Chairman, Crispin Porter + Bogusky


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Do the creators of advertising have any obligation other than to drive results for clients?

Clearly, a lot of people believe that intelligent, engaging advertising is also the most effective. But it's equally clear that a lot of people don't. Just watch TV.

Most broadcast advertising is still intrusive -- the audience doesn't seek it, it seeks them. Beyond the obvious responsibility to be effective for the client, do people who make ads have any responsibility to enlighten, inform or entertain the audience?

TED Initiatives – Ads Worth Spreading

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    Jun 2 2011: Re: cigarette ads. I don't understand why this is so complicated. Either advertising works or it doesn't. If it doesn't work, then the question is irrelevant. If does work, however, it means that advertisers change people's behavior and ideas. In other words, their actions have an effect. Ethically, they must be accountable for the consequences of their actions. I can think of no other realm in life where one is absolved from responsibility for the results of their actions. If your work leads to more people dying of lung cancer, to more kids smoking their first cigarette, to more second-hand smoke floating around innocent bystanders, no amount ideological philosophizing will wash away that stain. To say otherwise is to claim that advertisers, for some reason, bear less responsibility for the effects of their actions than the rest of us.
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      Jun 2 2011: Clarity! Thank you Mark! Advertising has used a whole truck load of psychological tools that are specifically designed to seduce people. Not only was Freud's nephew (who searched for a word other than propaganda because he said the Nazi's ruined the word )-the first major player but every major player from the early study of Psychology from all the major universities in the States have been actively involved in overt manipulation of the American public for years. Advertising works.
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      Jun 2 2011: if someone eats hamburger, it either has an effect of influence on the young who sees it, or not. if not, it is irrelevant. if has, it means that his actions change people's behavior. ethically, he must be accountable for the consequences.

      in a nutshell: let's ban eating hamburger in public
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        Jun 2 2011: For starters, I didn't mention banning anything, you keep bring that up. Just because I insist you have an ethical responsibility to be accountable for you actions doesn't mean i want to ban them.

        You seem to want it both ways: you're hyper-critical of using government to coerce behavior (and I'm often with you on this), AND you're hyper-critical of insisting people take responsibility for the effects of their actions. You can't have it both ways unless you are for anarchy.
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          Jun 2 2011: being accountable means what then? i think the less severe consequence would be to disallow them to continue doing that.

          critical about government coercion, yes. also critical about any other form of coercion. personal responsibility sure. and i see no contradiction here. in fact, i think it is the same thing. we should not try to shift our personal responsibilities to the government. it does not work, and it is unethical.
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      Jun 2 2011: Mark hi there
      A coupe of comments on your post.
      - You talk about Advertisers, and that isn't what Charles's question is about. He asked about the Responsibility of the folks creating the ads on behalf of the Advertisers. In the example of Tobacco ads, the only Responsibility of the ad agency was to the Tobacco company paying the bills. Just like the Trucking Companies delivering the cigarettes. The "Advertiser" (ie: the Tobacco brand owner) might well have a different responsibility.
      - Cigarettes are interesting to talk about, because they're extreme (and illegal to advertise). But what about Drink, Gambling, Fatty Foods, Cosmetics, Autos with bad fuel consumption? Do you think advertising of these things should be banned? And if so by whom? Do you think Abortionists should be able to advertise (as they do here in the UK)? Many folks would find it wrong that we allow Abortion advertising yet ban Cigarette advertising; others would want to ban Gambling ads but not Abortionists ads. It'd be a fun debate fighting over who had greater moral authority the pro or anti abortioners, but surely the only deciding question as to whether it is ok for an ad agency to produce ads is if it's legal for them to do?
      The only responsibility for an ad-maker is to their client and to act within the law.
      (On a personal level, the individual ad man might be very reluctant to make ads for something he disagrees with [let's say, the abortioners, gambling or whatever] but that is a personal decision NOT a RESPONSIBILITY).
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    May 29 2011: maybe i'm late to the party, but dropping in my thoughts anyway.

    maybe those who want advertisements to be more intelligent or entertaining, are trying to make someone else do what they think is important? maybe it is the old routine: i want this and this, so someone else should make it! i'm not going to help, i'm not going to pay for it, i don't even know how, but i appoint someone else to make it happen, so i can sit back.

    we want more charity? make big corporations do that! make the government do that! they have responsibility! i'm just a humble pedestrian down here, it is not my task!

    we want more intelligent ads? big corporations should do it! if not, government must make them do it! let's regulate ads, so they can't be too persuasive, too loud, too vague, too much relying on imagery. we have to squeeze out some fun or value from them! so we can watch TV and eat popcorn.

    we all agree that someone else must fix the world. it explains a lot about why the world needs fixing in the first place.
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      May 29 2011: Krizstian..I agree with your sense that there is a cultiral tendency to want someone else to act on our values..that is what has been expressed in this conversation and I agree it is what's wrong with our body of laws and regulations in america ( another discussion another time)
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      May 30 2011: Way to hit the nail on the head dude.
  • May 29 2011: Interesting post James,

    "I think this really helps us answer Charles's question. The only responsibility you have is one which you enter into consciously and seriously, eg: like a paid contract! Strikes me as pretty obvious that the only responsibility of An maker is to the Advertiser they have contracted with."

