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Friday, January 18, 2019

How to Bring Back Journalism

Between the time you're first labeled a Nazi and accused of Fake News, there comes a time when combatants of all stripes bemoan the fact that "journalism isn't what it used to be."  They're right, of course.  Most, if not all of what passes for journalism today would have failed Mrs. Johnson's seventh grade English class for rambling discourse, lack of structure, editorializing, misspelling, bad grammar and inappropriate use of the Oxford comma.

People like to think journalism isn't the grand Fourth Estate as it once was.  They mourn how the bastion of impartial reporting has long since crumbled into a juvenile, biased free-for-all, in which readers never get past sensational headlines written by media salesmen motivated by generating clicks.

But how much of that is even true?

The reality is that ever since the invention of the printing press, mass media has hardly lived up to its romantic ideal as the source of objective fact-gathering.  In 19th century America, for example, virtually every important newspaper -- including the illustrious New York Times -- railed against businessmen, politicians and socialites with reckless abandon, accountable to nobody for anything they published.  The inaccurate reporting got so bad that more than a few of the media victims countered with the defensive strategy of purchasing controlling interests in competing publications in an attempt to level the playing field.

So the devolution of ideal journalism has always been something of a convenient myth. When you add the sad fact that an internet allows anyone, anywhere (including me) to publish anything on a potentially international platform, you eventually land in a swampy quicksand of bad information, fueled by the flight of professional old school reporters who simply can't survive on the money publishers are paying 20 year-old kids living in their parents' basements.

Quite the conundrum.  If, as I suspect, the American public would choose objective, sourced news reporting over click-bait, baseless editorials, how could a journalistic enterprise take advantage of that market in a digitally viral age?  I submit the answer is deceptively simple:

I'm a branding guy, so when everyone else zigs, I prefer to zag.  And in the field of journalism, the big zag is taking the business offline.  That's right, I'm talking about going back to good old tree-killing weekly or monthly publications delivered by U.S Mail.  Sound absurd?  Read the next paragraph and see if you don't agree.

In the first place, scooping your competition by reporting news first is no longer winnable or even relevant.  Everyone pretty much gets the same news at the same time, which means those trying to win the "first to report it" war will never win that battle.   Second, digital delivery is another myth that counters all business sense.  Since people don't need to get most of their news immediately, there's no need for an "instant, updatable resource," especially in a market when most news is reported before it's even fact-checked.  Third -- and this is critical -- going back to paper returns bulletproof ownership of reader data to the publication.  No hacks. No "denial of service" attacks on their servers. Fourth, a pure paper play offers time delay, in which the publication never rushes out an issue, instead delivering thoughtful, considered content that delivers real value.  Finally, going back to pulp ensures there's only one way to obtain the publication's content.  No screen shots.  No sharing of posts.  Oh, I suppose a few cheapskates could scan a few pages here and there, but it's not like illegally downloading an MP3.  In the model, everyone who plays, pays -- like real businesses do.

Does this mean journalism eschews all things digital?  Certainly not.  It just means recalibrating and downsizing their digital presences to a few pages:

1.  How to subscribe to the print edition
2.  A list of topics covered in this week's issue
3.  A directory of back issues for purchase.

That's it.  Simple. Easy. And probably effective.  Of course, I doubt the current generation of business illiterates will comprehend it, but if and when they do, believe me: You'll read all about it.

Friday, December 07, 2018

The Lawsuit You Don't See Coming

Back when a liberal arts college education was actually useful in teaching people how to think, I spent one quarter of my junior year in one of the most perennially effective courses I ever undertook. It was called An Introduction to Business Law, essentially a four-year law school education packed into ten torture-soaked weeks that were both agonizing and fascinating at the same time.

Perhaps the greatest impact the course had on me was the manner in which it shifted my thinking from purely reactive, youthful emotion to a more thoughtful, rational style of pre-adult logic.  Among its most fundamental precepts was how, for the first time in my life, I came to see how feelings took a back seat to concepts like "reasonableness" and critical thinking.  It was a whole new world for me.  A safer, more predictable -- and not to put too fine a point on it -- a more successful world, too.

Over the years, that one course allowed me to outwit some adversaries and completely vanquish others.  To this day, I compose all but my most intricate legal documents and agreements.  On those rare occasions when I do hire lawyers, the meetings are quick, decisive -- and deadly efficient.  The greatest benefit of the course, however, hasn't been its guidance as to how to get out of trouble, but how to avoid a problem by spotting it long before it has a chance to become a problem.

