10 ‘Onion’ Articles That Perfectly Sum Up the Marketing Industry

Vladimir Nabokov once said, “Satire is a lesson.” I completely agree. When a company, or an industry, is the butt of a joke, they shouldn’t ignore it—they should see it as an opportunity to view themselves in a different light. If they did, a lot of valuable lessons could be learned.

To get the education started, here are 10 articles from The Onion that will make marketers want to laugh and cry at the same time.

1. “World’s Worst Person Decides to Go Into Marketing”

Best excerpt:

“I think it’s the career path that will best utilize my networking skills and my ability to think outside the box,” said Deenan, whose smug, gloating tone and shit-eating smile just make you want to punch his goddamn teeth in. “So I’m definitely thinking marketing. Either that, or PR.

Marketers aren’t typically seen as the most genuine—or likable— people. A recent study by The McCarthy Group found that 84 percent of millennials don’t like advertising. So they probably expect you to be, as The Onion puts it, “undeniably the most detestable, loathsome individual ever to walk the earth.”

How do marketers become more likable? Simple: They create content that actually provides value to readers. Do that, and you won’t have to worry about getting punched in the mouth.

2. “‘Okay, Gene, Let’s Just Get Through This,’ Marketing Executive Beginning Day Tells Self”

Best excerpt:

After 30 minutes of stoically responding to interoffice e-mails, Strassman dutifully boarded the elevator to the 26th-floor conference room, momentarily hoping the doors would open on an empty shaft.

Oof. Too many buzzwords and acronyms hurting your brain? If any of you relate to this headline, I have three words for you: Quit. Your. Job. Are you filled with boiling regret because you never fulfilled your childhood dreams? Take off the tie and go write that novel that probably won’t sell 500 copies.

3. “Even Consumer’s Subconscious Can Tell Banner Ad Campaign Ineffective”

Best excerpt:

​Sources inside local man Eric Chen’s brain confirmed this week that a major corporation’s recent online advertising campaign was so unsuccessful that its ineffectiveness was immediately perceptible to Chen’s subconscious.

Hopefully you know this one already—banner ads suck. Have you ever clicked on a banner ad and felt good about the decision? No, you probably got a computer virus or fell asleep on your mouse. Besides, as a recent study from PageFair found, adblocking has grown 41 percent in the past year. You might as well focus on creating quality content that is useful to consumers, not something that gets a click-through rate of 0.12 percent.

4. “Advertiser Thought This Sponsored Post Was a Good Idea”

Best excerpt:

“People love to read sponsored posts, it is the best way for making people trust and respect your brand, and this website is the best place for a company like ours to get the word out about its products,” said a spokesman for the company, which, again, genuinely thought that it was effectively bolstering its image with the purchase of this four-sentence, 164-word article that is clearly labeled on a popular website as a piece of advertising material.

As we’ve talked about before, sponsored content still has a trust problem. Unless, of course, you’re The Onion, and Adobe is cool enough to sponsor a post that makes fun of itself.

5. “Lazy Puma Exec Pitches Commercial Where Usain Bolt Runs Away From Something”

Best excerpt:

“What if he runs against a cheetah or a jaguar or maybe, like, a gazelle?” Dewitt said while standing in front of a PowerPoint slide labeled “Animals.” “Maybe we do something funny where it’s the Olympics and Usain looks over and sees all these fast animals in the lanes next to him. Anyway, the race starts, Usain beats the animals, and while they are on the victory podium he looks over to the cheetah like ‘uh-oh’ when the cheetah growls at him.”

It can be hard to think of creative ideas when you’ve been in the ad game for a long time. But when you throw in the towel, try to do it discreetly. For example, don’t pitch “Usain Bolt: Fast Guy.” Otherwise, The Onion will find you and make your self-esteem pay.

6. “Increasingly Desperate Advertisers Settle For More Attainable 35-To-44-Year-Old Demographic”

Best excerpt:

Pfeiffer then reassured herself that she and her clients could do a lot worse, pointing to Tommy Bahama’s “sad” long-term relationship with 45-to-60-year-old single males with annual incomes of less than $50,000.

​18-to-34-year-olds are the dream demographic. We vaguely know about relevant trends, we have more money than kids in middle school, and we pay obscene amounts of money just to look cool.

But 35-to-44-year-olds? They just want products that are comfortable and won’t kill them. Just a safe-looking soccer van on a billboard will do.

7. “Advertising Manager Working Hard To Teach Son Value Of An Impression”

Best excerpt:

“Sure, as he grows older, web trends may change. But for my son to know in his heart that impressions form the very foundation of brand awareness—nothing can ever take that away from him.”

If you want to be a good father, you use The Onion for parenting advice. Just ask Brian Emmerich, the fictional subject of this article, who is already teaching his 3-year-old son the value of advertising. After impressions, he’ll move on to lessons about click-through rates, analyze heat maps, and explain the importance of social distribution. What have you done today?

8. “Please Click On Our Website’s Banner Ads”

Best excerpt:

Just click on an ad. Now. I mean RIGHT NOW. Move your mouse two measly inches over to the edge of the screen, extend one of your five opposable digits, and lightly press down on the left-hand corner button. Takes about two seconds, if that. A child could do it. And not even a smart child, either. One of the dumb ones.

You know satire hits the mark when publishers start using the same approach without any irony. Just ask Wired, which created an actual pop-up that read: “Please do us a solid and disable your ad blocker.” Life imitating art.

9. “Pepsi To Cease Advertising”

Best excerpt:

Nooyi told reporters the company’s $1.3 billion annual advertising budget would be put into Pepsi’s savings account, spread among various charitable organizations, and divvied up into generous bonuses for the company’s minimum-wage factory employees.

Sometimes I wonder why giant companies like Pepsi still advertise. Haven’t they reached the point where they’re too entrenched in the culture to make a difference through commercials? Capitalism won’t allow for it, but if Pepsi stopped advertising, wouldn’t the world be a better place?[note]Besides the fact that we’d all be out of jobs…[/note]

10. “Olay Getting Women To Drop Guard With Few Nonjudgmental Ads Before Nailing Them With Body Shame”

Best excerpt:

Olay executives said they also plan to launch a social media campaign using the hashtag #allbodiesarebeautiful, which the company anticipates will raise women’s self-esteem just enough so that it can “really knock them on their asses” with an ad in which women are warned that they are not fit to be seen in public wearing a swimsuit if they haven’t been applying a firming body lotion.

Too real.

Image by Shutterstock

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