    So James: Following your logic, if someone accepted a contract "snuff you out of existence", their only responsibility is to the client that requested the hit... AND, since you are "Not sure a "Citizen" has any "Responsibility" to a non-existant vague blob called "Society".", your murderer should be allowed to bear no responsibility for his actions since the "vague blob called Society" should not take a Moral or Ethical stand against such behavior.

    Hmmmm, Very interesting point of view James.
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      May 29 2011: 2 thumbs up on this comment ( Sorry gus)???

      ..That is so clearly not at all what this conversation is about

      .We are talking creative work product here

      .We are talking about a specific type of contract here .between an ad agency and its client

      .The question before us here is also very specific and limited.".beyond the primary objective of the creative work product, to sell product, are the client and/or the ad ageny obligated to entertain, enlighten or inform?"In essence

      James has said no and his comments on community respond to Thomas' assertion that all of us have obligations in community tha ttranscend or come before contracts and law

      ..Do you think there is a responsbilkity for ads to enlighten, inform and entertain?

      Do you think that falls within the scope of Thomas' assertion that we have obligations to one another that are above the law or before the law (ie common courtesy)?I have argued that there is an obligation based on courtesy to at least not offend and nice whenever possible to also make the ad pleasing to a broad base of folk exposed to the ad.

      Charles, our questione/host/moderator has said the same thing, essentially ..but more along the lines of if its possible it's a good thing to do. Do you agree or disagree with that?
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      May 31 2011: Er... no. Because, Gus, that would be against the law, and your post is a bit silly.

      Lindsay nicely summarises the points here.
      - Do we all (not just the creators of advertising.... could be architects, musicians, gardeners, poets etc, anything with output in the public eye) have a responsibility to be a force for good
      - Do we (creators of advertising, lawyers, doctors, whatever, [hitmen in the case of Gus :)]...) only have a responsibility to the clients we contract with.

      I think the word RESPONSIBILITY is the key word here, and to be it's clear that responsibility can only be to your client.
  • May 27 2011: For what it’s worth, I think a lot of the responses have been really thoughtful and interesting. Everyone who’s joined this conversation is obviously smart and informed, so I’ll try to be as well.
    The view that an advertising agency has one job and one job only – to generate results for their client – is easy to take and easy to defend. By the same logic, though, a logging company’s only job is to cut down as many trees as possible and a sub-prime mortgage lender’s only job is to generate as many sub-prime mortgages as possible. Those positions are also widely held (although perhaps less so since the recent economic meltdown). I think the problem is that those ideas represent one-dimensional thinking in an increasingly multi-dimensional world. No realistic person would argue that ad makers should sacrifice effectiveness for entertainment. But advertising is a part of popular culture, for better or worse. And for ad makers to consider the effect of their work – whether it will be interesting and enhancing or just more noise – seems to me to be, at the risk of sounding like Martha Stewart, a good thing.
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      May 27 2011: Hi Charles,
      I really have the sense that you tried to bring some good will into the Groupon ads and it didn't quite workout for you. After all ,the issues which are important to people would have been given really prime time premium advertising space for free. That's no small thing for many causes!
      I am wondering if you might have managed to pull it off it the presentation was the other way around? What I mean is if you had started with the light hearted idea- say Liz Hurley and her brazillian and the pain made her think of the real pain that the earth was experiencing in the rain forest? Of if Timothy Hutton had started out having the meal and its flavours and gathering with friends (maybe monks) could turn their mind to the beauty of Tibet.
      I would love to hear you thoughts but I understand if this might not be the venue. I have to say though in all the hub bubb it could have been a generous act in advertising.
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      May 28 2011: hey charles..thanks for stopping by and couldn't agree more..well said.
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      May 29 2011: I think we should be careful asking advertisers to be the guardians of culture. You can't really micromanage culture because it requires both the producer and the consumer to be in sync. Why put the burden on advertisers when you could just as easily lay this responsibility on television viewers by telling them they are ethically bound to shun stupid tv and avoid purchasing from poor advertisers.

      Also, how we decide what is noise and what is valuable culturally is really very difficult to do without the benefit of hindsight. A great book for perspective is Nicolas Slonimsky's 'Lexicon of Musical Invective' in which he quotes the culture bearers of earlier times getting it so completely wrong with music that it's funny. You can read none other than John Ruskin writing, "Beethoven always sounds to me like the upsetting of bags of nails…" A lot of ads that seemed ridiculously stupid in their day are nostalgia pieces that in hindsight seem very culturally relevant to their times.

