320: Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus - On Advertising


By Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus 

Modern-day advertisers are nothing but aggregators of eyeballs. They get paid to encourage you to take action. What’s the best way to make you act? To highlight your problems of course: to make you think you are inadequate, to showcase your perpetual discontent and then offer a solution from the entrapment of your self-invented restless dissatisfaction.

Just turn on your television, switch on your radio, open your newspapers and magazines, and click the banner ad tailored to your specific needs, tastes, and desires. See, you have scores of problems. You are anxious, tired, stressed, worried, overwhelmed, underpaid, overworked, undervalued, overweight, depressed, too old, too fat, too thin. Your scrawny muscles aren’t big enough, your flabby stomach isn’t washboard enough, your wrinkled face isn’t young enough.

Damn! According to most advertisers, you are a freaking mess.

But fear not, There are myriad solutions tucked into every ad.

We’ve all been MTV’d and Facebooked. Advertising is everywhere now. The best advertisers and marketers are Mozart-esque in their ability to make you yearn for something you didn’t even know existed. But you already have everything you need; you don’t have to upgrade. You needn’t succumb to cultural norms and societal expectations to allay your fears and pacify your discontentment.

Hell, maybe your life is a mess. Even if it is in shambles, as our lives once were, no product is going to fix your problems. Only you, through deliberate actions over time, can correct yourself. This is not easy—and it certainly is not as sexy as the newest gadget or pill that will solve all your woes—but attempting to fix discontentment with a purchased quick fix is just trying to fix the problem with the problem. Because, truth be told, you can buy all the cure-alls and still not be cured; you can obtain all the shiny new thingamajigs and still not impress anyone.

There will, however, be a new kind of authentic marketing in the future. As we consumers continue to get wiser, as we realize we needn’t be fooled by the manufactured unrest promulgated by pop culture, we will begin to find value in genuine people and brands who actually have our best interests in mind.

Thanks to the Internet, this shift has already started. There are brands like Charity Water who actually want to help people. There are individuals who want to add value to people’s lives. There are organizations who want to commit to contributing first, not focusing on money as the primary driver for their actions.

We, Joshua and Ryan, do our best to fall into this category. We open our hearts in an effort to help you open your mind. We don’t think there’s anything wrong with offering products and services, that’s how we make a living, but we must add value first if we expect anyone to pay attention in the long run. Maybe that doesn’t make us the best advertisers in the world, but it helps us sleep a little better at night. Besides, anything less would be disingenuous.

Thom WaltersComment