THE RETURN OF THE PETER PRINCIPLE

By Hans Ebert
@HansEbertMusic
Visit: www.hans-ebert.com

It’s mind boggling just how many with absolutely zero idea about marketing and how marketing depends on the very best creative product for it to prove its effectiveness are in charge of…marketing. It’s been like this for too long. Maybe it’s just not a priority. Maybe accepting mediocrity says how far we’ve slipped down that totem pole of life’s priorities.

Some of us saw this happening even before “The Peter Principle” was published. The main takeaway from the book was how incompetence was actually promoted. Why? Different reasons. Perhaps it was a new business needing someone to add to a fledgling organisation chart and hired anyone who came with the right asking price? Usually, when this little product became a success, that “marketing” person was kept on because there was now an advertising agency involved to help them- and the product- move along.

Peter Principle – INVESTOPEDIA

When with ad agency DDB and working on the McDonald’s business, all of us were horrified at their head of marketing for Hong Kong. She was clueless. We knew it, the McDonald’s managers knew it, every supplier knew it and the McDonald’s Chairman knew it. But knowing that this hire was a malleable order taker who would do as she was told, she lasted in her job for over a decade.

She was a nice enough person. To us in the Creative Department, she never questioned what we presented. She didn’t know good from bad, so how could she? Never quibbled about budgets for shoots that took us around the world. Never meddled. She was smart enough to know that we made her look good, and so it was a very workable partnership. Better the devil you know.

McDonald’s became so big in Asia and when she was finally replaced, we came face to face with McCruella- someone who demotivated every copywriter by rewriting their work, rejected agency concepts, came up with her own daft ideas, and having done a six month internship for six months at DDB, truly believed that she knew every aspect of advertising. Probably thought legendary admen David Ogilvy and Bill Bernbach had it wrong.

Cruella was given enough rope until she eventually self imploded. Power and how it’s used is a karmic thing. Abuse it and you’re confronted. And some confrontations can be not so nice. She was confronted and some ugly truths revealed.

Tired of being toadies, some of us had won our international ad awards, which was a priority, we were proud of our work and left advertising for what we thought would be greener pastures.

I landed with a major music company. It was a rude awakening. It was where everyone was something or another in “marketing”.

Promotions girls from MTV, for example, whose job it was to pick visiting artists from the airport, check them into their hotels, arrange dinners and press conferences along with getting them laid and loaded, were now “marketing executives”.

What was there for them to “market”? A CD was released and depending on an act’s fan base and exposure on MTV, the new release sold itself.

Of most importance was getting the best shelf space at retail level and airing some 10-15 second commercials during television’s dead hours to show artists management our “commitment.”

It was hardly a tough gig- for any of us. But it gave many a lifestyle that made the Wolf of Wall Street look like a Boy Scout. We milked it dry- many key executives running the local offices benefitted financially from creative accounting- and, don’t worry, #MeToo worked both for both sides.

It wasn’t about the Casting Couch. It was about smart, ambitious and assertive career women going after the golden geese and damn the torpedoes.

Today, it’s another #hashtag and trend started by celebrities that has become a rallying cry for justice from Jill Public. It’s gross hypocrisy that’s started a new round of handwringing.

Meanwhile, women are on online dating sites trying to find financial security and targeting potential husbands. What’s love got to do with it? Nada.That’s something in the distant past.

Here we are today with social media having made everyone an expert on everything.

For example, everyone one can be a musician- in any genre. Or an expert on music thanks to Mr Wikipedia. It’s a world of make believe with no bottom line. It’s a different la la land. It’s somewhere no one should bother spending any time.

Marketing has become a strange hybrid of PR, plus following up on whatever needs following up and coming up with random ideas without any strategy or or any thought as to whether they’re in sync with the brand personality. And no one cares because they don’t know any better. It’s style over substance with there being neither.

Gone is what was drilled into us junior copywriters long before us working damn hard to EARN the titles of Creative Director and Director of Creative Services.

We were brought up on disciplines taught by ethical and highly respected mentors- advertising disciplines like Speak With One Voice, Appeal To Heart And Head, The Technique Is Not The Idea. All these are no more.

This isn’t a world where there’s Don Draper and Mad Men. Wherefore art thou, Creativity? And passion? And not worrying about writing outside the lines of restrictions? Or thinking outside of the square.

Having recently read how being involved in the creative process and creating is often a cure for depression as it keeps the mind busy, it’s about going out on a limb and making things happen on one’s own terms.

This passion is missing today because no one really cares. There’s no pride of ownership. It’s kinda like an ex once telling me not to bother about lyrics as “no one listens to them”. She’s probably right. It’s also why she’s an ex.

We’re back to welcoming The Peter Principle, but this time aided and abetted by what’s known as “social media”. It’s another round of accepting mediocrity and hiring more and more order takers.

It’s a dangerous “strategy”. It’s an insult to those who still believe in ethics. About not being comfortably number. Not conning those online “followers” with Google “wisdom”.

It’s about seeing right through shams and scams. It’s about making changes and not inviting everyone for the ride. Most simply don’t have what it takes. Leave them wherever they are.

It’s now about being selfish- looking after número uno- and doing whatever makes you happy. And for all the right reasons.

As The Who once sang, “We Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

#marketing #creativity #advertising #ThePeterPrinciple #DonDraper #HansEbert

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