May 19, 2009

Rock ‘n Roll & Advertising

[Note: if you’re reading this on RSS or an ISP like AOL, just click on the title, e.g. Rock ‘n Roll & Advertising to see the full article on our blog page. Most of you probably know that, huh.]


guitars-rock-and-roll-museum-6Went to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame yesterday in Cleveland. God, it was great; almost too much to take without requesting supplemental oxygen as the memories flooded in from my death-defying youth. . . or what I remember of it anyway (!).

There are so many impressions to share, but one that bubbled to the top was how similar rock ‘n roll is to advertising.

Well, sort of.

The Hall’s multi-media experiences and displays make it clear that a rock band’s success was highly dependent on how outrageous they were, how many taboos they shattered, how uncomfortable they made the establishment, and of course produced words and music that spoke to the very soul of their audiences. The costumes, make-up, stage design, coarse words, driving beats, stunts. . . all are highly expressive forms of communication. And, highly effective, too – making their mark on their target audiences that has lasted generations.

Isn’t advertising supposed to be like that? Powering a message at a specific audience, stopping them dead in their tracks to feel something, and maybe even do something. When you experience good rock music, at the least you want to get up and move and dance. Now how powerful is that? Just imagine if advertising could be that evocative. . .

But alas, as we all know, it rarely is because the really good stuff – the uncomfortable, over-the-top edgy stuff – gets shot down before it leaves the agency, and sometimes even before it gets out of Creative. “The suits upstairs won’t go for it.” “The client will never buy it.” “It’ll never get past Legal.”

I confess: I’ve killed a lot of unborn children in my time. I, and other folks like me who’ve made a career in advertising, told Elton John to forget the goofy glasses and outfits and just play the damn piano like the classical pianist he was trained to be. We instructed David Bowie to look like a man instead of wearing a dress and wig. Janice, don’t scream like that; it offends people. Hey, ZZ Top – shave, will ya?!

Today I stand with the Pro-Lifers. Don’t kill the fetus before it even breathes! Let the ideas, crazy and bold and raw as they may be live, for Crissakes.

If advertising is going to survive as a “collective” experience, i.e. where we all get the same message and react pretty much the same way (as people do at a rock concert) then we can’t be afraid of any idea no matter how scary or whom it might piss off. OK, sure, it’s got to mean something. But please can we drop  the politically correct crap and get on with the business of effective communication?

And if I see another damn flyspeck legal disclaimer at the end of a TV spot I’m going to throw something at it.

Your 2 Cents

Agree, disagree? Are all the good ads stillborn because they might offend somebody?

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  1. Hey, asshole, thanks for calling when you were in Cleveland!!

    Your Ketchum buddy,

    Comment by Doug Arnold — August 3, 2009 @ 6:04 pm

  2. Don Arnoff –

    The sincerity of your comment is matched only by your limited and unoriginal vocabulary. BTW, good to see you’re keeping up with us – your comment came 2 1/2 months after the post was published.

    PS. Obama was elected president, in case you missed it).

    Great Guy

    Comment by Joe — August 3, 2009 @ 11:04 pm

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