October 23, 2006
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank

Dear Marketplace Friend,

      When you're out to advertise, money is always an issue. Talk about gambling: even with the best of agency assistance, there is still no formula that will assure a calculable return on that investment.
      Who's your customer target? What is the lead-in that will capture their attention and draw them into your content? What's your goal: incremental awareness, or immediate action? In print advertising, how will you balance between design and details? Will your space be consumed with splash or specifications?
      All of those considerations went into the preparation of the full page color advertising campaign that unfolded last week in Canada's national newspaper, the Globe and Mail. I spent the week in Winnipeg; for all I know, the international manufacturer may have run the same series of ads in the US of A. The top third of the page was a bucolic landscape; under that scene was a run of 72-point copy. Each day's monolog was different, but the message was the same. Friday's text said:

      It's not just how long you live, it's how much. Try the squid. Eat some chocolate. Plant a tree. Start a journal. Dance the limbo. See a matinee by yourself. Bogey the road hole. Take the long way. Master a card trick. Say "yes" to the transfer. Give a kid a fiver. Scare yourself silly. Take a swim. Play hooky. Be curious. Learn a language. Hug your dad. Take the leap. Surprise yourself. Make the phone call. Admire the view. Be happy. Pursue the moment.

      Sounds like a mosaic of fortune cookies, doesn't it? A collection of Hallmark card innards. Advice snippets from an older friend, uttered at random. Out-takes from Forrest Gump's bus bench insights. Who would pay what it cost to put that kind of message - in color, no less - in a national-distribution daily, day after day? What are they selling, anyway?
      The only clue is the logo and name at the bottom right corner: LEXUS. Mystery? Not hardly. The implicit message is unmistakable: figure out what "living" looks like, to you, and - in the words of a major Nike campaign - "Just do it." What are you waiting for? Turn your good intentions into good directions, followed by good actions. You aren't getting any younger: Try the squid. Eat the chocolate. Buy that Lexus. Time's running out... and you can either be an elder with great memories, or an elder with great regrets. Turn your dreams into decisions, and get on with it.
      What are they selling, anyway? If you think the answer is "cars," you've missed the point. Their business is about enabling a lifestyle; their automobile is just a significant means to that end. They understand mechanical engineering, but they understand human behavior even more.
      A sage marketeer said it well: no one goes to the hardware store to buy a 1/4" drill; what they're really after is a 1/4" hole. People are always looking for more than you think they are...
      Jesus knew that, as well. He came into a community that was immersed in religion. God never founded a religion; those are man-made approaches, in search of path to heaven... and they're all doomed to fail. All religions are deceptive alternatives to the Way, the Truth and the Life. God knew that religion doesn't work; instead, he offered a relationship that ensures life - eternal life - beginning now, and continuing in heaven. Jesus told the religious Jews: "You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of me; and you are unwilling to come to me, that you may have life." (John 5:39-40).
      Life. How does one achieve it? It's not about a new Lexus... or even a new religion. It's about Jesus: knowing him, hangin' with him, serving him. "I came that they may have life, and life to the full!" (John 10:10). He hasn't bought a full page ad in the Globe and Mail to get the word out; instead, he asked me to tell you, and for you to tell a friend, and for your friend to tell his friend, and his friend...

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