«Ogilvy on advertising», the prequel.

After spending a few weeks getting a solid grounding in opinion research, Ogilvy accompanied Gallup to Hollywood. They pitched their services to the head of RKO studios, pointing out the competitive advantages of measuring the popularity of movie stars, pretesting audience acceptance of movie ideas and titles, and forecasting trends. RKO awarded them a twelve-month contract, and other studios soon followed suit, noting that David Selznick «took to ordering surveys the way other people order groceries.» Ogilvy admired Gallup immensely and gained a deep respect for the value of opinion research as a predictive tool in everything from marketing to politics. He found his time in Hollywood both entertaining and instructive and hobnobbed with some of the most famous movie stars of the day, almost all of whom he considered «repulsive egotists.» As a result of his audience research, Ogilvy discovered that certain marquee names had a negative effect on a picture's earnings, and he assembled a classified list he called «box office poison» that prematurely ended many a career. «There is no great trick to doing research,» Ogilvy later observed. «The problem is to get people to use it—particularly when the research reveals that you have been making mistakes.» Most people, he found, had "a tendency to use research as a drunkard uses a lamppost—for support, not for illumination.»

(…)

Stephenson had sent Fleming there in 1942 and had been impressed with how well he had come through the course, recalling that he was «top of his section,» though he lacked the killer's instinct, and had hesitated—a fatal error—during an exercise in which he was expected to «shoot a man in cold blood.» While the camp schooled secret agents, spies, and guerrilla fighters who went on to carry out BSC missions in enemy-occupied Europe and Asia, most of the people sent on the course with Ogilvy had been recruited to do intelligence or propaganda work, had backgrounds in journalism and foreign relations, and knew little or nothing about spycraft beyond the jobs they were doing at their typewriters. At Camp X, Ogilvy and his fellow trainees donned army fatigues designed to help maintain the facility's cover as a regular army base, and attended lectures on the new high technology of espionage, from the use of codes and ciphers to listening devices, and observed awe-inspiring demonstrations of silent killing and underwater demolitions. They also received some limited practice in how to use a handgun and shoot quickly and accurately without hesitation. «l was taught the tricks of the trade,» recalled Ogilyy. «How do you follow people without arousing their suspicion? Walk in front of them; if you also push a pram this will disarm their suspicions still further. I was taught to use a revolver, to blow up bridges and power lines with plastic, to cripple police dogs by grabbing their front legs and tearing their chests apart, and to kill a man with my bare hands.»

Fully expecting to be parachuted behind enemy lines, he was a little let down when Stephenson assigned him to desk duty.

Most quoted quote.

TV advertising used to work like this: you sat on your sofa while creatives were paid to throw a bucket of shit in your face. Today you're expected to sit on the bucket, fill it with your own shit, and tip it over your head while filming yourself on your mobile. Then you upload the video to the creatives. You do the work; they still get paid.

Hail the rise of "loser-generated content"; commercials assembled from footage shot by members of the public coaxed into participating with the promise of TV glory. The advantages to the advertiser are obvious: it saves cash and makes your advert feel like part of some warm, communal celebration rather than the 30-second helping of underlit YouTube dog piss it is.

Charlie Brooker (2009) Charlie Brooker's Screen burn

The great leap backwards.

In 1957, a billion Chinese were going hungry.
Mao Zedong couldn’t admit this was because of the failings of his communist agricultural policies.
The reason must be something else.
He heard that sparrows were eating lots of grain.
That must be the reason.
So began ‘The Great Sparrow Campaign’.
The people must do whatever was necessary to rid China of sparrows.
That way the people would have plenty to eat.
It became everyone’s responsibility to help wipe out sparrows.
Masses of schoolchildren were taken on outings to destroy nests, to smash eggs, to kill chicks.
Everyone with any kind of gun was told to shoot sparrows wherever they saw them.
Poison was put wherever sparrows lived.
The Chinese organised in thousands to visit the areas where the sparrows gathered.
They did anything to stop them landing in the trees.
They made vast amounts of noise: sounding horns, thumping drums, even banging old pots and pans.
Propaganda films of the period show entire villages participating right across China.
They wouldn’t let the sparrows land and eventually the sparrows exhausted themselves and dropped to earth dead.
All over China, towns and villages were given recognition for the amount of sparrows they killed.
One day alone, in Shanghai, they killed 198,000.
Eventually, sparrows in China were eradicated, around two billion birds.
So that was the end of the problem, now food would be plentiful.
Well not quite.
What Mao Zedong hadn’t allowed for was what else the sparrows ate, besides grain.
They ate locusts.
Without the sparrows, the locusts had nothing to stop them.
They multiplied on a massive scale.
And locusts were many times more destructive than sparrows.
Plagues of locusts took over huge areas of Chinese farmland.
Each swarm covering hundreds of square miles made up of trillions of locusts.
It resulted in the Great Famine.
Which resulted in thirty million people dead from starvation.
Which created a new problem: what could be done to control the locusts?
The only solution was for China to import millions of sparrows from Communist Russia.
To try to put everything back the way it had been.
Because the solution had been worse than the problem.
Which is pretty much what’s happened to advertising.
Advertising was good, but we were looking for a way to make it better.
So we had to replace intuition and normal common-sense.
We had to make everything rational and verifiable, measurable and accountable, sensible and scientific.
And what happened?
We killed off the intuitive, the common-sense, the fun.
Advertising became formulaic, dull, invisible and predictable.

We killed off the sparrows and the locusts were worse.

Dave Trott (2015) Dave Trott's Blog.

Revolution for sale

If a revolution is not accessible, tangible, and replicable, how on earth can it be a revolution? "Because I'm worth it" and "Does she or doesn't she?" were powerful, then precisely because they were commercials, for commercials come with products attached, and products offer something that songs and poems and political movements and radical ideologies do not, which is an immediate and affordable means of transformation. "We discovered in the first few years of 'Because I'm worth it' campaign that we were getting more than our fair share of new users to the category - women who were just beginning to color their hair," Sennott told me. "And within that group we were getting those undergoing life changes, which usually meant divorce. We had far more women who were getting divorced than Clairol had. Their children had grown, and something had happened, and they were reinventing themselves." They felt different, and Ilon Specht gave them the means to look different - and do we really know which came first, or even how to separate the two? They changed their lives and their hair. But it wasn't one thing or the other. It was both.

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