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Stick ‘WHO CARES?’ on every marketer’s wall

It's time the industry ditches its own self-importance, argues veteran adman Ramsey Naja

Around the second century, some chap called Ptolemy did what many irritating people do: he claimed to be the centre of the universe.

To be fair, it had less to do with his social significance than that of humanity as a whole – or Earth, to be more specific – and its place in the great cosmos.

You cannot blame the poor guy: it wasn’t like he had much to rely upon in terms of instruments, not to mention the small matter of a Catholic Church with a penchant for human pyrotechnics.

Unfortunately for our collective ego, his model didn’t stand the test of time, and we are all now pretty much aware of what our little blue rock really represents in galactic terms.

Unless, that is, we are in marketing.

Marketing departments – and, similarly, ad agencies – are considerably more likely to adopt the Ptolemyan model than that of Copernicus.

For them, their brand sits squarely in the middle of, well, everything, and everything, in turn, rotates around it, drawn inexorably by its seductive gravity.

It is all, of course, down to space and time – meaning offices and timesheets: when the majority of your time is spent on the same subject, and within the same enclosure, it is perfectly normal, or at least reassuring, to imagine that there is little else out there and that everybody is interested in what you do, or at least aware of its immense significance.

The trouble with this is not in the thinking itself – we all have our delusions – but in the planning that comes from it: had we sent Apollo to the moon armed with Ptolemy’s map, we would still be looking for bits of its crew today.

Space debris

By the same token, planning your next marketing move when you are convinced that all the eyes of the world are trained on you, and that the entire universe actually gives a damn about the fact that it is the same great taste albeit in a new and cooler recipient, is likely to lead to the advertising equivalent of space debris.

It also means that there are people out there who are still convinced that their social media post, on paid channels, will get traction all the way to the Andromeda galaxy, when in reality it will hardly go beyond the community manager and colleagues.

“89 per cent of advertising isn’t noticed or remembered”, according to Dave Trott. This either means there’s a massive, advertising-sucking black hole in the neighbourhood, or that we are starting from a deeply flawed assumption: that of self-importance.

In fact, a giant poster that asks “WHO CARES?” should be stuck on every marketing wall and smaller stickers with the same question glued on every computer screen.

Otherwise we will never understand our true place vis-à-vis our audience. Otherwise we will never plan with any accuracy.

And otherwise we will continue to go to award shows where we collectively convince ourselves that our work is not only at the centre of the world, but that it will also save it.

By Ramsey Naja, Regional ECD at DDB.