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I admit it — I’m teetering on the edge of stir crazy. Some days it doesn’t take much to push me over the edge. But— and I’m about to insult some very good seventh grade writers — an avalanche of middle-school-level headlines attempting to capture my attention have set me on edge.

And before my journalist friends climb up on a high horse to proclaim they always knew advertising would kill good writing, I should note that (today) big time news outlets are the offenders.

Yes Lois, succumbing to one of the ultimate lies of our time (maybe a tiny bit of overstatement), no less than the bastions of major media outlets are resorting to clickbait.

For a couple of weeks running, it seems every “breaking news” alert sent to my smart phone by one of our esteemed national news giants has followed this style guide:

This {personal characterization} said {provocative statement}
about her time at/with {recognized entity/individual}.

It is more than a little disconcerting that someone disciplined and skilled enough to rise to an editor’s desk has bought into the idea that a half-baked tease — and that’s being generous— is the way to attract an audience. Never mind, communicate the news. Perry White has to be cringing.

But accountability is a harsh mistress.

Most of us learn to take with a grain of salt — even ignore — those beeping or vibrating alerts from our phones.

Our Response to Noise

However, since this is not about the current state of delivering the news, but about connecting via marketing — I should get to the point: glazed over eyeballs do not equal impressions. In fact, they (the eyeballs we’re talking about here) are irrelevant.

I get it. The challenge to grab attention is daunting. Rising above the noise of thousands of competing messages every day isn’t easy. Finding common ground and speaking the same language is tough enough one-on-one in a quiet room.

But clickbait? Seriously?

Maybe it is rooted in some distorted version of a lowest-common-denominator strategy; but it is a far cry from the creative acumen that attracted many of us to the art, and that has reshaped entire markets with a single campaign.

The slight-of-phrase that is offered in pursuit of nothing more than a click— I would (humbly) submit that this is not creative spark.

And while I will, reluctantly, concede that clickbait might at times qualify as marketing, it is decidedly not communication. Or genius.

A couple of decades ago, when blogging was far from a staple in B-to-B marketing, I worked with a group of lawyers using this new tool. Daily clicks on the firm blog became the be-all-end-all metric. So much so that the blog’s editors found a way to include the phrase “wet t-shirt contest.” in one day’s headline.

The metric might have made me blush.

But — you’re way ahead of me, I know — virtually every click was irrelevant…staying on the blog for less than 3-seconds.

Great marketing — the stuff to which I believe we all aspire…the stuff that connects, motivates and prompts consequential reality shifts— isn’t interested in irrelevant eyeballs. It takes aim at the heart.

That’s a calling worthy of some serious genius.