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MEDIA PERSPECTIVES - December 13, 2017

Editor's Note:

I just wanted to let my readers know that I've created a blog where I will be posting essays and articles I've written on digital and online marketing. It's an extension of Media Perspectives. I hope you continue to read and enjoy!

Here's the link: Jaffer Ali's Blog - Perspectives from a Media Contrarian

Thanks for Reading!

In Pursuit Of Simplicity
by: Jaffer Ali

"I wouldn't give a nickel for simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for simplicity on the other side of complexity."

It has taken me thirty years of my professional life to become a simple guy. Starting in the home video business in 1980 and progressing from analog to digital, in retrospect it seems that business was an ongoing exercise in complexification.

Nowhere is "complexification" more apparent than in online marketing circles. Here, jargon is supreme. A visit to half a dozen websites only serves to prove the point. Marketing problems can't be solved, let alone even explained through complex, tortured language, despite the fact that the digerati have elevated double talk to an art form.

In fact, complexity often seems to be the end goal for digital mavens.

But as is the case with most things, what we need is something quite different. We notice that everything is rushing by us at increasingly faster speeds. Time frames for everything have grown shorter. Our digital tools were supposed to help us cope with the faster pace of life and all they have done is pave the way for even more frenzied activity.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction.
-E.F. Schumacher

I suggest we heed the advice of the late British economist, E.F. Schumacher, and contemplate a wholesale change in thought and attitude. The more you ponder this, the more sense it makes, because the more deliberate we are in our pursuit of simplicity, the better able we are to separate the wheat from the chaff between our ears and recognize the challenges that confront us.

Deliberate simplification doesn't come easily. It took Albert Einstein a lot of work to arrive at e=mc2. Deliberate simplification means stripping away the nonessential to discern what is important.

But the online media landscape is anything but simple or discerning. Indeed, complexity has become a virtual means to its own end. Behavioral targeting is just the latest manifestation of this reactionary complexity that in reality creates more problems than it solves.

Our life is frittered away by detail... Simplify, simplify, simplify! ... Simplicity of life and elevation of purpose.
-Henry David Thoreau

As our lives have become systematically more complex, we have replaced essential human pursuits with mindless activity and details. Is it any wonder why the great spiritual traditions always speak of the virtues of simplicity? Is it any surprise that in an ever-more complex world this simple truth falls on deaf ears?

In my opinion, moving to the other side of complexity makes good marketing sense. I want you to think of the last five marketing campaigns that made an impression on you. Dollars to navy beans you are thinking about a jingle or catchy phrase. Messaging was and will always be primary in the marketing hierarchy. But any cursory glance at a typical agency website reveals one specious technological solution after another, with no emphasis whatsoever on the message. This growing complexity, in a vain attempt to harness accountability and scale, in actuality achieves the exact opposite and only serves to further obscure and confuse the big picture and drive performance down.

Case in point, Google is not a scalable marketing platform. That's why it needs 1.5 million advertisers. The more complex solutions become the less genuine scale they engender. Television scales precisely because it is so simple.

To the MBAs still reading, here's a little secret: Simplicity not only works better than complexity, it costs less. Complexity adds costs and that's why the intermediaries in the media ecosystem - the media agencies, ad networks and technology vendors -- continue to champion it, and why content players and publishers by the thousands can't afford to stay in business.

For my money, deliberate simplification is a matter of looking inward; a process of rediscovering essence and harmony. It is authenticity in action and the necessary basis for any worthy marketing campaign.

Let me leave you with a quote from the linguistic philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein that simply says it all:

The aspects of things that are most important to us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity.


Original Article: In Pursuit Of Simplicity

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