My Accounts

My brother Steve is a brilliant, brilliant guy, who has very often had to carry around the label “curmudgeon”. Sometimes, he’s even been labeled a “misanthrope”. These are the kinds of labels that are tossed around pretty easily, and are almost always wrong. My other brother Ian wrote a great blog on the misuse of the word “narcissist”, and I think “misanthrope” should get a blog of its own as well.

(No, no… there wasn’t any sense of irony that he wrote a blog about the word “narcissist”. At this point, trying to argue that blogs are narcissistic is like arguing that email is making us less literate, or that TV is bad for you. It’s a boring, old canard, easily shot-down, celebrated by idiots who think easy thoughts and then pronounce them loudly.)

(Yeah… there probably should be some mention of irony when a guy like me gets mad at “idiots who think easy thoughts and then pronounce them loudly”…)

But anyway, Steve was talking about advertising. He’s one of those guys who rails against advertising and calls almost all mentions of things for sale “SPAM”. This makes me a little bit impatient because… to tell the truth, I’m selling something that I think people will like if they try it, but which people are extremely reticent to even try.

I have a fair number of friends who don’t even go to my shows. *Friends*, who have either been in plays in the past or who currently are working in the theater… and they just don’t come to the plays. It’s because they think they’re not gonna enjoy themselves. They think the seats will be small, the room will be hot, they don’t get to pause or fast forward, there won’t be any sports, they can’t eat snacks and they don’t get to talk shit during it.

I know this to be true because Fleet Week sold a lot of tickets, and it defeated most of the above arguments. The seats were good, the room was air-conditioned, they got to watch people running around dancing, (a sort of sport), and the show was so loud that people could actually talk shit during it. Still, it took more effort than sitting at home watching The Bachelor.

So, I have to sell something that people think they don’t want. The truth is, when they’re in the theater, they’re gonna like it, I believe that. Nobody walked out of Universal Robots wishing they had their time back, and that space was NOT comfortable. The story sustains, live theater has a quality that can’t be replicated.

So I asked Steve why he hates advertising so much. We’re a nation of consumers, and if there was no advertising, we wouldn’t know what to buy.

Steve’s point of view was really illuminating, especially as it concerns social media marketing. He sees it as a series of deposits and withdrawals. Every time you put up an update that makes people happy and laugh, you’re making a deposit. Every time you put up an update that gives people insight or information, you’re making a deposit. When you ask people to buy something, even just tickets to your show, you’re making a withdrawal.

His point is that you have to make deposits that are equal to the withdrawal, at the very least. Even better would be to make *more* deposits than you do withdrawals. And this works really well for Twitter and Facebook and stuff, where you can actually answer people’s questions and link to blogs and articles and stuff, long before you ask those people to take a leap of faith with you.

It’s interesting because the Lexus IS Convertible has a series of commercials called “Live a Little”. Now, a Lexus is basically a Toyota engine inside a shitty car, that designed to be pretty cute and very expensive.

Two Different Girls Lexus Ad

So, they’ve got nothing to sell you. This car is just like every other crappy expensive trashy car.

Running Lexus Ad

This one is hilarious, the guy is soaking wet and you have no idea why. At the end, he drives off and he’s being chased by about 50 guys who want to kill him. What did he do? Something awesome, that’s all we know. Lexus can’t make a deposit, so they made a bunch of really funny 30 second films that we’d enjoy watching.

And in the new media world, this is actually pretty easy. I have a lot of enthusiasm for the world that I live in, I genuinely love going to see other people’s show, and I genuinely would rather *everybody* produce really awesome shows than have to see shows that aren’t very good because people missed out on some easy tricks.

I spent my whole life as an actor wishing I was producing. I spent hours working with the TDs and the producers, asking them about marketing, asking them about the best ways to spend money, the best artistic choices. I still know about 10% of what I need to know to do a good job, but I LOVE IT when I see other people kick ass. If it’s possible for me to do anything to help, it feels like more than just a “deposit” on my brother Steve’s model. It feels like when you make your own dinner with your own ingredients – it’s a small thing that most people aren’t gonna even notice, but it feels like it’s improving the health of your world.

I hope that I can keep making withdrawals, which is what I feel like I’m mostly doing. All of the deposits I’m making feel like I’m making up for lost ground, like I’ve had some overdraft protection that I’m now paying back (if you don’t mind me extending the metaphor to the breaking point.) But I do feel better about making deposits into this particular world, as opposed to the pittance I put in as an actor. It’s enormously satisfying.