A while back I met with an industry colleague of mine who admitted to struggling with a moral dilemma because of her involvement in advertising. She mentioned that she regularly considered getting out of the business. I found this particularly interesting since most of my friend’s work was done for nonprofit organizations that help people. She felt that there is something inherently “bad” about advertising. Hollywood often portrays big businesses as “evil” (when was the last time you went to a movie and a big corporation was the good guy?), and my friend seemed to have a similar take on her own profession. I thought it was sad that a person would continue to work day after day in a job they feel is taking advantage of people.
I don’t feel that way at all. Sure, there is a dark side to the industry. I’m thinking of the schlocky “Girls Gone Wild” TV spots that come on late at night, those unsolicited phone calls for time-shares during the dinner hour, and of course spam (never before has anyone been so concerned about my medication needs and my opportunity to meet Russian girls who want to get to know me better). But there is a downside to almost every good thing. A glass of wine with dinner is fine, but we all know what happens when alcohol consumption goes unchecked. It’s a matter of balance. We can always tune advertising out—that is, until we need something. For years I ignored the Sunday ad section of our local paper until I wanted to buy a snow blower. And then I was all over the ad inserts looking at options and matching prices from Home Depot, Lowe’s, Sears and others.
No, for the most part advertising is good. It’s the grease that turns the wheels that run our free-market economy. And a free market spurs products and services to keep improving, raises the standard of living and even helps prevent civil unrest and wars. Advertising helps people find goods and services they need, educates them about their benefits, helps them save money and even entertains them. (Remember the Super Bowl ads?)
Further, in the nearly 30 years I’ve been involved in the industry all but a few (I can count them on one hand) of the vendors, managers and creatives I’ve worked with have been fine, upstanding, moral people who really want to help society.
Has advertising enhanced your life? Think about the last time you needed something—say, an electric hedge trimmer, groceries you could afford, toys for the kids at Christmas or a jacket in the springtime. How do you know where to go and what to buy? You got it: advertising.