Dear Public, We Think You Are Stupid. Yours Truly, Netflix and Google.

What makes most clients so bad at advertising isn’t that they’re cheap, or corrupt, or ignorant, or don’t pay attention, or have bad taste, or any of the other character defects we all of us share in.

What makes most clients so bad at advertising is a fundamental belief they seem to hold in common.

They think people are stupid.

It’s doubtful anyone has said this thought aloud. Folks smart enough to run a company are rarely inept enough to insult the family of man.

But how they act tells us how they think.

Out of a hundred thousand examples that rush to mind, let us examine merely the most recent.


… has run 16 times tonight (June 4th) during a 3-hour broadcast of the White Sox vs Dodgers baseball game I have been watching on (update: It has continued to run at virtually the same exact schedule for the last 12 days also)

The point of the commercial confuses me.

But that’s made irrelevant by what the companies’ choice to run the commercial this way suggests is in their minds about us, the audience.

What do you imagine I and the rest of the audience watching baseball think of Netflix and Google and Chrome after being importuned so repeatedly and so clumsily?


We are bored.

We are annoyed.

We have even gone beyond boredom and annoyance to remembering who it is that has so bored and annoyed us.

And a place has been created in our brains where the memory lives that the names Netflix and Google and Chrome go together with the kind of annoyance and boredom that cause anger.

It’s not news that the quality of advertising creative is down.

It’s not news that a ton of companies spend a great deal of money on advertising that makes them look foolish.

But these are two companies born in the 21st Century.

They’re not the packaged goods marketers that have treated us as if we’re imbeciles for 50 years.

These are the new guys coming at us with this crap.

Dear graduates.

What most clients need from you even more than the ads you can make is the sense you can make.

The truth you can tell them.

The attention you can get them to pay to the difference between what they are doing and what they think they are doing.

If they treat people as if they’re stupid, their business will not grow.

Does Apple treat people this way? Nike?

And in what direction have their sales been going?

All ads tell the audience who a company is and what that company thinks of them.

Even bad advertising works that way.