It’s Called Advertising

Everything my younger daughter needed to know about advertising, she learned by buying Sea Monkeys with her allowance a few years ago. The ad pitch (which hasn’t changed since the version they ran in comic books when I was a kid) promises this whole world of smiling cartoon creatures and then the actual product is a dried pouch of brine shrimp.

A lot of what marketers are trained to do is weave together an amazing story about something as mundane as a dried pouch of brine shrimp.

Over time, we grow to expect marketing to over-promise and under-deliver. Kids develop BS detectors early. Younger generations are particularly desensitized to marketing pitches.

Honesty is in such short supply in advertising that it can be arresting when the advertising story matches the actual product experience. Apple’s “Shot on iPhone 6” campaign is particularly impactful (although even that didn’t stop some pranksters in San Francisco from posting parody ads featuring all of the bad selfies “also” taken with iPhone 6).

Contrast Apple’s “Shot of iPhone 6” campaign with Nokia’s Lumia 920 promotion video a couple years ago, where they eventually had to apologize for faking the footage with professional equipment.

I like this Seth Godin riff on this mismatch between marketing expectations and product reality:

“Marketing pitches are finely tuned to resonate with the audience in mind. Too often, though, the marketer is only in charge of the pitch, and someone else in the organization has to make the thing.

“So the marketer brags about how tasty the food on the airplane is, or how reliable the cell phone service is or how magically transporting the aromatherapy of the soap is–and then someone else, someone under different pressures and constraints–has to deliver. And they rarely do…

Marketers need to spend less time making promises and more time keeping them.

Here’s a cartoon I drew on this topic a few years ago:

(If you liked this post or cartoon, you can see the rest of my cartoons here or subscribe to get a weekly marketoon in your inbox).

Originally published at

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Tom Fishburne’s story.