The big celebrity news of the week was the 'uncoupling' of celebrity couple and one of the darlings of London's A-list circuit - Coldplay frontman Chris Martin and Oscar winner, Gwyneth Paltrow. Jen Smith, head of planning at Maxus, put down her copy of Hello to tell us what she thinks media agencies can learn from their situation and the ending of their marriage.
So when is a divorce not a divorce? Well when it is a conscious uncoupling and you are Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin.
Like passer bys at the scene of a car crash - within minutes of the news breaking, Goop.com had floundered under the weight of visitors speculating about this new example of a celebrity partnership implosion. For a society where you regularly hear about bomb threats made to highly intelligent females just because they dared suggest it might be a good idea to have a woman on a bank note; the extent of the vicious comments was incredible.
What were we talking about here really? A couple of people who, by all intents and purposes, were very good at their individual jobs, who would give back to society through effort and money, and who seemed, for a long, genuinely happy and managed to raise two children who, as yet, have not been found blotto outside a drug den.
So why the unbridled glee at their horrible news? Why don’t we like them, and what on earth could this have to do with media?
The answer lies in that phrase in my first line - ‘conscious uncoupling’, because it feels phoney, it feels like they are trying to be something they are not, and in a country who has the idiom: call a spade a spade; it jars against our natural tendencies and internal instinct to identify a charlatan.
That got me thinking - just why didn’t they just call their uncoupling a divorce?
As a couple they have built a certain degree of mythology around themselves, and new-age terminology is part of this along with a macrobiotic diet and the Tracy Anderson exercise method. It feels that the language they use to talk about themselves has become deliberately complicated and obtuse in order to separate themselves from us. It’s almost as if it is a barrier to protect the ‘secret’ – "psssst don’t tell anyone but really anyone can have this life / body / success, but in order to make it feel ‘difficult’ and ‘hard’ we will wrap it up in terms that will confuse 'the average Jo.'"
And that is really not too dissimilar to the average day in a media agency.
Acronyms – CPT, CPA ASBOF, UGC, KPI’s and SEM:
Phrases – engagement, native, demographics, real-time adaptive, deliverables, customer empowerment.
A lot of words which distance ourselves from 'the average Jo', to allow us to sprinkle science and sparkle onto what we do; and without deliberately doing a disservice to the wonderfully intelligent people I work with, can build the mythology around our jobs.
And I suppose I am beginning to wonder if like Gwyneth and Chris we might be doing ourselves and those we deal with a disservice. Because all the people I work with are a good people, trying to strive to do things a bit smarter, and a bit faster and with a bit more magic. And our regular practise in the dark-arts of myth creating, might just be distancing ourselves from the people we need to engage with.
Maybe we need to learn a lesson from Gwyneth and Chris and smash the protective bubble around ourselves and start to talk the talk:
We might make a few more friends along the way and deliver some amazing work that the ‘average Jo’ see’s, likes and maybe, just maybe, does something of the back of it.