      The most you can ask of advertisers is to not be cynical and not promote products that are bad for people. They should avoid propaganda and ads like those that claimed more doctors smoke Camels. They should have an ethic based on honesty not aesthetics. We should not ask them to be responsible for culture; good advertising will be in tune with existing culture, which will also make it relevant and effective.

      The comparison with logging and mortgage lenders is a bad idea. If advertisers following market forces can bring the same kind of harm to society as over-logging and predatory lending, the answer to that problem in a free market is regulation. I don't think that's an idea most advertisers are prepared to stand behind.
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        May 29 2011: no disagreement in this quarter mark and I like your elaboration of what we seem to be agreeing on...very helpful
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      May 31 2011: Hi Charles, and thanks for posting the question.
      But hey!!!
      Er, you're changing your question now! You're saying that for us to consider the implications of our Creative output is a good thing. Of course I agree with that. Anything I do in life, I want to do consciously, and with thought to the feelings of others, and every little thing we do touches someone in some way.
      BUT that is totally different from saying I have a responsibility to think about others apart from my client.
      I can think about them, I might want to go in the World, I might want our washing powder ad to inter-alia show a positive portrayal of a woman.... but it's not a Responsibility.
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        Jun 1 2011: It is prettty common practice on TED conversations for the question's author to ask follow up question so that greater clarification can be obtained.
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    May 26 2011: Yes. All citizens of a society have the responsibility to improve it. With the reach of ad agencies their are in a special position to affect society. I'm not saying to ignore the clients requests and completely take over an ad but if all the agencies added positive messages where there was room it could help a great deal. Even if there was only the ability to slip in a good message in half of the ads that could still have an great effect for positive societal mentality change. When situations come up that don't change the product promotion aspect of the ad, things that are just background details, this is the opportunity to consciously promote positive thoughts. Such as when there is a sign that is in the background but still legible that has nothing to o with the ad itself, just part of the scenery, instead of leaving the sign as it is captured say a road sign this could be altered with a positive message. So change he sign in the car commercial from saying the distance to different cities have it make a statement for recycling, something clear and to the point like the recycling triangle maybe with a quick word or two to accentuate the positive nature of this action. Or instead of a recycling sign have it a sign for the United Way, Children's Miracle Network, or some such other non-profit that benefits the greater good. There are many opportunities in todays advertising to aid in positive change.
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      May 26 2011: We have the responsibility but do we have the education to improve it?
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    Jun 5 2011: Chuck, I believe any opportunity to enlighten and inform is a good one. When faced with the typical advertising assignments we are often placing our client's objectives (obviously) on the fore front. "Sell this" - "Drive this" It becomes the cretive obligation of the team behind the ideal to propel that notion forward. Where we see true success is inour ability as creatives to infuse a broader message. As you know advertising is refelective of the heartbeat of the people at any given moment. Truly successful campaigns tap into that rythm and offer up innovative ways to "sell", "entertain" and hopefully enlighten.
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      Jun 5 2011: Hi Chris well said..glad to have you here. What you have added to this conversation is very similar to what Chuck said, below.

      I like your further observation that when ad creators can give added value to the client and to to the public by tapping into and reflecting the most positive heartbeats.

      Seems so small but if every ad had that extra positive spin on the the rythmns and heartneats of the pubkic at arge it could have a very dramatic positive impact on culture as a whole. Glad if that is already a strategy for your ad campaigns.
  • Jun 2 2011: Any company needs to sell its products, they might have some customers already but they are definitely aiming in getting more customers trough advertising. So advertising exists in order to help their clients sell the product, inspire people to use it. Normally advertising should be informative, highlight the benefits of the product, and inform people about it. What happens sometimes, not always, is that advertising trough its messages and images might play dirty, exploiting or creating needs, building stories, giving advice that nobody asks for. If those customers are harmed by the product you advertise you should take responsibility for that. So you might be careful of what you advertise before you advertise it.
  • Jun 2 2011: Mark Meyer, I wish you had posted a couple of days earlier, it would have saved me having to bang my head against the wall s o m a n y t i m e s in the last 24 hours. Great post.
  • Jun 1 2011: I have enjoyed reading everyone thoughts on this subject. However I find James Walkers 'responsibility' argument cold and disconcerting. I think advertising agencies and corporations show a deep disrespect for human beings.

    I wonder if the only people who really need adverts are advertising agencies and rapacious corporations eager to maximise profit and increase market share. Business speak for institutionalised greed if ever there was.

    If tomorrow all TV and Radio advertising was banned, people would still find out about products. Companies that made things well would still develop a good reputation. Culturally advertising spends billions getting people to think of the world in terms of products to be consumed; a sad, soulless, inhumane way to 'speak' to much of the world's population.

    People make the argument that adverts are partly about informing people of the latest products, but anyone can find out what's for sale without the need for billions of dollars being spent tweaking people’s fears and desires and conflating them with products. If a human tried to 'communicate' with me in a similar manner I would be very suspicious of them.

    In a way advertising agencies are like Mafia thugs providing 'security' for local businesses. 'Pay us and we will protect you from the other gangsters!' Translated: "Pay us for a million dollar ad campaign or watch your profits get damaged by other companies using ad agencies."

