Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Look who's helping those corporations.

         One of the most amazing things about the Internet and social media is people's interest in connecting with corporations today.

          It's no longer the "what can you do for me" attitude that advertising has promoted by shouting product claims at them. No longer the "prove to me that you're better" stance that consumers have long challenged manufacturers with. Those are what led to those dreadful commercials showing how antacids work in your stomach and how that hideous mucus man causes distress.

          Today we're perfectly willing to help companies help us. Cooperation seems to be the rule on the Web and on social media sites. We're very open about our comments, our recommendations to potential customers, our critiques and suggestions. We send in recipes, tips for working mothers, ideas for raising newborns, sending in videos of themselves singing Lady Gaga's songs, everything.

          This new era of crowd sourcing has even resulted in customers doing commercials for companies. You saw the results with those Doritos commercials on the Super Bowl.

          Personally, I'm better at sending companies nasty letters that I am at making positive suggestions. Maybe because I give positive suggestions to clients and others all day long. Now when a company disappoints me, I let 'em have it.

         I wasn't always this critical. I remember when my friend Norm, a copywriter who worked for me, came back from lunch with a pack of Doublemint Chewing Gum missing the foil inside the wrappers. He sent a vehement letter to the president of the William Wrigley Jr. Company, and they sent him a huge case of Doublemint with their apologies. A lifetime supply. I was surprised and knew I could never do such a thing. But I was wrong.

        I think when you're in advertising, and people around you are convinced you exploit people all day and unfairly use the mysteries of psychology to manipulate them, you go maybe overboard the other way, bordering on self-righteous. You want your clients to always do the right thing by their customers, just as you are careful to do the ethical thing in your creative work. And when they don't, you set them straight.

       Today's spirit of helpfulness is progress. It makes companies better and consumers happier. I applaud that. And yes, every time I open a pack of gum I do hope the foil is missing.

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