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From George Bernard Shaw to BLiX

By Simon Pont, CEO



The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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September 18, 2020 | 5 min read

I’ve always believed great comedy is born of anger. Comedians: angry people. A breed that wince at the everyday patterns of nonsense, absurdity and hypocrisy and who feel compelled to call it out.

quill pen

And I put inventors in the same neighbourhood as comedians.

I was once invited to a lunch with James Dyson, where he explained how his DA001 vacuum cleaner was driven by a very single, personal urge. There had been no focus groups. No addressable audience. The market need was simply his own. He found it profoundly unacceptable that his previous hoover needed a bag, jammed full of lint and sucked in all the wrong kinds of way. As he put it, “no one was crying out for cyclonic suction”. Dyson just got angry, found his present reality unreasonable and did something about it.

As George Bernard Shaw once said: “All progress depends on the unreasonable man”.

Inventors and comedians: unreasonable people. Unreasonable people who know that phoning it in and accepting the status quo isn’t going to move the game on. Not any game.

And by degrees, we’ve all been there. You see something that so jars, grates and irks that it cuts deep. You smile tightly, jaw muscles knotting, no levity behind the eyes and then you go home and think, ’That really needs fixing’. To things we don’t like, we are driven to seek out ways of changing, of improving.

At the 230 word mark, it’s about now you might be asking, ’But what does this have to do with advertising?’

To which my answer would be: ’This has everything to do with advertising’. Both in theory and how we do it in practice.

Advertising has many dictionary definitions. Just ask Google. My common go-to:

To advertise – verb

“To call attention to something, in a public medium, in a boastful or ostentatious manner, to induce someone to buy.”

I still remember when my Google search threw that little verb-gem back in my lap. ’Boastful or ostentatious’, not exactly endearing human qualities or the kind of traits we seek out in others in order to make them our friends.

Beyond a bad rep

When George Orwell called advertising “the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket”, he was being pretty black, white and damning about his views of the Mad Men of his time. But why the bad rep and sketchy rap sheet? And to what degree is it deserved?

No question, the advertising model is structurally flawed if you observe and operate to the wrong kind of dictionary definition. A bygone ad model built on the throwback conventions of interruption, intrusion, self-aggrandising message and an underlying need ’to sell’ is a dinosaur sinking in the tar. Back in Orwell and Draper’s day, game show hosts would implore their TV viewers to ’stay tuned’. That they’d ’be right back, after these commercial messages’. ’Messages’ universally recognised as being not what people had tuned in for or wanted to watch.

Track forward to our present day, and if we’re talking ad-serving, data skimming, and email marketing bombardment, all driven by not-so-smart algos over-looking our opt-outs, then ’advertising’ deserves every tongue-lashing it gets.

But the good and cheerful news is that there is a converse in all this. Because new and old world thinking are oceans apart. Vast ones. It’s why my three co-founders and I invented BLiX – a permission-marketing platform designed to break with questionable conventions, that paves the way for an enlightened ad model. As in: sensitive and empathetic to what people want, where people can volunteer the (first-party) data they want to share and be rewarded for it.

The right theory, now coupled with the opportunity for a much more reasonable set of practices, and that bridges the current physical and digital divide. BLiX. But a whole lot more of that commentary very soon, and until then, just a little 30 second teaser...

Simon Pont, chief executive officer, BLiX


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