Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Hate Ads? You'll Love This Site. Love Ads? You Too.

Here’s perfect Friday fodder: “Things Real People Don’t Say About Advertising,” a Tumblr that delivers exactly what it promises, via one-sentence jokes illustrated with stock photos.

The photo + caption combination seems to work particularly well on Tumblr (and Lolcats) but you can get a pretty good sense of what’s going on via a few samples below. But for my money the best stuff is also the stuff that makes good use of the f-bomb, so you’ll want to see those on the site itself.

What’s great about TRPDSAA, IMHO, is that while a lot of this stuff is inside baseball, you should still be able to appreciate it without knowing what, say, “call to action” is supposed to mean. It’s clearly the product of someone who loves advertising and hates it, too.

And that person works in advertising, of course. Here’s a brief email interview I conducted with 27-year-old E.B. Davis III, a copywriter at Washington, D.C.-based GMMB:

Peter Kafka: Looks like you just started the Tumblr now. Why?

E. B. Davis III: For fun. To take the piss out. Advertising can be a lot of fun, but we get caught up in minutiae and nitpicking and buzzwords. We tend to forget we’re talking to people who don’t really want to talk to us.

Kafka: What provoked it, and what are you trying to do?

Davis: I made some pictures, put them on a blog, and showed two or three people, hoping they would laugh. I expected that to be the end of it. Tumblr only allowed 15 posts on the front page, so I only made 13 pictures, because I didn’t expect people to want to even bother going to a second page. Quick, easy, in and out. Now there are 29 posts (the rest from other people), with 300 submissions I need to find the time to post.

Kafka: Given that you’re satirizing advertising but work in advertising, should we assume you want to be doing something else?

Davis: I am satirizing advertising, and I work in advertising, but I don’t think we should assume I want to be doing something else. Advertising got great potential to be an idea factory. I think we’ve got the potential to make short movies, full-length movies, music videos, and a lot of cool other shit. I work at a social-good marketing agency, and I think advertising has taken a huge step forward over the past couple of years in connecting buying things to doing good. Easy charity. I was already going to buy that Coca-Cola anyway, and now it’s helping to help someone else. Awesome. We get free radio and free television because of advertising. It’s not the worst industry in the world. I have great hope for what advertising can do. It’s just, you know, we mostly end up making a print ad.

At the same time, I’m learning that I don’t need advertising to do what I want. I can make stuff without them. Hence this blog, among other things.

Kafka: How much of the site is you, and how much of it comes from contributors? And do contributors send in art and text, or just text? How much traffic are you getting now?

Davis: [I made] 13 original posts, and now people are making the content (mostly unasked). I’m assuming they’re mostly advertising folk, and I worry that the thing’s too insider-y for anyone else to really care about it. Not that they should care about it. It is a Stupid Thing. My favorite contributors do the work of putting their words on a picture for me, but some just send headlines and I have to put them together.

I have no idea how much traffic I’m getting. I’ve got about 3,000 followers and a lot of tweets and shit.

Kafka: What happens now?

Davis: I have no plans for what’s next. Keep making posts until people run out of interest. I don’t think these types of sites really lead to anything. They’re fun for a minute and then you move on. I don’t want to make any more of it than that. I’m ready to start working on new ideas, but I don’t plan to use the blog to promote it. I don’t want this to become a ‘self-promotion’ thing. I didn’t really have my name attached to it in the beginning, but some people found out it was me, so my name’s out there, but it wasn’t my intention.

It’s just for fun.

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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google