Wednesday, July 04, 2012

the man in the chair

Apparently the below is one of the best known, and most oft quoted examples of advertising advertising.

Not so for me, I only came across it last week as I plough through The Intention Economy, the latest book from Doc Searls, of Cluetrain and Project VRM fame.

Created for The McGraw-Hill Business Publications Company in 1958, 'The Man in the Chair' ad is revered as one of the most effective and influential works in the genre. In a 2012 context there is still much to be gleaned from its message.

I don’t know who you are.
I don’t know your company.
I don’t know your company’s products.
I don’t know what your company stands for.
I don’t know your company’s record.
I don’t know your company’s reputation.
Now, what was it you wanted to sell me?



Doc says:
'The true lodestar of advertising has always been the customers.
This is why the [McGraw-Hill] ad was so important. It was a signal sent by McGraw-Hill to advertisers on behalf of its readers. It spoke of the company’s relationship with those readers and said to advertisers that it stood on the readers’ side.
It demanded substance, relevance, and earned reputation from its advertisers. It said relationships were possible, but only when customers sat with companies at the same table, at the same level.'


What this ad is about resonates with me when placed in context of the great digital divide - ie on the one hand the school of advertising, online in particular, that favours the hyper-targeted, 'personal' and data driven tactics that are manifest in the near subterfuge of cookies, tracking and all manner of 'behavioural' targeting.

And on the other the approach that favours strategies that contain content, usefulness, values-based communication, involvement, storytelling etc to name but a few. Where salience (ie visiblity, sharability) and social proof are the drivers.

In many ways being objective about the value and values of good advertising one could summise that - for the most part - our industry is still often short of the mark, and has perhaps lost its way compared to one humble, yet somehow futuristic, b2b print execution from 1958.

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