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Why Robots Can't Do Advertising

Falcon assembly line, Ford St. Thomas Assembly Plant, 1968

So they asked me to chime in on tagline possibilities for a mentoring program at the last minute.

I was not convinced that a mentoring program actually needs a tagline but since they wanted one, I decided to try.

Not being fully in creative mode at the time I turned to the "Free Slogan Generator" to get me started.

What I came up with was so bad that I feel compelled to tell you: Robots can do a lot of things. But they can't come up with good advertising.

I was a little concerned because I know how people are, but I threw the bad taglines in there just in case.

Sure enough, when they read these two lines out loud, the laughter verged on shrieking. Seriously, I worried that someone would call the police. I believe there was laughter for about three minutes straight. Falling out of the chair guffaws.

Because a computer can come up with cliches but it can't overcome the human tendency to think at the 5th grade level. That's life!

The challenge was to communicate that mentoring programs can help you succeed without sounding like an extension of LinkedIn. I also felt a certain sensitivity about saying that relationships open doors, because it's the government and objectivity and impartiality are important.

These are the taglines I came up with on my own.  My comments are on the right -

The Goods:
  • The Right Relationship Opens Every Door - my favorite - sounds balanced despite the fact that it's talking about relationships
  • Build Your Career, One Relationship At A Time - this one I thought was pretty good - that's what mentoring is!
The Bads:
  • Let Someone Else Invest In Your Success - this sounds like money is being invested; it's really time
  • Work Smarter, Not Harder - too broad
  • Learn the Insiders’ Tips for Success - sounds like a get-rich-quick scheme
It also occurred to me that when you develop a tagline separately from the graphic identifier, a vital piece of the puzzle is missing.

In the end the customer wanted some other lines that aren't listed here. One favorite was, and I quote:
  • Lend a Hand, Take a Hand
Which the others thought was pretty good. I did not think this was so good. I said, "It sounds like a mass murder and there are arms and legs everywhere. I am having thoughts about the Holocaust." Now I always have this sensitivity in the back of my mind so I was being dead serious.

These are wonderful, sensitive people. But they had an image of mannequin arms and legs everywhere. It started them laughing again.

The human mind is a crazy and wonderful and often seemingly irrational thing. Really it is highly logical though. You just can't systematize everything it knows. Our minds operate consciously and subconsciously, and are sensitive to context and culture on myriad levels at once.

And that is why a robot cannot do advertising.

Hope this was good for a bit of a laugh but I mean something totally serious. People are so important - they are what make our organizations flow. You can't automate the humanity out of government, or business.

Have a good day everyone, and good luck!


Photo: Falcon Assembly Line, Fort St. Thomas Assembly Plant, 1968, from the Elgin County Archives via Flickr