Any marketer that doesn't think they're partially full of sh*t is completely full of sh*t.

Written by Cole Schafer

Most of On Advertising is hoopla and horse shit.

And, if anyone in the business ever tries to tell you anything different, then I’d stick my bare ass in a piranha pond before ever considering cutting them a check. 

The internet –– especially LinkedIn and Twitter –– is filled with marketers, advertisers, copywriters, designers and growth hackers that are handsomely rewarded for pretending to have all the answers you’re looking for.

But bad things happen when we follow “gurus”.

There was once a spiritual guru by the name of Yogi Bhajan who a lot of folks believed had all the answers… until it got out that his pupils were kneeling before him in more ways than one. 

And, don’t get me started on the religious guru Jim Jones who made “don’t drink the kool-aid” a household idiom after he laced a fruit drink with cyanide and murdered 900 of his most devoted followers.

No, marketers and admen aren’t nearly as devious as Yogi and Jimmy but I’d argue they’re just as self-righteous.

Sex in the name of spirituality and murder in the name of God aside, most folks trying to be your On Advertising guru, belong to one of the following “schools of thought”.

*in walks the data wizard*

The nerds of marketing –– or the data wizards –– will try and tell you that all you have to do is follow the data.

The problem is that it’s impossible to do anything truly groundbreaking with your nose shoved so far up data’s ass that you might as well be a German Shepard sniffing out drugs at an airport.

Imagine Michelangelo trying to paint the Sistine Chapel with an Excel spreadsheet sprawled out in front of him.

Not to mention, if every painter that came after Michelangelo tried to beat the data that was the Sistine Chapel by making a slightly better version of the Sistine Chapel, they would have been fucked before they started.

It doesn’t matter if someone paints the Sistine Chapel 1%, 10% or even 1,000% better than the original Sistine Chapel.

There will forever only be one Sistine Chapel.

So, while the nerds might sound convincing with their data and they might be able to help you move some product, I do think data is violent towards creativity, originality and the pursuit of doing something truly groundbreaking.

Data focuses on what has already been done but masterpieces only happen when brave folks do something that hasn’t been done.

*in walks the branding strategists*

After the nerds, you have the branding strategists who have their clients form a semi-circle, cross their legs, pass around a couple hundred magazine cut-outs, brood and get pretentiously intellectual about what feels most “on-brand”.

My criticism against this school of marketing is that you’re not a cross between James Dean and Marlon Brando.

You’re selling Teflon pans for godsakes.

Stop taking yourself so damn seriously and just come up with a funny, creative way to move more pans.

Branding –– at least too much of it –– can quickly feel to me like an excuse not to do the work.

Companies discover their brand by existing and slowly embodying the shape that is “them”.

It’s not unlike a middle schooler that has to try a week of being a skateboarder and then a week of being a rapper and then a week of being a lacrosse player before he finally realizes who he is. 

There’s no use discussing brand until you’ve rolled out a few campaigns, spoken in a few voices and felt out a few personalities.

*in walks the creatives*

After the nerds and the branding gurus, you have the creatives like me who are wanna-be poets and painters and artists and musicians who, unfortunately, had to settle on advertising because of lack of talent.

Most creatives are so full of shit that you’d rather bath in the Mississippi than share a bath with them.

But, there are a few of us that, every now and again, can come up with a creative idea so goddamn brilliant you can’t help but wonder if we stole it from God.

We did.

If you find a creative like this, you’ve got to hold onto them and keep them close. But, not so close that you clip their wings.

You’ve got to give them a long leash but be prepared to gently yank the leash when they go down a rabbit hole.

But, most importantly, you’ve got to have the nuts and guts and ovaries to fire up the grill when they come back from the woods with a mallard in their mouth. 

The answer is not one but all.

If I were running a brand, I’d fire every person on the data team save for the handful that are just as obsessed with data as they are with becoming the data that other brands try to beat.

I’d then give all of these folks a raise.

I wouldn’t talk about the brand until I’ve had the chance to roll out a dozen or so ads and test multiple voices; and I’d hire someone like Christopher Lochead or Dave Peterson to build me a category.

I would then hire a CMO like Matt Jung that’s the best in the world at taking a creative idea to the finish line.

Then, I’d hire three of the most creative, original thinkers I know, give them enough cold brew to make a horse sprout another pair of legs and I’d tell them to push things just before the line of getting canceled. 

But, take all that with a grain of salt, because I’m just a creative.