Ad Curmudgeons Speak Up On The BeanCast This Week

Bob Knorpp, host of TheBeanCast, invited me back on his show this week. Bob Hoffman, George Parker and Augie Ray joined me as a guest. How I got lumped in with this cast of curmudgeons I don’t know, but I’ll take what airtime I can get.

Listen here: BeanCast 251 or directly in iTunes.

This week’s BeanCast opens up with a long-winded discussion of Native Advertising, Content Marketing and whether or not ad agencies are prepared to play a role in this important and growing segment of the business. I tried to remain calm during this segment, but I could not.

My friend Bob Hoffman — who I have beers with on a semi-regular occasion — says the only brands that ought to produce content are sports teams, bands and others with a real fan base. I understand that some companies are better suited to content marketing than others, but I reject the idea. Hoffman offers a pencil manufacturer as an example of a boring product that has no business in the content game. I point out that pencils are tools used by writers; therefore, the content possibilities are as rich as could be.


Later in the episode (about 38 minutes in), Knorpp, who is an excellent host, asks me about the garment factory fire and collapse that killed 1100 in Bangladesh. I am glad he asked. While marketing may not be the first place to turn for a good answer to this immense problem, I contend that marketing does have a role, and a significant one.

I say, “I don’t think the value shopper really cares about slave labor. I wish they did but I don’t think they do, so what is the answer from a marketing perspective? We’ve got to give them something that they care about. I think “Made in America” would be amazing, and Wal-Mart which wants to fly the freaking flag like the Republican Party would be an ideal candidate to say, ‘You know what, were going to raise prices a bit, we’re going to explain this to you and we’re going to create jobs in America.'”

You see, I am not a curmudgeon at all. I am a hopeless romantic who holds tightly to my youthful idealism. I believe in our ability to adapt and improve, as ad men and as people. I know it’s not easy to tell a client that their operations are shit, and if they want to protect brand value, they need to do the right thing right now. But what business are we in? Are in the business of keeping clients happy? Or are we in the business of creating brand value? I reckon it’s up to each one of us to decide.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.