Try And Find Jesus On Your Own

Some days I think I am sitting in a 1925 courtroom listening to Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan debate creationism as the online ad industry turns itself inside out trying to decide if its fate will be decided by creative or technological evolution.

Which comes first the ad or the ad server? Did God really toss Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden for approving an AT&T banner ad to run on Hotwired in 1994? Was there Flash 5 million years ago, but no codex to run it? It is true that Michael Arrington is the last surviving Neanderthal? Or isn't Jason Calacanis proof that aliens arrived thousands of years ago and walk among us today?

Clearly none of this will ever be resolved since at some point one side always wimps out and tells the other, "Well, it's a matter of faith" just when things get interesting. So who am I to put the chicken before the egg? Those matters will be decided in the wee, dark hours of after-dinner cocktails at ad conferences and summits only to burst into forgotten flame under the dawn's early light.

There are those who maintain that technology has gotten out of hand, that the Cylons we created have turned on us and are plotting our destruction. These of course are the same folks who ask their 14 years-olds to help them program their new cell phones and think that there are just too many useless buttons on the flat panel remote, so they figure if you have to bring in ad ops, it is a lost cause to begin with. To them Jesus was nailed on the cross with behavioral targeting, optimization and predictive modeling. They can't remember a time when it was a mystery how each TV network would get the right regional ads to their right O&Os.

The opposition worships at the altar of David Ogilvy, convinced that when the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars, the perfect ad can be created as long as a VCU graduate is somehow involved and the various elements are not drawn from a database by some quant-driven algorithm. After all, the biggest financial meltdown since the Great Depression was a product of a piece of financial technology that allowed hugely complex risks to be modeled with more ease and accuracy than ever before. And yet who is to say that somewhere, somehow there wasn't a pissed-off greater power who just said fuck it one day, dropped some orange sunshine and started shorting the market and making margin calls.

Then there is the guy on the other end of the screen who doesn't give much thought to why (or how) a hotel ad shows up three days after he's been to a travel site. When pressed, his best guess is the Easter Bunny. Or Kara Thrace.

Me? I'm kinda leaning toward the advice of that great Madison Avenue Techno-theologist John Prine who said:

Blow up your TV, throw away your paper

Go to the country, build you a home

Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches

Try and find Jesus on your own.

2 comments about "Try And Find Jesus On Your Own".
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  1. Carolyn Hansen from Hacker Group, March 27, 2009 at 12:32 p.m.

    This is fantastic -- funny and insightful. I wish I'd written it.

  2. Tim Orr from Barnett Orr Marketing Group, Inc., March 27, 2009 at 7:02 p.m.

    There were also a lot of people in 1925 or thereabouts who got away with selling snake oil as medicine. It is the passage of time that tells us what is real. And as Bob Hoffman of says, "There is no bigger sucker than a marketer convinced he's missing the latest trend." The operative word is "sucker." And one of them is born every minute.

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