    "The Nag factor, a marketing study that evaluated the effect of nagging, was designed to teach children how to nag more effectively.”

    We would do well to remember that corporations who pay billions of dollars every year on advertising are themselves undemocratic institutions who have a legal responsibility to place profit above all other considerations. The repeatedly documented negative effect of corporations on democracies around the world has been nothing short of catastrophic.
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      Jun 1 2011: every single corporation is eager to maximize profit. profit means you took resources and transformed them into something more valuable. loss means you took some resources and transformed them into something less valuable. creating more value of the same limited resources is good. but you managed to present it as evil.

      companies are not democratic inside. it was never our intentions to make them to be. you are free to cooperate with a company. they have no means to force you. that's why they can operate freely, within the boundaries of the rules of the game. on the contrary, the state can force you, and has legal monopoly. that's why we need democratic control over it. however, in a symbolic sense, capitalism is more democratic. you don't even need to convince anyone about a product being bad. you simply don't buy it.

      one major element of capitalism is competition. if ads do work, and do increase sales, it is impossible to skip it. but why does it work? you say you would be suspicious. but it happens, and people indeed buy their products. so it seems ads are not suspicious to the majority? anyway, you have problems not with ads or advertising companies, but people it seems. people who fall for the obvious lies, like "intelligent molecule" and "38% more shiny hair" and such. education of people is what you want.
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    May 31 2011: Within their job function their purpose is to drive results for their clients. But the people who create advertisements are also human beings, which comes with its own set of responsibilities.
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      May 31 2011: definitely. for example it is questionable whether ad makers can intentionally lie. it might not be their job to verify the claims they received from the manufacturer. but if we know they know it is a lie, we can rightfully question the ethical status of the ad makers. similarly, if they mass murder baby elephants during the making of the ad, it is their responsibility, and should face repercussions.

      however, i highly doubt that being informative, entertaining, funny, creative, original or anything of the sort is a moral necessity. i mean, come on, how many of you are? not being original or funny is perfectly acceptable behavior. you don't like it, don't watch it.
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        May 31 2011: I know this is complex but where do our responsibilities engage? Is it my responsiblity to do what is right ever? Are there fundamental places in our hearts and minds that say there may not be a law but I'm not doing this for a pay cheque?
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    May 31 2011: You can ask a very simple question:

    Does doing your job release you from asking moral questions?

    That said: hiding behind "I only did my job"... is a way to fragment yourself and you allow to withhold your moral judgement...
    Yes, an ad-creator should wory about what he is promoting, how he is promoting it and whether it needs promotion in the first place...

    But then again, if you value your income more than your morals... i'm a mere mortal too
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      May 31 2011: it releases me from some moral aspects, not from others.

      the question is whether your work per se (!) violates ethics. manufacturing a gun is not such an activity, since a gun can be used for defense.

      question: what kind of ethical rule is violated if i make a TV ad that has not much information in it, it is not original, it is in-your-face, it is pushy? what kind of ethical rule is violated if my ad is about a product that is perfectly legal, many people wants it and buys it regularly?

      behind these arguments, i always see how people want to force their values onto others. in my moral code, selling cigarettes with lifestyle is perfectly acceptable.
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    May 27 2011: Thomas's post is interesting: All citizens of a society have the responsibility to improve it.
    I think this is a good lens to think more about Charles question, about where the responsibilities of a creator of advertising sit.
    So, Thomas, let's think about some of the words you use...
    Citizen: The notion of a "citizen" implies some kind of loyalty to a particular city, state, community etc. If you have loyalty to one community, I think this implies an antipathy towards another. It also implies that you accept the notion of a community at all, as opposed to individual living freely and making independent decisions.
    Society: IS there such a thing as society? We contract with one another out of free choice. "Society" sounds a bit socialist to me, no? Is Society really a singular noun; it's an amorphous blob of an idea, that you can't really strike a bargain with to be accountable/responsible to?
    Responsibility: Well it's clear that an Ad Agency has a responsibility to their clients to make Ads that work,,, they have a Contract, and they get paid for it!!! Not sure a "Citizen" has any "Responsibility" to a non-existant vague blob called "Society".
    I think this really helps us answer Charles's question. The only responsibility you have is one which you enter into consciously and seriously, eg: like a paid contract! Strikes me as pretty obvious that the only responsibility of An maker is to the Advertiser they have contracted with.
    (But, that is not to say that the Ad guys are good guys doing great things as personal individuals or even as a business, and/or it's not to say that worthy or enlightening advertising might not be the most effective. Lots of individuals at ad agencies refuse to work on tobacco ads, or would object to offensive portrayals of women - Indeed such a stand might even be good for business. But let's be clear about the literal meaning of responsibility, and I think it's actually a pretty clear and simple question).
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      May 27 2011: Good morning James..Thomas will leap in ably I'm sure.

