and insights that inspire creative ideas. Dashboards are sexy, but as my driver's ed instructor once told me, "If you keep your eyes on the dashboard, you're gonna run off the road."
Attaining sensual excitement through the act of analyzing creativity from afar while not actively participating.
Do you objectify, fetishize, romanticize or otherwise mythologize creativity? Perhaps you've said something like, "I wish I were creative, but I'm just so left-brained." By "othering" creativity this way, we're implying it's something special and innate. As if you either have it or you don't. But not only is the whole right-brain, left-brain thing a proven myth, perpetuating this untruth may actually be setting you up for failure. The idiom people love to forget is, "Creativity is 90 percent perspiration, 10 percent inspiration." While I'd say the ratio is more like 99:1, this old chestnut is true. If you put in the time chewing on a problem, actively searching for a solution, you will eventually get there. You don't have to engage in creative pursuits (art, song, writing) to be creative. In fact, in this business, everyone can—and should—be contributing to creative problem solving whether they're a creative, a strategist or a media planner.
A compulsion to employ BS tactics to assert your dominance upon others.
The safe word is "stop." Just stop. Business jargon, acronyms, clichés, humble brags, office politics. Nobody likes or wants this BS in their lives. Sure, it can be easy to forget when we're swimming in it daily. LinkedIn can sometimes feel like a cesspool of self-congratulation, virtue signaling and bloated proselytizing. Sure, we're all guilty of partaking now and again. Make no mistake, I will promote this particular piece of bloated proselytizing across "the socials." But we must remain diligent, or the power-jargoning and politicking and other BS will win. The trick is to never stop fighting it. At our agency, rather than a swear jar (a fight we'll never win in this business), we have a BS jar. It's just one small way we try to keep ourselves honest and promote a bit more humility.
Do any of these fetishes sound familiar? Are there others you'd add to the list? I bet there are, you kinky rascal.