09 May, 2012 – 9 comments
i hate advertising
via the ever-wonderful swissmiss
I was in NY this week for Creative Week, speaking on a panel with other creatives, on the topic of the IDEA in advertising.
What began as a discussion on the primacy of ideas quickly (d)evolved into three of the four of us admitting we hate advertising.
I’ve been mulling that over ever since. Part of me feels vindicated. Part of me feels like a sad cliche.
“Advertising is the tax you pay for being unremarkable.” – Robert Stephens
Full disclosure: I work for an advertising agency. Said agency has produced work that some people indeed love. We’ve shown what can be accomplished within the confines of an ad, and it’s nothing to scoff at, or belittle in any way. It’s good work that has proven to grow business.
Fuller disclosure: Words strung together that seem to suggest opinions here are my own and not those of my employer.
I grew up with a pervasive relationship with the internet and web technologies. I was hacking together digital products in my early teens and I helped build digital start-ups in my twenties. I consider myself to be a citizen of the web, above the state or country in which I was born.
And I am truly disappointed in how the advertising industry has largely approached the web. (I’m disappointed in publishers, too)
We’ve taken a technology that’s led to an explosion in participatory culture, and we’ve recreated the billboard and :30 spot.
We’ve earned consumer’s apathy. We’ve conditioned it through our own laziness and sheer lack of creativity.
Like anything, the top 1% of advertising is brilliant. It’s inspiring and effective.
Some call the other 99% landfill marketing. I consider it to be the biggest waste of money, creativity, and talent in the history of the world. Full stop.
I’m exhausted by the glut of garbage that passes as advertising. I’m frustrated by this industry and by the clients that ask for this work.
I’m also very aware that I probably sound like a pompous twit. And in the eyes of industry veterans, I probably sound like a miserable brat. I’m not sure our little bitch-fest about ads made for a compelling panel, either.
But yet. I feel a responsibility. As a member of a generation gifted with the revolution that is the web, I feel a duty to protect it. To make it better. And to stand in the way of those attempting to pollute it.
The world wasn’t born into existence with periodic pauses for commercial break. The web wasn’t either.
Part of this is personal. My father is a builder of buildings. He can point to skyscrapers that have his fingerprints.
My work is far more ephemeral. It provides no shelter for those it touches. It’s too often an empty calorie snack that isn’t even appetizing.
But I’m here in this industry because I know, with certainty, that our work can be more meaningful. It can be useful. It can impact people’s lives for the better. Brands can be more than the sum of their products. We can use the billions of dollars we wield every year with greater responsibility.
We’re at an inflection point. It’s been coming for more than a decade. It was born with the web.
Advertising, as we know it today, still has a place in the world. There are many occasions and opportunities for it to be incredibly effective. I’m just old enough to hope for a bloodless coup.
But the lion’s share of the work this industry is producing has to end.
It has to, or I fear that it will continue, that we’ll accept this great mediocrity and insult to the web (and to its citizens) as fait accompli.