      In any contract the obligations for performance are clearly defined and , of course, nothing external to the contract, contractually speaking has any contractual relevance. So obviously, an ad agencies duty inder law is only to the terms of the contract with the client.

      And a client has a sense of what style an agency employs and already has some alinement with that style in selecting an agency..So the contact is supported at the outset by a confluence of style and values. Part of making the contract in the first place is reaching that place of confluence..where the ckient feels the "pitch" of the ad guys is his how he wants his product thought of by consumers.

      Ultimately, that product , whether a print ad, a viral marketing campaign, or a video, comes before a universal auidience only some of whom are potential customers of the client. That is what puts the relationship between an ad agency and his client in a different arena of accountability. That is what was at issue in the Calvin Kline jeans ads ( which I loved by the way)..that is what was at issue in Chuck's XSuperbowl ads for Groupon. It offended the sensibilities of a larger public. It is at that intersection that where the accountability of the ad agency..the creator and designer of what is placed in the public doman extends beyond the contract.
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        May 27 2011: Hey Lindsay
        So, you're saying that an ad agency has a responsibility not to offend?
        Hmmm, I'm not sure it's true of an individual artist working for themselves, let alone a commercially driven business, that you have a duty not to offend?
        This doesn't seems right to me.
        The Responsibility is only to do what's best for the client. Same with MY lawyer, MY doctor, MY painter and decorator, MY care mechanic (who's pretty offensive to most people by the way), their responsibility is to ME, not to the "wider public".
        Is there a Responsibility (you say here to "not offend the larger public") for an agency to DO GOOD, TO NOT OFFEND....? I just can't see that.
        (Again, agree as you imply, it can be part of the Pitch to attract business that you're GOOD-GUYS who only only doing GOOD, as in worthy, advertising).
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          May 27 2011: Hello great that you are sticking to this..I admire that..and am glad you are here

          Would you agree that in all of the contrcats you mention, and indeed the relationship with me and my many contrcators and laboreres here on my own property is contained (assuming I don't hire folk to pollute the cove or pollute the air or make a huge noise etc.)..

          the work product is private.. it doesn't involve or affect anyone else

          That is not so of advertising product..advertsing product exists in the world. Iin fact, its whole purpose and its whole value ( to the client) is to persuade and enangage a market ..and also has spill over to a wider community of non buyers (potential investors maybe but non I'm not a runner not interested in nay ad about running gear))

          That spill over into the lives and sensibiities of non buyers ( folk who aren't part of and won't become part of the market you are adressisng in a given campaign) still has an effcet on that wider public.

          Not to pick on Chuck's Superbowl ad again..but there whatever was intended in terms of product- market engaement there..a very wide group felt insukted and ffended by the apparent trivialisation of charitable givers and supporters of each cause. There was most likely a way to use a very expensive super bowl slot to position that client wwell without offending anyone..There was no need to disrespect and insult these widely supported and highly valued charitable causes. That had to have been intentional.

          Where is the value in that?

          To put a point in my point, I think that minimum level of accountability to the broader public is not only good business but a basic courtesy to the broader audience who are exposed to your work product without choice.
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        May 27 2011: Hi Lindsay,
        So not sophistry,a genuine question. I'd like to know what you think.
        You're saying that if if put a poster up selling beans, I have a responsibility not to offend folks. (And ideally, I should try to enrich the lives of passers by, not just sell them beans). And Thomas is saying I have active responsibility to improve lives with my poster.
        Let's take the example of my house, designed by MY very expensive architect, contracted by me. Does he/she have a responsibility only to me to design me an amazing house that will keep me happy, or does the architect have a responsibility not to offend passers by. And even does the architect have a duty to improve the life of passers by.
        It's a tough question - My architect probably thinks that improving the life of passers by is to challenge them with his crazy modernist design and he thinks he's opening their minds. But that's a bit patronising. Equally, I don't really think that he can worry if he design offends them.
        Can't think that the design of my house is anybody's concern but by mine (and by extension, by the contract) the sole concern of the Architect?
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          May 27 2011: Hi James..not sure your comment to which I am replying also included and responded to my point above that I see an important distinction between work product that is valued and experienced strictly between two partries and the work product of an ad agency which is intended to be exposed to and experienced by as many people as possible..

          To me it is a matter of courtesy and common sense to never cause unecessary offense.At the outset I acknowledged , referring to my Uncle's London ad agency r, that the agency doesn't get the account if the cleint isn't happy with the pitch.

          And by reference to Milton Glaser I acknolwledged again that the agency may not have the level of creative control it would like to have for a specific campaign.

          I also supported and agree with your point that since client product fuels our economy and the more you sell the better it is for all of us 9 theoretically) that your work product has inherent social and economic value

          .And again I see the awareness to the sesnibilities of the broad public who are exposed to your work product as one of courtesy and commin sense.

          Not to effect social change

          ..not to incurr any expense or ask the client to incurr any additional expense to promote social values or solve social problems.