The fact is that with the exception of Black Swan events, most lawsuits are easily avoidable.  Usually, they're the result of one or more parties' inability or unwillingness to consider all the options of a given situation.  Those involved may be lazy, ignorant or in most cases, both.  But to the rational, fact-based critical observer, it really isn't that difficult to see trouble coming down the road, no matter how many miles or years away it may be.

Here's one that nobody sees coming, but it is.  Charging straight at us like a locomotive on rails:

Let me start by telling you I hold the unpopular opinion that there are only two genders.  I realize that some of you will stop reading at this point, but the rest of you who are mentally sound will want to keep reading, because it's within my unpopular opinion that my observation begins, with these two questions:

1.  Who decides a child's gender?
2.  When do they decide it?

At this writing, there are parents in the USA who are administering hormone-suppressants to their pre-pubescent children in a bid to stave off those children's sexual development.  The theory behind this practice is that these parents strongly believe their children may be/are misgendered.  I have to believe these parents think they're doing what's best for their child, but let's put that issue aside for now.  Here's the critical question that nobody is asking, let alone considering:

What happens ten or fifteen years after the child is robbed of his pubescent development?  What if the kid has a change of mind?  What if she's permanently sterilized, unable to have the family she's always dreamed of?  What if he's permanently physically disfigured?  Or psychologically impaired? Never mind that the transgender suicide rate is well north of 40%.  Forget about any moral or religious arguments you can muster.  Stick to the facts.  Like, say, this one from An Introduction to Business Law:

"Whenever one person is found to have unjustly caused harm to another, those matters are generally resolved in court as personal injury lawsuits," and unless I miss my guess, the fastest-growing segment of P.I. suits is set to pit children against their parents for the permanent damages suffered by those kids as a result of their parents' decisions to subject the kids to hormone-suppression treatments.

Just as with mesothelioma, Thalidomide and a whole spate of industrial and pharmaceutical disasters, it would seem that a whole new discipline is about to emerge, specializing in the psychological and physical damages inflicted on innocent children by parents who were supposed to know, who should have known better.  Like those parents who think chaining their kids in a dark closet with no food for a month is "good discipline."  Or those who feel that burning kids with cigarettes is "the only way they'll learn."  Yeah, like that.  Only for way bigger bucks and even more tragic consequences.

Think it can't happen?  It can. And it will.  Maybe not today and perhaps not tomorrow.  But thanks to An Introduction to Business Law, I can see trouble coming from twenty miles out.  If you open your eyes and take a look for yourself, maybe you can see it, too.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

How J.C. Penney Predicted Trump's Win

By now you must have heard that yet another all-American brand is circling the drain.  Yes, it's true: Sears has declared bankruptcy.  This comes as absolutely no surprise to those of us who watched how, since the late 1980s, Sears' CEO, Ed Lampert -- a financial guy, not a retail guy -- abandoned Sears' retail efforts in favor of "unlocking shareholder value."  Like so many corporate raiders of his time, that meant plundering assets and selling them off for cash.  In Sears' case, that meant selling/developing/inflating real estate parcels that were valued on the books at 1920s prices, and spinning off solid gold brands like Craftsman and DieHard.

A sad story, but a predictable one.  With Lampert at the helm, there was never any doubt that Sears was headed for the meat grinder.  But if you'd been watching retail over the years, a far more subtle-yet-telling story was developing across the street at Sears' still-breathing-but-just-barely competitor, J.C. Penney.

Unlike Sears, the board at J.C. Penney has always been about retail.  As a staunch all-American brand, its presence has been ubiquitous around the United States for as long as any other, outliving most of them due to its unwavering allegiance to its core retail brand values.

At least until 2011.  That's the year things got very interesting for J.C. Penney -- and those who watch it.

If you'd been paying attention in 2011, you'd have seen that the name on everyone's lips at the time was Apple.  Despite Steve Jobs' death, the company was roaring ahead, turning everything it touched into gold.  The country was in the midst of the Great Recession, but Apple was thriving.  "If only we could get an Apple guy aboard," dreamed most corporate directors, "....maybe we could be the Apple of low tech retail."

