Born Standing Up Steve Martin

What Does Steve Martin Have To Do With Advertising

Mar 28, 2017

What Does Steve Martin Have To Do With Advertising

by Mar 28, 2017

By default, I view the world through a prism of marketing intrigue. The result is I tend to examine nearly everything I see with a perceived (or real) angle, and most of the information I consume becomes either analysis or inspiration.

Over the years, I have found that virtually anything can stimulate a useful thought that can morph into a workable idea for a client or an audience. Today’s example is stand up comedy.

I am fascinated by stand up. I respect it. Part of my admiration stems from the guts and vulnerability of it.

I also appreciate the immediate response. Like digital marketing, with its live-stream data and on-demand information, audience response is honest and real-time. For better or worse, audience reaction – like data – reveals the success of your efforts.

When I recently completed Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up, I admired the story of his rise, but found his articulation of his craft quite similar to marketing as a craft.

This thought (from page 104) really stuck out to me: “Comedy is a distortion of what is happening, and there will always be something happening.”

What a great analogy for advertising, the most artistic expression of marketing.

Good advertising distills – and occasionally distorts – the desire of a business into a consumable thought that is worthy of action. Ads are a reflection of society, trends, dispositions, and fads.

A stand up act and an ad campaign share a formulation DNA.

Martin plied away for years in vacant clubs, dotted with the occasional appearance on Johnny Carson. He developed theories, components to his act were tested. He discarded the bits that bombed and preserved the hearty laughs. Over the years – and up to five shows a day on the road – he ended up with four hours of quality material that “worked.” He started with barely ten minutes. Getting to four hours means that hundreds of hours didn’t make the cut.

An ad campaign follows a similar path, but at frenzied pace. What takes years of distillation in a humbling trial by fire for the stand up, marketers shout out over pots of coffee during a handful of late nights. The cutting room floor is stacked with failed ideas.

The comparison is best with a digital campaign. A/B testing, copy tests, image tests, etc. are all part of the process of a great digital campaign. The ads that get the most response – clicks or impressions – are built into larger campaigns and the overall company narrative.

If you haven’t heard of the book, consider picking it up. It’s a quick 204 pages of honest, contemplative documentation by one of the better creative minds of the generation.

And, always be on the lookout for marketing inspiration.


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