Demand Better

It’s the mantra I say to myself every day.  It’s the slogan I pitched to Top Cow to replace “A Different Breed” that they’ve been using for a while.  It’s what the world, needs now, not love, sweet love.  It’s the only thing, that’s gonna get, us outta this rut.
Here’s the thing.  Entertainment is stagnant.  No one is taking chances, but worse than that, no one is reaching.  I’ve told lots of people that I’m a big fan of “beautiful failures.”  What does that mean?  It’s when someone tries, when they stretch the limits of what they’re capable of, and they come up short.  Sometimes just a hair short, sometimes substantially.  But it’s those who reach that get us further.  Some recent examples include Kanye’s 808s and Heartbreak, and Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain.  I’m long a believer that Memento was the last truly game-changing movie that has come out.  Secretly I worry that it’ll be the last innovative film of my lifetime, but I hold out hope.  And I demand better.
So where is all this coming from?  Well, I watched the Superbowl today (whilst working on a pitch), and found myself really paying attention to the commercials.  I’ve taken a particular interest in advertising and marketing of late, and we as American consumers have been trained to expect the best and brightest in advertising during one of the most consistently overhyped games of the year.  And while I thought this year’s matchup turned into a pretty solid game with a great final quarter, every single year doesn’t deserve to have one of the post-game announcers say, “This is exactly what the National Football League is all about.”  
Long story short, the ads were incredibly underwhelming this year.  I can barely remember any of them (the one with the scarecrow was cool, but I forgot the product), and if it doesn’t stick with you it’s not good advertising.  I don’t expect more from the GoDaddy‘s of the world.  They’ve found a niche (largely because of a Superbowl spot several years back), and they’re going to beat that dead horse until it’s the second coming and then kill it again and beat it some more.  That’s cool.  But the perennial advertisers – beer companies, Coke, Pepsi – they need to step up their games.  Beer seemed especially poorly represented this year.  I don’t know if they’re all crying over the death of Sparks or if the economy is to blame.
There was a fairly prevalent undercurrent of nostalgia in a number of the ads.  The previously mentioned Scarecrow ad, the very entertaining Grand Theft Audi ad with Jason Statham, the Mean Joe Green riff with Troy Polamalu, and Pepsi’s Forever Young ad all included in that, with probably others.  There were attempts within that to do something new by looking at the past, but it just shows the reluctance by advertisers and brands to really break away and do something new and innovative.
Doritos probably had the best showing, with ads that showed eating their chips will cause crazy to happen.  They pushed Snack Strong Productions, which spun out of their Crash the Superbowl campaign.  Not surprisingly, the CTS campaign was about user-submitted ads making it into the Superbowl.  They let people get creative, with little to no constraints outside of it being a 30-second spot.  If the spot is voted to #1 on the USA Today Ad Meter then the creator gets a cool million bucks.  Not bad, and it would make for a great story for Doritos too.  You can check out their Grand Prize winner HERE as well as check out their other finalists.
And let me just say that I get the economic position of advertisers.  There’s some more articles on USA Today’s site HERE that cover some factors and provide a bit of analysis.  I’ve discussed this with colleagues and there’s one tenet that always holds true.  “There’s always a reason to say no.”  To taking a chance, to innovation, to reaching, to demanding better.
But if we don’t take that chance, how do we improve?  I don’t have all the answers, but the proverbial IT is broken, and needs fixing.  Demand better in your own life.  Demand better of those around you.  Demand better of your entertainment.  Take a stand now.
Study.  Improve.  Innovate.  Impact.
Demand better.
Anyone wishing to check out the ads from this year’s Bowl can do so RIGHT HERE, courtesy of LT‘s linkage.
***
Somewhat ironically, while typing this post I happened to have an interview with Kid Cudi on in the background.  You can check it out here, and it’s notable for what he says around the 3:40 mark.  “It will be the most magnificent and innovative album to come from, you know, an artist in ’09… There’s not gonna be anything that ever sounded like this…  My album is gonna be like anything you’ve ever heard, in your life.  And I been working diligently to like, bring that product, and I will make everybody happy and I will blow people’s minds.  And it will fuck people in their ear pussies.”
Big words, but the dude is reaching so I respect him for that.  Hubris is something to be watched for, as is arrogance, but you have to have a measure of that blind overconfidence to really stretch beyond the boxes people want to put you or your work in.  
Never settle for what’s expected.
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