Count to 3,000 in your head.
Go on. It’ll take a while, but give it a shot.
You’re not going to do it are you. It would take too long. You’ve probably tried it a few times when you couldn’t get to sleep and you probably lost count and got bored somewhere in the hundreds. Even if you tried really hard and counted, like, two numbers every second it would still take you 25 minutes. There’s no way you’d try and do something like that unless you really and truly had absolutely nothing better to do. Only prisoners in solitary confinement and insomniacs spend their time trying to count to 3,000.
Imagine then, if you were poor little number 2,742. You’d never get any love – stuck all the way up there with only 2,741 and 2,743 to keep you company. You’re kind of close to 3,000, but not really close enough to make you memorable – not like 2,999, which gets a fair bit of glory.
What you probably didn’t realise, is that 2,742 actually has a name. His name is Coke Billboard. 2,741 has a name too. Her name is Ford Logo on Taxi dashboard. 2,743 is actually kind of cute, she’s called Tampon Commercial in Magazine. 3,000 is absolutely lovely by the way, she’s called Logo on your Mobile Phone, you see her just before you go to sleep. 1 is horrible, everyone hates him, although it’s not his fault, poor thing, he just happens to be called 15 Second McDonalds Slot on Radio Which Wakes you Up at 6.59am. They really are all a great bunch, in fact people loved and cared about them once upon a time, but the problem is, no one can remember who they are any more.
What was 2,741 called again? See, you’ve forgotten already.
It’s a lonely life; being an ad.
The problem is, average consumers have to meet 3,000 ads like these each day, every day, for their entire lives. It’s rather a lot; 87,600,000 in total, and many of them are a bit over it. Funny too, because 50 years ago, ads were something of a novelty and people loved meeting them. ‘As Seen on TV’ was a mark of quality. Jingles were something people hummed because they were cute. Everyone liked Aeroplane Jelly.
Things weren’t too bad in the 60s and 70s when Mr VW Magazine Ad and Mr Beer Commercial were making everyone chuckle, but things started getting pretty dicey in the 80s and 90s when Yelling TV Rug Salesman came along and ruined it for everyone. When Little Banner Ad over there in the corner started popping up all over the place and Mr Email Spam from Nigeria started taking over inboxes at the turn of the century, even cute little Apple Logo on Laptop and Big Budget Superbowl Commercial were forced to the brink of tears.
In 2006 a couple of new kids on the block arrived and promised to clean things up a bit and brighten the future for all ads, everywhere. Their names were MySpace Page and Facebook Application. Everyone had renewed hope for a while, but the effect didn’t last long, because the ads had all started to notice a change. Instead of just sitting back and listening to them, consumers had started talking. They were talking to each other, talking to new friends, talking to old friends and talking to strangers. And they were all talking about the same thing.
Her name was Remarkable.
You’ve probably heard of Remarkable. She’s new on the scene and all the cool marketing departments think she’s pretty hot. In fact, some are saying she’s even managed to make ads irrelevant. Rumour has it, that if you can get Remarkable and her good friend Social Media to work for you, your sales will enter uncharted territory.
It was Google who discovered her of course. They never spent a cent on advertising, they just brought a young Remarkable on board and let Social Media’s great-uncle Word of Mouth do all the talking and now they’re worth over 100 billion dollars. Apple copied them and showed Remarkable how to play MP3s for everyone and it worked so well they made a whole new business out of it. Microsoft recently got on board, eight years late, as usual, and asked Remarkable to get Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld to go and meet some average people, and it seemed to work OK, although a few people said it wasn’t as good as Remarkable’s earlier work – they thought she’d sold out a little.
It didn’t matter though, the message was clear, no-one needed ads anymore and the agencies that made them were redundant: all everyone needed was Remarkable.
It wasn’t long before the big companies started catching on.
“Brilliant,” said Zappos, we’ll put Remarkable to work in our customer service department. “Awesome,” said Nike, we’ll send Remarkable over to buy Converse. “You Ripper,” said Four ‘n Twenty, we’ll get Remarkable to make some paper plates for us. “Yah, that’s Cool,” said Audi in her sexy German accent, you do realise Remarkable has been designing automobiles with us for a decade now. Everyone looked at Ms TT and she blushed a little.
iPhone sat smugly in the corner, he’d slept with Remarkable earlier in the year and it had been all over the tabloids, but word was out that Remarkable and Social Media had formally gotten engaged and were planning an tropical island wedding ceremony on Second Life, so he’d lost a bit of his street cred.
