Why do we even make commercials anymore?

Will it sell more burgers? Who can say. That’s frankly all that matters in the world of Jack In The Box advertising, as I’m sure their franchisees would agree. So let me briefly step into the somewhat unfamiliar role of Ad Critic – a sub-species of social media-ite that I’ve often ridiculed – and view their latest ad through the lens of social anthropology.

Here goes.

  1. Idiotic user generated content made and – despite the supposed presence of good judgment or self-censorship – posted on YouTube.
  2. Millions of views ensue.
  3. The CEO of the company (the one with the large head) views this video incredulously along with a brainless and breathless underling, wondering aloud, “Why do we even make commercials anymore?”
  4. Brainless (the payoff!) says, “Because you like to be in them?”

Is it a good spot? Who knows. Ask me when I’ve seen the incremental spike in sell-through. What sort of commentary does it make on the state of marketing in general?

  1. Views aren’t what we’re after. A “viral” video is only a good thing if it makes your brand look good. It’s a great thing if it actually pushes people to buy more of your stuff. If it does neither, it’s a snicker and little more.
  2. Millions of views ensue. The ubiquity of online video hasn’t made us smarter. That much is for sure.
  3. The CEO of the company – who stands in for a good swath of management in offices across the globe – doesn’t really understand what advertising (let alone marketing) is or does. “Why do we even make commercials anymore,” tells us that Jack thinks advertising is about “lots of people seeing what we put on TV.” Oy. My huge, round, white head hurts.
  4. Brainless is no better.

Why do I care about this? Because it crystallizes some of the laziest management (and marketing) thinking of the moment. And I never want to let a stupid comment go unpunished. Yes, it’s a funny commercial. Yes, it’s not meant to be social commentary. But it is, to a very small degree, and to quote our current president, I felt this was, “A Teachable Moment.”

Marketing is the art and science of predicting human behavior – namely predicting which stimuli will make our select group of humans buy more of our stuff, now and later. The money we spend in marketing should, in a rational world, have an impact and be best used here in marketing and not somewhere else, like adding an additional salesperson in Minneapolis or adding IT staff.

It isn’t about giggly viral videos that make us guffaw. If you think that’s what marketing is, go get a job in sales. I hear they’re looking for somebody in Minneapolis.