Jim Murray in Professions, Workers, Careers, Directors and Executives, beBee in English Creative Director, Writer, Art Director, Project Manager • Onwords & Upwords Inc 4 d ago · 3 min read · +500

The Art of Engagement As Explained By One Of The Masters

This is part of my ongoing Throwback Thursday series. This was written in early 2016, which seems like forever ago.

I ain't lookin' to compete with you
Beat or cheat or mistreat you
Simplify you, classify you
Deny, defy or crucify you
All I really want to do
Is, baby, be friends with you.


The Art of Engagement As Explained By One Of The MastersI saw Donnie Deutsch (the ‘Master’ in the title), on the Late Show a while ago. If you don’t know who he is, then you’re probably not in advertising.

Donnie is, in fact, one of the most famous people in the ad agency business. He had his own ad agency for many years. Then he went on to host a great interview show on Bravo. Now, he is one of those guys who shows up on talk shows and talks about advertising and politics and probably does a lot of other stuff that I never bothered to find out about.

Donnie is one of those, good looking, fast talking uber-confident American Hucksters. But some of the advertising he has done over the years has been awesome and he knows what he’s taking about in that area.

The episode of the Late Show I saw him on was from the Friday before the Superbowl and Stephen Colbert was asking Donnie about what makes a commercial great and worth spending several million bucks to show people on a major event like the Superbowl.

His answer, not surprisingly, was that it was its humanity. According to Donnie, and I completely agree, If you can communicate your selling message in the context of a human story, it will not only be memorable and effective, it will have a very long life span.

If this sounds familiar, it might be because you have been reading some of my posts about what makes for engaging content here on beBee or anyplace else you choose to blog.

Digital marketers use this as their mantra and have been since they started trying to get people to spend money on social media and content marketing. Some of these people like to make it sound like storytelling is something they invented, but anybody with two brain cells to rub together knows that’s bullshit.

The storytelling some of us (not all by a long shot) do here is really nothing more than an extension of the storytelling that we were raised on pretty much everywhere…through ads, TV shows, movies and books and personal conversations.

Authenticity Is The Ultimate Expression Of Humanity In Communication

The humanity that makes for great communication is what a lot of us refer to as authenticity. And I actually think authenticity is a better word, because it allows the context to be widened.

This is especially true if you are trying to tell a story with something technical in it, and it doesn’t really lend itself to a strictly ‘human’ narrative.

Guys I know like Phil Friedman, Milos Djukic and Jeff Strickland do this especially well and they are rewarded with very high levels of engagement.

In Donnie’s Late Show interview, he showed a Volkswagon SuperBowl commercial from a couple of years ago, (before Volkswagon stepped in the deep doo doo,) I felt a very human emotion when I saw this commercial. A couple, in fact.

One emotion was delight, because it’s a very charming spot.

And two was something else . Because when I saw that commercial on the Superbowl, I remember very distinctly flying into a quiet fit of jealousy, wishing more than anything in that moment, that I had done that spot. Creative people do this once in a while. It’s the highest form of compliment.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1n6hf3adNqk (Note: There might be a commercial before the actual VW spot)

The Reality

There are probably a lot of people out there who, having read this far, are trying to figure out just how they can add that critical humanity/authenticity element to their communications if they don;t feel they are already doing enough of that.

My best advice to those people is to find someone who does this for a living and talk to them, tell them your story in your own words and see what they come back at you with.

More often than not it will surprise you and can give you enough focus to last quite a while.

Most writers that I know don’t necessarily want to totally write content for their clients. They would much prefer that the clients draft the core message and let them work on making it feel professional, on strategy, in character and all the other good stuff that it needs to have to be interesting and persuasive.

Social media and content marketing is all about building perceptions. In your business, you are the best person to define that. But there may be other people who can help you refine it and turn it into the kind of authentic communication you need to really make the effort worthwhile.

Jim Murray is an experienced advertising and marketing professional and former professional photographer. He has run his own business (Onwords & Upwords), since 1989 after a 20 year career in Toronto as a senior creative person in major Canadian & international advertising agencies. Jim is specialized in creating communications for businesses working to make a positive difference in the world.

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Great contextual insights Jim!

After decades of sob stories and human touch melodrama fed to them over radio, print, electronic and cinematic media, folks out here have realised they are born suckers for the ''story'' ;) Humour is getting their goat now. But I guess most are okay with a clever conniving thief (read liar for hire) conning them out of a grand or two than falling for yet another touching testimonial / sob story. The times, they are a-changin...out here.