I ask “why” a lot. In part because I’m inherently curious. One of the perks of being in advertising is that I’ve learned about things I otherwise wouldn’t if I were, say, a donkey rancher. And I love when I get to work in a category or on a product I haven’t before — it gives me the opportunity to learn new stuff.
I also ask “why” a lot because, in our business, I believe there’s always a better way to do everything. I’m constantly looking to improve my work and myself. So I question motives. Methods. Outcomes.
That’s not for everyone. Especially the “we’ve always done it this way” types.
People are fascinating, weird, wonderful creatures. We’re constantly in motion. We’re reinventing our world and ourselves faster than we ever have. The advances we’ve made in technology, engineering and science over the past 20 years — from the invention of the iPhone to the discovery of the “God Particle” — is mind-boggling.
I recently watched a show about the making of National Lampoon’s Vacation. Chevy Chase was talking about the scene in St. Louis and said when he asked everyone to roll up their windows, that if you look closely enough, his window didn’t really roll up. He faked the reeling motion so the camera could get a clean shot of him saying his line. My seven-year-old, even my thirteen-year-old, would have no idea what he was talking about. They press a button. It’s a different world.
So why does advertising remain, largely, the same?
Because not enough people ask “why.” Not enough people challenge. As fascinating, weird and wonderful as we are, we’re also creatures of habit. Creatures of comfort — we know what we know. Selling floor cleaner? Better show a sparkling floor and a mildly attractive woman with a smile on her face.
I think comfortable is boring. And believe boring doesn’t get a second glance. It isn’t given a second thought. Ever watch someone read a magazine? They flip right past the ads because they all look and sound the same. That’s especially true in trade pubs. Selling cattle feed? Better show a nutritious looking nugget and a mildly attractive cow with a smile on her face.
A former colleague said, “You’ve got to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
That is something I absolutely do not question.