And so it happened that (according to Wikipedia)  "in June, 2011, J.C. Penney announced that Ron Johnson, who had led Apple retail stores in a period of high growth, became the company's new CEO."  J.C. Penney's board of directors fastened their seat belts as Johnson, fresh in from the coast, dive-bombed the midwest with his magic wand in hand, and instantly began to change everything about J.C. Penney:  its merchandising, its layouts, its operations, its stores, its people, its culture -- you name it.

Everything happened with lightning speed, which unfortunately, included this:

That's right.  JCP stock dropped like a rock, from the high 20s to about $4 a share and stayed there, mainly on the disastrous losses suffered by Johnson and his Apple-flavored nightmare.  After huge layoffs and losses, Johnson was forcefully invited to leave J.C. Penney -- forever.  As of October, 2018, JCP stock shares are keeping their noses just above delisting at $1.52.

Not pretty.

But look deeper into that chart and you'll see something that only true branding guys seem to be able to discern.  In this case, it was J.C. Penney customers voicing their dislike for all the Johnsonian New Age/Millennial changes being forced on them.  They didn't like their old brand being taken from them, and they let J.C. Penney know it, the best way they could:  With their wallets.

It wasn't the rejection of the brand that hit me as much as how sustained it was.  This was no blip on the radar.  This was not an anomaly.  Something was up with Middle America.  They were angry.  They were fed up.  And their entire story added chapter after chapter on one simple stock chart.  To them, J.C. Penney's abandonment of its American heritage and tradition was one last betrayal they were no longer willing to tolerate.

They didn't yell.  They didn't protest.  They simply -- and very quietly -- took their business elsewhere.

They did the same with their politics.  Which is why in 2015, it was not terribly difficult to imagine that the next President of the United States would not -- and could not -- be the Ron Johnson of politics.  It was going to be someone who was true to the traditional American brand.

And that's exactly how it turned out.

Customers are voters.  Voters are customers.  Every once in a while, you have to stop selling them what you've got and start listening to what they want.  You've always got to watch them -- especially as they're headed out the door.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

How The Feds Save California

Considering that the state of California represents about one-sixth of the entire population of the United States, it's somewhat perplexing that the Golden State allowed itself to deteriorate into something more akin to stryrofoam.  The plain truth is that was once considered the Promised Land is now pretty much a showcase for how far the mighty can fall.

I'll spare you all the rhetoric about people pooping all over the streets of San Francisco. Or the numerous nests of needle exchanges sanctioned by the government.  I won't get into anything about immigration, the wall or the ridiculously corrupt primary election system designed to eventually bankrupt America's most glamorous welfare state.

It suffices to say that the political forces that condemned California to its current pathetic situation are mighty indeed, having entrenched themselves for no reason other than to further enrich themselves at public expense.  But that's an old saw. You've heard all that before. And if you happen to have a few Republican friends in California, you've probably heard their laments about how there's nothing they can do to fix the problem.

They're right.  But just because they feel powerless to fix California's ills doesn't mean the problem is not fixable.  Cast your orbs on this:

Chances are you don't recognize this. It's a map of the United States' Circuit Court system.  Circuit courts were created by Congress to adapt to the union's rapid geographical expansion.  Acknowledging that many Americans were unable to get to court, Congress decided to bring the courts to them, establishing routes, or circuits, which judges would travel to dispense justice.

You may have noticed that ninth circuit on the left coast.  You may be familiar with the phrase, "Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals."  That's because the ninth circuit is the one notorious for rendering decisions which often overturn -- or attempt to overturn -- the more conservative laws passed by legislatures or Executive Orders issued by the White House.  The ninth circuit is notoriously liberal, a handy ally in the left-leaning agenda of states like California, Hawaii, Washington and Oregon.  

But if you know your history, you also know that there weren't always a limited number of circuit courts.  At Congress's behest, their number was increased as the nation's population and geography expanded.  And therein lies the Federal solution to a statutory problem:

What if a conservative United States Congress authorized the creation of a new circuit court by splitting the ninth circuit into two?  Sound nutty?  I know.  So did the election of Donald Trump, but if you'd been reading this blog in 2015, you would have seen that coming, too.  

By taking California, Hawaii, Arizona and New Mexico into a new circuit -- staffed with new, centrist judges -- and restricting the ninth circuit to Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Idaho and Montana, it's just possible that the new court could hear and decide challenges that would free California to revert back to the social and economic glory it once enjoyed.