          I would like to note, once again, that the creative Director of an agency sets the tone and style for the agency. My Uncle was a humanist, he was brilliant and witty and he had impeccable taste. His ads appearing the full length of London double deckers ( as well as in hi end print) made every one that saw them feel good..they contained in their style and tone humanity and good will. and a very high aesthetic standard. . They set up a spirit of good will between all people and the client product he was representing in the campaign.It is a sensibility that is most welcome and mosr appreciated by the majority of people when it is present.
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          May 28 2011: Hey James..just checked out the recent MoFilm winners at your website..all have the qualtities I value in a commercial

          may be just call it different things.....

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          May 28 2011: After reading all of James' entries it surprised me that Lindsay finds the MoFilm winners have social value.
          Would I be right in assuming then James that any social value is simply what you perceive to be most likely to make you money?
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          May 29 2011: Yes social value..they are charming, entertaining, clever, not offensive, humanist, pleasant to watch.

          What else is a commercial supposed to be?
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          May 29 2011: Lindsay, I have not seen the commercials. I was saying that James does not seem to believe that he has any social responsibility beyond fulfilling a contract. He does not even accept the term community. I am wondering what his motivation is to promote anything with social value.
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          May 29 2011: Debra, I

          think you'll like the Golden Thumbs commercial and I found the ew others I watched very charming and pleasnt. That's all Ithe social value a commercial has to have in my book.

          Charles seems to agree as well.
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          May 30 2011: Kindly, Lindsay, I believe that motivation is intrinsic to understanding most of what we do. Motivations determines why anyone would feel an obligation to do anything. I would like my questions to stand and be judged by the whole. They can be ignored if they are not deemed relevant by the group. : )
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        May 31 2011: Hi there Debra
        The key word here is "Responsibility".
        As it happens, and I wouldn't have mentioned this, but Lindsay put it out there, in my professional life I work extensively with social causes. In my personal life, I devote a great deal of time and money to causes I am passionate about, and have given away a large portion of my wealth.
        I make ads for social causes and for Big Brands. And, as it happens, the ads for both big brands and social causes are fun, enlightening, uplifting, and occasionally thought provoking and entertaining.
        We do good stuff at Mofilm, and we've given the chance to 5,000 young film-makers to get started, and I can't think of one film we've ever made that is offensive or even patronising. Indeed, I know our film-makers and our Brands will WANT to create content that portrays positive role-models and indeed brighten the day of whoever sees the films.
        BUT. That is a very very very different thing to say I have a "responsibility" other than to my clients.
        I might choose to do good and be a good-guy, but it's not a responsibility to.
        As to your very interesting point about Motivation, and whether you can judge an act (say a crime) in the context of it's motivation is interesting. Is a murder worse because it is racially motivated, or less bad because it is a crime of passion? Or even worse because it's a crime of passion... some cultural issues here. Is there such a thing as an immoral thought, or only immoral acts? I tend to think you can't judge someone on their thoughts, only on their deeds.
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      May 27 2011: Would it be better if I used the term "community" in which there is no debate that we are part of. Unless of course you are completely self sufficient and do not rely on products or services of others. So as a member of a community there is a responsibility to improve it.
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        May 27 2011: Nope, don't like Community either.
        We live and trade together, and form conscious relationships.
        We have no RESPONSIBILITY to IMPROVE what you call "community" because "community" doesn't exist as a singular noun. What we have is a bunch of people choosing to freely interact with each other. So, In this sense, still don't at all agree with you...... We have no responsibility whatsoever to improve the circumstances of others.
        Of course. that's not to say that I don't think charity is a great thing, that to hep the needy is not great, and indeed I like to think that I do my bit. I happen to be very involved in social causes, both professionally and personally. BUT. This is a private decision of conscience and what I choose to do out of freewill. It is not a responsibility. I don't hold you "responsible" to tithe 10% of your income to help folks less fortunate than you. I'd love you for it you do, and I think it's great, but I don't hold you responsible and EXPECT you to do it.
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          May 27 2011: "What we have is a bunch of people choosing to freely interact with each other." This implies that I can choose not to interact with others. In order to live anywhere near the norm of social construct then I do not have a choice to associate with others, it is mandatory and unavoidable. I do have the choice to leave society behind and live in the woods where that there are no interactions with others. Then again to do that in the country today I would either have to be a part of the society to gain the means of acquiring land or go to a national forest which is supported by our society. So to live in the U.S.A. is to be part of the society/community begrudgingly or openly.

          "We have no responsibility whatsoever to improve the circumstances of others."
          Then we have no right to complain about the situations in the world.
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          May 27 2011: " 'community' doesn't exist as a singular noun."

          Except that it does. You just used it as a singular noun, but of course that's just semantics.

          The bigger point is that collective nouns do represent real things. Although your eyes go letter to letter and word to word, you read a book, not a collection of independent words. You are a human being not just a collection of cells and the cells are more than just collections of atoms. A bee hive is not just a collection of insects—no single bee ever built a hive. A thunderstorm is more than a set of individual water atoms.

