High school sports program ads aren’t so much ads as donations ...
... so you might as well have fun with them. Here’s one from my shop for Kinetico water softeners.
Yes, it’s that alleged pornographic image again.
It’s too easy to overlook
NOW AND THEN in the wake of an utter communication fail, it’s not unusual for the alleged professional communicator to blame the public for “just not getting it.”
Er, um, no. It’s not the public’s fault.
I feel a case in point coming on.
Some years ago my home state of Utah unveiled a branding campaign. Well, they called it a branding campaign. It was a slogan.* Either way, nearly overnight it became the object of national ridicule.
The slogan? Brace yourself: “Utah! A pretty, great state.”
Wow! Just look at that comma! It changes the diminutive “pretty great” to the boastful “pretty and great.”
The Salt Lake Tribune’s legendary Pat Bagley honored the campaign with a cartoon. To see the whole thing, click here or on the image.
If you happened to miss that particular meaning-changing comma, don’t feel bad. Most people missed it. Hence the national ridicule.
Not surprisingly, the ad agency behind the slogan doubled down. “What’s wrong with everyone?” they lamented and, even now, continue lamenting. “Can’t they see there’s a comma?”
That’s getting it backward. The public has no obligation to ferret out your meaning. Sure, people may be illiterate, unobservant, or apathetic. But a professional communicator, a real one, anyway, anticipates that. Good advertising conveys a message that people paying not quite half-attention cannot miss, or at least cannot misconstrue. It must pass what I call the At-a-Glance Test.
If the public misses your point, don’t soliloquize about how dim the public is. Accept responsibility for not having put your meaning within easy reach.
*Having whined ad nauseam in this blog about mistaking slogans for brands, I’ll spare you this once. If you prefer not to be spared, click here.
My dislike for Trump knows no end,
but I’d have canned her, too.
Following the body of this post is a thought-provoking conversation my good friend Jeff Wagg and I had upon my linking this post to Facebook, shared here with his permission. Please check it out.
A photo of a bicycle-mounted Briskman flipping off Trump’s motorcade went viral, bringing her instant digital fame. (Pun intended.) Today, we learned that her employer, Akima LLC, has fired her for the offense. Social media outrage has erupted and is fast spreading. Many of the outrage brigade have published Akima’s contact information and urged readers to drown the company in protests by email, phone calls, and comments via Akima’s website.
Briskman’s one-finger salute, I empathize with Akima.
Every client helps cover overhead, salary, and benefits for every employee — even employees who don’t work directly on that account. Allowing an employee to publicly diss a client, besides being a show of ingratitude, puts all other employees at risk.
It so happens that the United States government is a major Akima client. If Akima wants to resign the account and support Briskman, fine, but that action would be arguably rash. For one thing, it would put many more employees out of work and possibly threaten Akima’s continued existence. For another, a company is not one officer or its CEO, and the United States is not Trump. I decline and resign bad cients, but I keep overall good ones, even should I disapprove of a CEO. Despite its many warts and its mindless, uninformed, petulant, tantrum-throwing, tangerine-dust-bunny-topped toddler of a CEO, I view the United States as an overall good company. I would not resign a government agency client simply because I disliked Trump.
As you may have inferred from my description of Trump, I have no government accounts. But if I had one, that description wouldn’t be there; and if Brickman worked for me, like Akima, I’d have canned her.
Moreover, while the idea of contractors resigning government accounts out of protest may sound like an in-your-face act of courage and defiance, it is in fact a scary proposition. Government provides you and me a host of services that a mass exodus of contractors would interrupt and possibly harm long-term, and perhaps result in the hiring of less competent contractors in their place.
So I suggest cutting poor Akima LLC a break. They are between the proverbial rock and hard place. As for Brickman, I’m not terribly worried about her fate. I predict she will have myriad attractive job offers before the week is through.
Shared here with his permission is a conversation my good friend Jeff Wagg and I had upon my linking this post to Facebook.
Jeff Wagg: How did people know who she was?
Steve Cuno: Beats me.
Jeff Wagg: So if only you knew, would you still can her? Because if so, you're claiming ownership over her speech, and I have a problem with that.
Steve Cuno: Private speech is another matter. I wouldn’t can an employee for dissing clients privately. I have done it myself.
Jeff Wagg: I think that's the crux of the issue. If the client sees the person as "employee of your company," you have a case. But if they don't, isn't the company just claiming ownership of an employee's speech, at all times?
Steve Cuno: I see your point. It would be one thing if she said it in a bar and it went viral. But here she was flipping off the CEO to his face (more or less). I see that as more serious.
Jeff Wagg: Given that it's not an actual company, and politics are involved, I'm more wiling to give leeway than you. He isn't only a client, he's her employee.
Steve Cuno: Jeff, even though my lede establishes the importance of thinking, how dare you make me think?
Jeff Wagg: You have made me think. I'm just getting even.
Steve Cuno: Technically the CEO of any company is the customers’ employee, that is, the customer pays the salary.
Jeff Wagg: This is rather different though. She has a say over whether he gets to keep his job or not.
Steve Cuno: I dunno if that matters. He’s still the client’s CEO. If one of my employees publicly flagged the CEO of a client’s parent company, government entity or not, I would at the least issue the employee a stern warning and send the client a written apology. But, curse you, I admit that summarily firing her might be over the top. I have always been wimpy about firing anyway. Kept quite a few longer than I should have.
Jeff Wagg: I admit I'm not operating with all the facts here. If she was publicly identifiable as an employee while she was doing that, that changes the dynamics for me.
Steve Cuno: Oh, there you go again. Quit being so darned fair.