Hey, I'm just a branding guy.  But I get paid big dough to see solutions where others never dream of looking.  And considering the dearth of other possibilities, this may be one way to end California's nightmare.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Ink, X and DNA

I write and talk a lot about social values and trends, mainly because I realize that branding is much more about human nature than it is about logos and fancy packaging.  I care less about what people think than why they think it.  It puts everything into a totally different, far more effective perspective.  

If you've read any of my material, you're probably familiar with my mourning over the loss of the human soul and the rugged individualism that inspires it.  Thanks to various social and political influences (you know who you are), an entire generation of Millennials is now old enough to have been cast adrift in search of their own identities, resulting in three specific manifestations that are not only dangerous to society, but to themselves, as well.

“Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man,” said Aristotle.  He was no dope.  Aristotle knew that humans are most receptive to influence in their first seven years.  However, that's mostly due to authoritarian intimidation:  they have little choice in the opinions and values thrust upon them.  What happens in the next twenty years is a lot more insidious:

Aristotle was speaking about proactive education, completely ignoring its dark evil twin, lack of guidance.  Remember latchkey kids? Kids from broken homes? Single parent kids?  You know, the ones left alone with nothing but video games and other aimless kids with too much time on their hands?  We call those types "at risk," but not because of what might influence them, but rather a total lack of any positive influences.  I suspect people tend to dismiss the damages done by banishing kids (up until their late twenties) into the void because there's no direct, perceivable cause to which they can relate.

But this is where it gets interesting:

I submit to you that while a kid with no purpose may be adrift, his innate spirit of individualism is still very much alive.  In each of us is a will to define ourselves and differentiate ourselves from others.  Not necessarily in a self-aggrandizing way, but in more of a truth-seeking manner.  Without the guidance to know what he is -- and more importantly, what he is not -- a young person remains rudderless and vulnerable to the first powerful influences that dangerously jeopardize his well-being.  This isn't peer pressure.  This is a lot more serious.

Let me give you a few examples:

INK:  In their quest for self-identity, over 30% of Americans under the age of thirty sport some kind of tattoo.  Over 27% of tattooed Americans over the age of 40 regret their decision to get one.  While I have no case to make against what images a person indelibly etches into his skin, I do have a quarrel with why anyone would want to do it.  Lulled by a sense of fashion and driven by a lack of self-identity, millions of kids don't realize that ink is the second best alternative to a national government-dominated national registry.  Once a security camera grabs an image of your bicep with that mean-looking cobra with the words, "Carpe Diem" arched over it, there can be no doubt as to who that person is.  The authorities have their proof, and taxpayers get a break because the government didn't have to pay a nickel for it.  And yes, there actually is a national database of tattoos for just such purposes.

DNA:  Older Millennials seem to prefer to express their identity through the technology that ruled their childhood.  "I didn't know I was Scottish," smiles the simpleton on the television commercial for a DNA testing service.  "All this time, I thought I was German!"  And for $99 and a swab of your saliva, he says you can find out who and what you are, too.  How any of the resulting information benefits anyone is certainly beyond me.  Okay, you thought you were Greek, but now you know you're 34% Latvian -- how, exactly will that change your life?  Does that truly enhance your sense of self?  Is there any real value in that information? 

Turns out there really is value in that information, just not to you.  Because whenever you submit a sample of your blood or DNA, you also submit a signed release form in which you abdicate any and all rights to the sample you submitted.  The bad news is that if the company finds a cure for cancer using your DNA, you have no right to share in any financial rewards they might reap.  The worse news is that your DNA can (and will) find its way into any one of the national DNA databases which law enforcement can (and does) use to forensically track down criminal suspects -- and it takes less than an 80% match for law enforcement to arrest and detain you.  It takes thousands of dollars to extricate yourself out of a pointless legal mess, none of which is reimbursed by the government.

X ON YOUR PASSPORT:   I find it amusing yet tragic every time I read a story about transgender people and their clumsy battles for self-identity.  Perhaps the most damaged of all, the transgender community suffers a 40%+ suicide rate and an astronomical rate of psychological issues.  I don't for a minute believe these are bad people. I do, however, strongly believe that these are kids who were psychologically abandoned their entire lives, desperate to express themselves to others because nobody has ever valued them  for who and what they are.  That pain cuts pretty deep.

That having been said, I find the whole "battle for gender identification" just as futile as getting tattooed, for the simple reason that choosing to mark "X" instead of "F" or "M" on a passport immediately marks that person as mentally unstable, owing to the fact that, as I pointed out above, the transgender community suffers a 40%+ suicide rate and an astronomical rate of psychological issues.  When the Feds come looking for "the most likely suspect," you can bet they pass right by Mr. and Mrs. Normal and go right to the folks who self-identify with a group documented to be mentally unstable.  Not a good plan.