In fact, now that Social Media and Remarkable were an item, it seemed no one had any use for ads anymore. Coca-Cola decided that an emergency summit was needed and asked his friends TV, Radio, Print, Outdoor and even Online to spread the word.
Ads and products from all over the world came, along with their friends from corporate marketing departments and creative agencies across the globe.
“It’s not fair,” said American Corn Growers Association. “Remarkable would never work with us, we’re just too boring. No one is passionate enough about corn to make any impact. We’ve looked on Twitter and we get mentioned every few minutes, but it’s just people talking about what they’re having for dinner. We can’t make brand evangelists out of anyone, despite what Social Media says.”
“I agree,” said Asprin. “I’m not new or innovative, I just take away people’s headaches – that’s all I know how to do. Remarkable only comes to see us when she’s had a big night out partying with all the Gen Y kids from MySpace and then we’re forgotten about the next day. No one wants to change brands, our poor little Magazine Ad can’t get a look in, am I right Panadol? Herron? You guys feel the same way don’t you?”
Panadol and Herron nodded forlornly.
“We even tried getting the ex-prime minister’s wife in on a TVC… nothing,” said Herron.
“How do you think I feel,” said Car Insurance Billboard. “I’ve sat there in the Subway for the last five years, I reckon I’ve seen a hundred million people, but none of them even look at me. They don’t care, Remarkable doesn’t want car insurance, I’m just not sexy enough for her.”
All around the room there were similar stories from products and ads that Remarkable just didn’t want to be associated with, even if Social Media did talk about them from time to time.
“Try being a car tyre,” said Goodyear.
“I’m a cleaning product, no one cares that I’ve got a new active ingredient, they just buy what they always buy, I’m way too old and bald for remarkable to be interested,” Mr Sheen said.
The grumbling continued for a while and it seemed like things were going nowhere until finally, out of the melee, Kitchen Blender piped up.
“Guys,” he said nervously, I think I might have a solution. “Do you mind if I take the stage.”
Coca-Cola laughed. “What have you got to offer? You’re just a boring whitegood like Microwave over there and Refrigerator in the corner. Social Media doesn’t even care about you, let alone Remarkable!”
“Well…” Coughed Blender. “Tin of Tuna, do you want to join me on this one?”
Tin of Tuna nodded and walked down the front.
“Here we go,” said Nike, we’re going to get marketing advice from a whitegood and a consumer food staple”. Everyone chuckled, although secretly they were interested.
“Guys,” said Kitchen Blender. “I’ve been listening to what you’re saying and I feel your pain. Tin of Tuna and I are two of the most boring products on the market. We tried to talk to Social Media at a Facebook party but he just ignored us. We couldn’t even get close to Remarkable because she was over in the corner talking to the Apple crowd all night. We were about to give up, and leave but then we noticed this old guy sitting in a corner all by himself so we started chatting.”
Tin of Tuna took the mic.
“We thought he was too old to be of any use to us, but he turned out to be absolutely charming. And it’s funny, because as soon people realised we were talking to him they wanted to join the conversation too. YouTube and Email came over and they were hanging off every word we said. Soon Twitter popped over for a drink and then suddenly we realised we had a whole bunch of blogs listening in too, it was crazy. We’d actually become the life of the party even though Remarkable was nowhere to be seen. Our sales went through the roof after that.”
“Wow, that’s crazy,” said Pepsi. “Who was the old guy you were talking to? It must have been Sky Writing? Or was it Back Cover of Time Magazine? Or Front Page Editorial in the New York Times?”
“No,” said Kitchen Blender. “He was much older than that.”
“Was it Oprah?” Said Amazing New Celebrity Weight Loss Method. “She’s powerful.”
“Der,” said Big Corporate Bank. “Oprah is a woman. It would have been Bill O’Reilly. He’s way more powerful than Oprah.”
“No, no, no. You’re way off track,” said Tin of Tuna. “No one like that, they were much, much older.”
“I’m stumped,” said Coke, who were you talking to that made YouTube, Email, Blog, Twitter all want to talk to you, even though Remarkable was nowhere to be seen.
Kitchen Blender and Tin of Tuna looked at each other and nodded.
“Guys,” said Kitchen Blender.
“I’d like to introduce you to a very good friend of ours. He was a friend of Ernest Hemmingway, William Shakespeare, Plato, Socrates, and even Moses. He was around long before TV, long before Radio, before Newspapers, in fact, he was around before consumers even had writing.”
An old man stood up from the crowd and started walking towards the stage. He looked ancient, but there was a spring in his step and everyone could tell there was something special about him – he seemed, interesting. Really, really interesting.
“Folks,” said Tin of Tuna.
“We’d like to introduce you to Story.”