When Charlie Sheen was young, he lived for pleasure, mainly drugs and sex.
He had a budding film career, but work took second place to an orgy of hedonism, literally and figuratively.
Naturally, this ended up in the courts, which meant it ended up in the news media, which meant his film career pretty much ended up.
Charlie Sheen’s drug-taking and use of prostitutes was beyond scandalous.
In court, a judge commented, “So you pay these women fifty thousand dollars a month for sex?”
Charlie Sheen simply answered, “No, I pay them fifty thousand dollars to leave after sex.”
Even his father commented on his lifestyle.
He said Charlie hadn’t understood that life was like a salad: you have lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumber, that’s the salad but on its own it’s pretty tasteless.
So you add mayonnaise, which gives the salad taste.
He said Charlie had confused the salad with the mayonnaise.
He knew the mayonnaise tasted great so he didn’t bother with the salad, he just wanted a plate of mayonnaise.
So that was the way he lived his life, all mayonnaise and no salad.
But that wasn’t the way to make a salad, and that’s what Charlie would have to learn.
Which is pretty much where we in advertising find ourselves, all mayonnaise and no salad.
Many years back, when advertising started it was just information repeated over and over.
Boring and tasteless: like a salad without dressing.
So, to make it palatable, we added some dressing.
We added good music, good lighting, good editing, good casting.
Then we added emotion, and purpose, and warmth, and social responsibility.
Then we added planning, and strategy, and data, and algorithms.
And we never noticed that there wasn’t anything about the product anymore, we had a large plate of mayonnaise and no salad.
All mood and no content, all emotion and no reason, all heart and no brain, all brand and no product, all taste and no substance.
And we can’t seem to understand why it isn’t working.
We make lots of nice little films with good music, good filming, good voices.
The voices make points about peace, and love, and responsibility, and hope.
They don’t mention anything as crass as the thing being sold, what it is, what it does, why you should buy it, why it’s better than anything else.
We got rid of the boring part, the salad, and kept the tasty part, the mayonnaise, it should be even better.
We can’t seem to understand that advertising, like a salad, needs both.
Advertising is delivery system.
The point is to deliver information, to do it in an interesting, enjoyable way because that makes people more likely to notice and remember what we’re delivering.
But if we forget what we’re delivering, if we only concentrate on the enjoyable part, we lose the whole point of doing it.
Like putting beautiful wrapping-paper on an empty box: it looks great but when you open it up there’s nothing inside.
It’s not our job to deliver empty boxes, even if the wrapping-paper wins awards.
We know a box that’s attractively wrapped is more likely to get opened, that’s the only reason for making the boxes attractive.
That’s why we have to make the experience enjoyable, of course.
But there needs to be some salad with the mayonnaise.