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#27 – The sad truth of comedy, finding a room, brand campaigns, the internet, and building fandoms
Happy Friday 13th everyone.
This week’s edition looks at the responsibility of comedy, the role of brand campaigns, the weird state of spare room ads, sobering proof that the internet has gotten worse, why advertising pays, and how fandoms breed anti-fandoms
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Enjoy this week’s Six Links of Inspiration:
Comedians only care about comedy. At some point in their careers every strategist probably has looked at (standup) comedians for inspiration, driven by the believe that they are somehow semi-prophetic truth tellers. Reading this article puts this belief into a healthy perspective. It’s reviewing an upcoming book that explores the history and role of comedy in culture – and lists out different approaches to fulfilling this role. (Withheld laughter might be one of the most interesting developments in comedy.) In the end, James Parker then cleverly articulates why comedians actually serve as great role models for strategists: ”Comedy goes where the pain is—yours, mine, the comedian’s, the world’s—straight to it, because that’s where the laughs are; because the laughs are pain, transmuted. Simple as that.” Too often strategists don’t go where the pain is. And therefore don’t unlock change.
Brand Campaigns, Part 1: What Exactly Are They? You don’t have to like the tone, but you can still enjoy the argument. To an extent. John James laments agencies’ inability to define and see beyond brand campaigns that, in his not so humble view, are a scam. And now we can all go back to work.
No Beyoncé fans, no Geminis: why are spare room ads so weird right now? This is a bit of clickbait, but behind the catchy headline lies a sobering view into the state of the British housing market – and how impossible it is becoming to find a place to live. Either because you don’t have enough cash, or because you’re born on the wrong date, or are listing to the wrong music.
We Finally Have Proof That the Internet Is Worse. I’m 95% confident that who ever is reading this is a fairly frequent Google, Amazon, or Meta user. And as such probably has experienced what Charlie Warzel describes in this article: ”For most of us, evidence about Big Tech’s products tends to be anecdotal or fuzzy—more vibes-based than factual. Google may not be altering billions of queries in the manner that the Wired story suggests, but the company is constantly tweaking and ranking what we see, while injecting ads and proprietary widgets into our feed, thereby altering our experience. And so we end up saying that Google Search is less useful now or that shopping on Amazon has gotten worse. These tools are so embedded in our lives that we feel acutely that something is off, even if we can’t put our finger on the technical problem.” The worrying takeaway is that most of us don’t remotely understand the power the different algorithms at work have – and how they calculate away in the background manipulating our behaviours in the ever so slightest (sometimes not intended) ways.
The good outcome of advertising. Dr Grace Kite shared a great data point from on of her recent keynotes showing that brands that spend more on advertising get away with pushing up their prices without losing all their sales. Yes, that’s it, that’s the finding.
Anti-Fandom. Julia Makhalova-Chi shares a small (but really not so small) observation about brands that have huge cultural impact and massive fan bases: for every fandom you build you will also create an anti-fandom. “Unlike traditional brand rivalries - think Apple vs. Microsoft - Mr. Charlie's doesn't have its own identity, and it is as successful as long as its antagonist - McDonald's - is successful too. Mr. Charlie's is one of the first true anti-fandom brands.” While such a strategy will only ever work for smaller niche brands, it’s a symptom of a bigger point: you can’t be truly liked by people without being disliked by others. And you can’t stand out in a crowd without some people taking offence.
This is it for this week. If you enjoyed this selection, why not share it with your friends?
See you next week!