Jerry Seinfeld is the richest actor on earth. Google it. He?s worth $820 million.
You don?t make that kind of money working as a stand-up comedian in Atlantic City. You make it when companies pay to run ads during your hit TV show. Based on the advertising revenues it generated, Seinfeld (1989-1998) was the most successful show in the history of television.
Fast-forward to October 2014: Jerry Seinfeld wins a CLIO, an award that?s sort of like an Oscar in advertising. (In Greek mythology, Clio was one of the nine Muses and a daughter of Zeus. She was the recorder of great deeds, the proclaimer and celebrator of accomplishments, and a source of inspiration and genius.)
Jerry accepted his CLIO award from America?s advertising professionals by stepping up to the microphone and proving once again that you can say vicious things to people as long as you?re smiling when you do it. Jerry began his acceptance speech by maintaining that he didn?t deserve the award, but he?d take it anyway. ?I think spending your life trying to dupe innocent people out of hard-won earnings to buy useless, low-quality, misrepresented items and services is an excellent use of your energy,? he said. He went on to say, ?I love advertising because I love lying.?
The crowd laughed. Hah, hah, hah.
Jerry wrapped up his acceptance speech by saying that a lot of other people had craved winning a CLIO because ?it trumped up their phony careers and meaningless lives. So thank you all for this great honor and all your great work. I hope it makes you happy as you have made me happy for this five minutes of my life, which will last until I get to the edge of this stage, and it hits me that this was all a bunch of nonsense. Thank you, and have a great evening.?
Like all great comedians, Seinfeld is funny because he has the audacity to say what everyone else is thinking. It?s been his trademark from the beginning. So no, I?m not bothered that he insulted the people who were honoring him. The average American is probably delighted that he did it. After all, those annoying advertising people had it coming, right?
That?s one way to look at it.
I prefer to look at it through the eyes of Don Quixote de La Mancha, who, you will recall, did some amazing things while pretending he was a man who could do amazing things.
Yes, I am a professional ad writer, but I believe it to be a worthy profession. America did not become wealthy because of its natural resources. If natural resources determined the wealth of nations, Brazil would be the richest country on earth and Japan would be the poorest.
Americans enjoy the world?s most robust economy because we?re incredibly good at selling things to each other. If ever we lose our ability to convince each other to buy things, the American Dream will die.
So no, I?m not embarrassed to be the guy who convinces you to buy things you don?t need. If Americans bought only what we needed, we would never have progressed beyond kerosene lanterns and a hand-pump in the yard.
I can name dozens of American and Canadian companies that have collectively hired hundreds of additional employees because I came alongside to help them with their advertising.
I?ll bet you can do the same.
You and I are the people who stimulate the economy. The only thing we need to work a miracle is a business owner with a glimmer of courage and a story to tell, right? So never let anyone, not even a comedian, convince you that you?re anything less than the glistening Hope of America.
When the economy gets sluggish and everyone starts whining, who is it that kicks this nation in the ass? You and me, that?s who.
When people get scared and start to hang on to their money because some fool convinced them that a rainy day is just around the corner, who is it that wakes them up again? You and me, that?s who.
When a man?s life gets stale and the dreams of youth have faded to become a Monday-through-Friday sort of dying, who is it that gets that man on his feet again to laugh and dance like a king? You and me, that?s who.
When Jerry Seinfeld pauses to think about exactly who it was that put that $820 million in his pocket, who do you think he?ll want to thank?
You and me, that?s who.
Roy H. Williams is president of Wizard of Ads Inc. E-mail: email@example.com.
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