“They” aren’t going to do anything about it, and it’s the greatest creative opportunity of your life.
“They should do something about this.” You hear it all the time. When a problem seems too big or complex for us to tackle on our own, we psychologically defer to a metaphorical group of people we mistakenly feel have more power and/or control. It doesn’t matter if it’s politics, human rights, technology or taxes - “they should do something about it.”
What most people don’t realize is most of “them” are corrupted by outdated, and often deeply flawed, views of Wall Street. Wall Street’s primary goal is to commoditize and monetize everything on the planet. Take an idea, technology, company, natural resource, whatever, and break it into a million identical bits (shares) and sell it. It intentionally strips out anything unique, magical, and/or human from the process. Anything that can’t be put on a spreadsheet is now gone. The moment a company goes public, its management is now living under a commoditized/monetized quarterly review.
From where I sit, I feel this pressure across our entire industry. Clients buy what they’re familiar with. Agencies deliver what they know how to bill. Media companies offer what they can sell. And technology (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) offer up “features” that garner the most whatever it is that Wall Street wants to measure. All this gets wrapped up in my most hated term, “best practices”.
Besides having no scientific basis at all, “best practices” “suffers from what is called ‘selection of the dependent variable’” (long explanation here). Short version: best practices are a way for uninterested people to super-impose “what worked before” onto something they probably don’t understand.
All of it leads to a stifling sameness. The only ones able to pierce through this institutional dogma are artists (stick with me here because I’m about to make a leap). We are “they”.
Up until the 1900s, virtually everything we define as “art” in the western world was simply advertising for the biggest brand in the world, the Catholic Church. If you’ve ever taken an art history class, you know this to be true. Amidst the “best practices” of thousands of mediocre Virgin Mary triptychs, we got the breakthrough glory of the Sistine Chapel.
If we accept that consumerism is now the organized religion of the developed world, every single person who can make something in advertising, media, and media-tech companies is an artist. You receive a commission (your salary) to create art for a benefactor (brand).
“We should do something.”
Instead of accepting a TV ad with a URL to a Facebook page and hashtag, we should blow the whole thing up and design a new church. Forget the “best practices” of another boring Virgin Mary triptych and try to bring a little magic into the world. All this technology was about connecting people, but we keep getting stuck buying the same damn rich-media unit that Wall Street can count.
You have the paint and an empty ceiling, what are you going to do about it?
Alternate title: How to offend Wall Street, the entire advertising and tech industry and the Catholic Church all in a single post.