There's a reason why the military drafts kids at age seventeen.  There's a reason why their heads are shaved, made to dress in uniforms and marched in formation.  The whole point is to drive out the individual so that the group can be commanded as a unit with identical moving parts.  But I submit to you that no matter how many drills they run, it is impossible to drive out each man's human desire for his own individuality.  It's still there, waiting for its chance to flourish.

Whether it ever gets a chance to flourish is another matter.  In the meantime, someone has to tell these kids that ink and hormone therapy is no match for genuine purpose.  Someone has to tell them there's more to life than living in a social media vacuum, doomed to wonder why everyone else isn't as miserable as they are.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Leveling the Internet

Years from now, history students -- assuming that some school, somewhere, somehow still teaches history -- will be studying the profound effects the internet had on the humans inhabiting planet Earth.  I'm sure there will be all kinds of term papers on Changing Habits of Social Intercourse -- How the Internet Transformed Love and Romance, and more than one doctoral thesis on The Free Speech Train Wreck: How Big Corporations Derailed Free Speech on the Information Superhighway.  

You get the idea. These are the kind of retrospectives in which freshmen and graduate students alike revel, gorging themselves on footnotes to sustain their arguments in an effort to substantiate their own points of view.  Just as twentieth century students viewed the War Between the States as being all about slavery (it wasn't) to naively bolster their discussions about civil rights, I suspect future posers will look to the mid-twentieth century to defend their take on "government overreach into the freedom of the press."  Specifically, they're going to try to make the case for the government'snot interfering with the data that flows throughout the internet.

I submit to you right here and now, they shall be proven wrong, and within a decade or two, all the tech mega-monoliths, specifically search engines and social media,  will be subject to a regulatory agency much like the Federal Communications Commission, if not the FCC itself.

To begin with, you have to know your history.  Understand that while the concept of wireless communication was proven viable in the late nineteenth century, it wasn't until the early twentieth century that radio went commercial.  Until then, the best electronic communication we had was the telegraph.  When "the wireless" was born, and millions of radios were sold throughout the country, an interesting question was born with it:

Who owns the airwaves across which radio content is broadcast?

Radio waves traveling out into the air with no means of restriction meant that the content they carried could not be restricted, either.  Additionally, since the air over American soil was borderless, the good people of government were faced with a decision:  Either the American government could own the airwaves or the Americanpeople could own the airwaves.  In 1934, the Feds essentially split the difference, giving ownership of the airwaves to the American people while subjecting them to government regulation via the FCC.

Ever since, just about any kind of commercial content carried over government-regulated airwaves (there are bandwidths in which content is not regulated) has been subject to government rules and standards. And it worked just fine until about 1970, when the wheels started to come off.

The seventies is about when the first cable television systems began sprouting up. At first, cable was introduced to assure higher quality television reception where "rabbit ears" antennae simply weren't cutting it.  At some point, however, someone figured out that content flowing over privately-owned coaxial cable wasn't being transmitted over the air at all and therefore wasn't subject to government regulation.

It was a pretty slick loophole that let the Playboy channel in and cut government interference out. By trading a monthly fee for commercial free viewing, users happily propelled cable TV into an explosion of popularity.  About the only concession any government got was the local burgs' requiring cable companies to provide free public access in exchange for the monopoly within their zip codes.

But what does all this have to do with regulating the internet?  Stick with me:

In 2018, the big story is whether techno-giants like Facebook, Twitter and Google should be allowed to impose their own political biases on the content they provide between users of their services.  On the one hand, these are companies owned by shareholders, much like the radio and TV networks of old, all of which were subject to government regulation because they broadcast their content over the airwaves.  On the other, most Boomers spent the bulk of their internet infancy either dialing up through a phone cord or logging onthrough an Ethernet cable, which made the internet seem more like cable TV, and thus free from any government interference.

So with the explosive growth of internet usage, the big question when and if the government should step in and regulate or not?  I submit that government can and should regulate the techno-giants for one very simple reason:

History has repeated itself, only this time in reverse.  The internet is now as wireless as it is cabled (if not moreso), which means the content delivered to you wirelessly is once again traversing American air space.  And that's the stuff that belongs to all of us, not just the techno-giants.  All it would take is Congress updating the charter of the FCC to include any bandwidth over which internet content can be transmitted.  Simple!