          And a community is not just a collection of individuals. Community embodies the relationships, laws, and norms between groups of people. Communities bring their own set of affordances within which the individual operates. Features within a community can be emergent and naturally forming or created purposely. (If you really want to explore this idea, Hayek talks a lot about it in "Law, Legislation and Liberty.") Individuals can affect the community as a whole which is another way of saying that they can affect the lives of many individuals now and in the future in ways that are difficult to predict.
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          May 29 2011: I am reluctant to jump in here but I think there is no big gap here between what you are saying James and What you are saying is just semantics but with one small difference and I am with James on this..and I think it was what Krisztian was pointing to above.

          We can't dictate what others repsonsibiities are ..we can only take up our own commitmnets to the values that mean enough to us to act on.

          In other words if we are moved by the plight of the hungry..get out there and feed them..aline yiur values with your own actions..don't expect your values to be attached to everyone else actions..get on the case yourself..make your own alinement between spirit and will..act on your own values.

          I think, very simply.. that's what James is saying..and if I am not mistaken, Krisztian as well.

          Charles' comment summarizes quite well what I feel is an apprpraite expecttaion for us..all of us exposed to ads, to have of the work product of advertiisng agencies.. basically that they are midful of braoder sensibilities amongst the folk who will be exposed to the ad.
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        May 27 2011: Hi Thomas, yes, your summary is right.
        We have no responsibility whatsoever to improve the circumstances of others. We might choose to, but we have no responsibility to. I do choose to help, as it happens, but I am not compelled to do so (that's be like a morality tax...!).
        You then say, that it must follow that "we have no right to complain about the situations in the world."
        Hmmm, I am not sure of the logic of that. I can comment on lots of things i have no responsibility to change. I can say I don't like how a team plays Football, I can comment on a War in Libya. It doesn't mean I have a responsibility to go teach Leeds United how to play better football (not sure I am the right man....) or to go shoot down Nato planes because I don't agree with the war they're waging (I do support it BTW). There is absolutely no link on the right to comment on the conduct of others, and then a responsibility to change those folks if I don't like it.
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          May 27 2011: So I'm glad that I was able to get the point across that you are a citizen of a society. Which leads into another topic of discussion that we may be able to pick up on another day which is what are the civic responsibilities of the individual in a community.

          I think we are running into some fundamental differences in our mentalities here. I do not feel that we have a right to complain about situations if we are not willing to better them. Therefore a responsibility is inherent to improve things you view as wrong. Not to mention the responsibility to better lives of those less fortunate. You'll likely argue that you are not responsible for helping those in need. That it's a choice to be made by the individual and even that it's a good choice but no responsibility. To that I say here is one of the aspects of society that must be changed in order to make the world a better place. Many of us choose to ignore our responsibilities to the world, ecologic, humanitarian, and societal this does not mean they do not exist.

          Just because I am not in Libya fighting for the rights of those citizens does not mean that I cannot support them. Or that I am unwilling to support them more if I obtained a position with capabilities to do so. Advertising agencies are in a position to affect change, therefore they are responsible to do so. 'With great power comes great responsibility'.
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          May 27 2011: can't disagree, James.
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          May 29 2011: topic here but I also want to get to that discussion of our responsbilities as citizens and national citizens..working on it for a Ted Conversation
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        May 27 2011: Hi Thomas
        You know what, I think you may have made me pause for thought!!!
        The gist of what you say is: One has no right to an opinion unless you have the courage to follow it up with action.
        You say we should not feel that we have a right to comment about situations if we are not willing to better them. Maybe you're right: I shouldn't watch a football match and complain about how a team has played unless i am willing to get the bus over to Leeds, go down to the ground, and show them how it's done.
        That IS an interesting and big idea, and I worry you might be right.
        We can't comment on a "friend" telling a racist joke, unless we actually stop him. We stop racist thugs in the street. I travel to Leeds to tell them how to play football better. I'm scared that you're actually right, but it's either going to be VERY hard work (and a bit dangerous...) telling all those people what I think of them, or indeed you're right and that you have no right to an opinion unless you follow it up with action.
        But, haha, doesn't this mean you can't criticise the ads for not bettering society unless you want to pop down to Madison Ave and tell them how to do it?? :)
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          May 27 2011: I would greatly enjoying telling them how to make some ads, be even better if they listen!
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          May 29 2011: James..Aren't you already aligning your values, your will and your action in MoFilm.? And isn't that the point of this paricular conversation.. That the alignment is a very personal thing..not something that others can perscribed for us...and that hopefully most of us over our lives will on a fairly regular basis align oru will, our values, and our actions towards something that serves others and not just ourselves?
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    May 27 2011: Corporate doesn't care about the consumer, the only reason corporate tends to the consumer is for profitable interest. If the consumer became aware of the mistreatment of conduct it would become unprofitable to the Corporate. Corporate would have to tend to the consumers needs and desires are once again if the demand was not met. The point I am trying to get to is that it will have to get to the point where people are aware of real problems before they will be able to solve them. I feel that people should be held responsible for the mistreatment of plants, animals, and man himself that is brought in the action of a Corporate.

