This is a short written version of an even shorter talk I gave at the launch of the new Creative Social book, Hacker, Teacher, Maker, Thief, for which I’ve written a chapter on Making Things People Want > Making People Want Things.
You can buy it now, and you should; the other contributors are a stellar cast who’ve written cracking guidance for The Future of Advertising.
The problem with the ‘greater than’ symbol ( > ) is that it’s called the “greater than” symbol.
It doesn’t have a cool French or German name, or some abstract Latin origin. It is the Ronseal of mathematical characters; it does exactly what it says on the tin.
So when I say it out loud when saying “Making Thing People Wants > Making People Want Things“, I kind of improvise what I say in that tricky middle bit.
Sometimes I will say ‘greater than‘. It can sound a bit much, that’s true. But it’s a nod to the effort required, I think; it takes more to create new demand than exploit existing demand.
Sometimes I say ‘rather than‘. It’s when it represents a fork in the road, a choice in the short-term; which of these two roads will we travel down for a bit? The thing with roads is you can come back and go down the other one if you find yourself in a cul-de-sac.
Sometimes I say “is better than“. As a long-term strategy for clients, it is a better idea. Sure, some short-term Charlies want a quick hit and run to further their career and find another job somewhere else. Finding clients that want to make a real difference helps.
And sometimes I just say “beats“. Being selfish, it’s just that feeling it gives me inside, actually making something that makes a difference to people, helping people to help people. It’s a rush.
But I always, always try to never say “not“.
It isn’t “Making Things People Want, NOT Making People Want Things”.
It’s not an extreme position.
It’s an equation. It suggests balance, the existence of two things with different value, not the destruction of one to serve the other.
That’s advertising all over. Looking for extremes where there aren’t any. Forcing us to pick one thing and one thing only.
Perhaps advertising is an industry riddled with the wood worm of the mass media age, where the choice about “the big idea” and “the perfect line” had to be made, before it was printed a million times, or transmitted to 26 million people. That’s a problem that’s going away.
If advertising is to die of anything, it will be of a chronic case of extremes and ultimatums.