Think it can't happen?  Think again.  After all, you didn't think Trump would win, either.

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Myth of Smart

I've spent most of my career as a brand strategist. That means I slap CEOs into the realization that no matter how much they spend on marketing and advertising and social media and public relations, nothing is going to happen until they develop and execute a true brand strategy.  And by true brand strategy, I mean the kind of strategy that's not only clear, credible, authoritative and defensible, but also fattens up the bottom line with cold, hard cash.

As I tell anyone who will listen, the trick to succeeding in business -- or anything, really -- is simply a matter of getting into the other guys' heads.  It doesn't matter if you're negotiating a real estate deal or blasting your brand through some narcissistic phone app:  If you don't know what's going on in your target audience's heads, you're going to fail. Period.

That particular pontification carries a lot more weight than you might imagine.  In fact, it's one of the basic tenets I convey to Millennials who find themselves frustrated in their post-collegitate travails.  Why, they wonder, are they feeling so helpless in their pursuits of careers?  After all, they're smart.  They're willing.  They're capable.  Yet somehow, nothing seems to be clicking.

I offer them two pieces of wisdom:

First, they have to get into the heads of the business world, and a good place to start is with the realizations that (A) all we want to do is make money and (B) everything prior to college graduation is a lie.  It's true. Out here in real life, working to achieve approval doesn't get you squat. In the same vein, advancement isn't a matter of doing the reading and writing a term paper.

Out here, there is no formal structure or fulfillment of requirements that automatically propels you to the next level.  There's also no meritocracy.  But by far, most disappointing of all is the realization that despite all those safe spaces and navel-gazing professors, nobody really cares about how smart you are.  That's because being smart has little, if anything, to do with business success.  Being a businessman, however, has plenty to do with it -- and that's something that no school currently teaches, because it's political taboo. 

Second, they must accept the fact that contrary to what they've been taught in school, there's a lot -- and I mean millions of metric tonnes -- of non-geniuses out there.  I'm not shooting from the hip here.  I'm talking plain, basic math.  Take a look at this bell curve of IQ distribution to get an idea of what I'm talking about:

Pretty scary, eh? And it's totally legit.  If you take a close look, you'll see that George Carlin was right on the mark when he said (and I'm paraphrasing here) that "the average person isn't very bright and half of them are even stupider than that." Hey, I know it's not a terribly popular, everyone-gets-a-trophy kind of sentiment.  But it's mathematically and statistically correct.

The average IQ score is 100, encompassing about 68% of the population. If you add in the population who isn't even that bright, all the way down to the bottom of the barrel, you'll find that an astonishing 84% of the population ranges from "average" to "breathing paperweight."  That leaves about 16% of people who are "above average" or "really, really smart."

But what does all of that have to do with branding?

Well, if you subscribe to the notion that success really is a function of "getting into their heads," it's probably time you got real about the kind of heads you're getting into.  Whether you're climbing the corporate ladder or pitching some sort of digital dementia, it's a good idea to abandon your idealistic image of everyone being smart and motivated and as eager to change their lives as you are. Maybe it's time you start accepting that while you may be brilliant and aspirational, perhaps the rest of the world simply isn't up to your standards.

That could explain why, despite your smarts, nobody seems to buy into your fabulous ideas. I know it's happened to me over the years. Many were the times I'd traipse out of an office, scratching my head and wondering, "How could they not get this?" That's when I realized I hadn't gotten into their heads; I was expecting them to get into mine.

Big mistake.

Since then, I've come to accept that for 84% of the world, keeping things the way they are is just fine. For them, paying the rent, being a good parent, staying out of debt and mastering Call of Duty really is a worthy enough goal.  So maybe those ads of yours shouldn't be set in that east coast upper middle class Cape Cod townhome by the bay, starring some white collar interracial couple leasing that expensive foreign coupe that neither of them can afford.

Maybe you should be getting into the heads of folks to whom being super smart, totally ripped and uber hip isn't nearly as important as being happy and loved and satisfied with what they've got.  Folks who are smart enough to know who and what they are -- and who and what they aren't.  Those are people who value wisdom over smarts, and maybe that makes them a whole lot brighter than all those self-proclaimed, agenda-driven media gurus.

After all, according to the stats, 84% of them aren't exactly geniuses.