Sunday, March 3, 2013

Everything I Ever Needed To Know About Advertising I Learned From A First Century Babylonian Rabbi

Rabbi Hillel making fun of crappy advertising. 
My nephew just called with a “quick question”. His high school Spanish teacher gave his class an assignment to create a TV commercial that communicates the value of speaking a foreign language. He wanted to know how to make a TV commercial. 

Oh, and the assignment is due tomorrow. 

When I was a kid, I remember a hearing a story in Sunday school about one Rabbi Hillel, who was challenged to explain the entire Torah while standing on one foot. The Torah, in case you didn’t happen to have the good fortune to be raised Jewish, is, to quote Wikipedia, "the foundational narrative of the Jewish people: their call into being by their God, their trials and tribulations, and their covenant with their God, which involves following a way of life (halakha) embodied in a set of religious obligations and civil laws." It's five books long, plus, oh, 58 centuries of commentaries and interpretations by a people who, to put it mildly, have a thing for commenting and interpreting.

Okay, so what my nephew was asking me wasn’t quite as daunting. If you count the entire history of TV commercials, you can’t really go back before 1939, when RCA began broadcasting TV signals. 

Still, Dude? Seriously? You want me to tell you how to make a TV commercial while standing on one foot?

In the Torah story, the rabbi thinks for a moment, raises one foot, and says, “Do not do anything to others that you would not want done to yourself. The rest is all commentary.”

So I raised my own foot and told my nephew exactly that. Except that I substituted “inflict anything upon” for "do anything to". 

And then I hung up. I have to come up with a commercial for a client that communicates the value of buying something much less worthwhile than learning a foreign language. And the assignment is due tomorrow.