    The words they speak on the news and the advertisements really separate people from the reality of things. I feel that more people should feel obligated to join in the "greater good" and start helping the society as a whole. I think that's the moment everyone is waiting for, but someone has to start it. It has to come from the top down. Hard to get people thinking in light when they are siting in the dark. I think the influence the advertisement has is tremendous it can result in a very positive way, or a very negative way. Ultimately, I feel the individuals of all the communities should have power in influencing like how the advertisement affects them. I think with that type of a system it would equal out in time. As long as both sides had power.
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      May 27 2011: Dan..nice to meet you and agree completely.

      I especially love this touchstone quote from your comment:

      "Hard to get people thinking in light when they are sitting in the dark"

      All of us in everything we do, including advertising, including every decision we makee about products and services should hold up the light.

      Thank you Dan..glad to have your light with us here at Ted Conversations.
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    May 25 2011: Hi Charles!
    You have brought us an interesting question. I am considering it in light of the 2006 Harvard Business Review article by Michael Porter and his more recent talks. Porter maintains that business today has gotten a very bad reputation by focusing too narrowly on driving for results. He is worried that corporations must do something - and Bill Gates appears to be indicating the same line of thought- or there will be consequences from the consumers and perhaps from legislation.
    Porter advocates Corporate Social Value as opposed to CSR which costs money. It is essentially choosing the area of the social world that is most aligned with your business and working to improve society in that area while engaging it with a profit motive. He maintains that businesses are more able to effect societal improvement than governments or NGOs because it is the specialty and because they know how to do it efficiently.

    So one of the gurus of business thought appears to support the idea that you have other obligations and they just might make a huge difference to your bottom line if you do it well and change the world for the better.
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      May 25 2011: For those of you who are interested in this further, read October issue 2010 'Creating Shared Value' by Michael Porter and Mark Kramer
  • Jun 7 2011: In answer to your original question: As long as what you are doing is within the law you have no other professional obligations. However, what ones sense of morality says to you is a different matter.

    There is a continuous drip feed of vacuous consumerism being presented as ways of life we are clearly meant to emulate and aspire to. As such the motive for profit and the making of money have an enormous effect of what successive generations of people come to believe as reality. Are people working in advertising agencies able to think about advertising in these ways? If they did they surely would not stay working there for long.
  • Jun 6 2011: Wow. I feel like I threw a pork chop into a pool of incredibly intelligent piranhas.

    I started this conversation because I perhaps saw one too many commercials that caused me to throw something at the TV. Griffin Tucker, in his response, expressed it a different way. I think the words were "a great hatred".

    The point I wanted to make was simple. If you're going to put something on the air that we all have to look at, put a little creativity and craft and intelligence into it. Don't just scream "buy one, get one free" for thirty seconds Naively, I thought this was a yes-or-no question. Instead, we've ended up with an exchange of some really interesting ideas ranging from the duties of an individual to society to the role of popular culture to who gets to decide what's good and bad anyway.

    James Walker was, I think, the first to respond. His comments have been unvaryingly intelligent and thoughtful and he is not someone I'd like to debate. His position, however, is that an ad maker has a responsibilty only to the client, and he uses the analogy that an architect's responsibly is also only to the client whose house he's designing. I think this is an apt analogy but it brings me to the opposite conclusion. I think an architect's FIRST responsibility is to the client, but I think there is also a responsibility to think about the effects -- aesthetically, environmentally, and otherwise -- that his or her creation will have on the community and the world.

    I fully expect to be intellectually trumped by James in the next 24 hours, but I'm okay with that. The fact is that this conversation has caused me to think way more deeply about this issue than I ever intended, and to re-examine what was, admittedly, a pretty simplistic position.

    And in the end, I guess that's the point.
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      Jun 6 2011: maybe the word "obligation" what caused all the heat. if the question was "would you have a drink with the guy who created the calgon ads?" the answer probably would be a simple yes or no, and most likely a no. however, i would happily have a drink with rory sutherland. he is a brilliant guy with spectacular stories to tell.
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      Jun 6 2011: We need to remember that an ad man is always selling and perhaps James Walker is the one who is in a position to buy?
      • Jun 6 2011: I don't actually know James Walker, but the only thing I'm selling right now is a low mileage '04 Mercedes.
        If he's interested, we can certainly talk. It's sort of silver grey.
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      Jun 7 2011: Hey Charles..and all who engaged here.

      .shows to go you if you take any element that is about any interaction between and among humans, intsitutions, corporations and stick to it in discenrnment and respect you will eventually arrive at a kind fo higher ground where you are wiser than when you sarted the process and have more of value to bring to the next round whether here at Ted or as Conte is doing backinto our lives through conversations at home and perhaps public meetings.

      Here it seems as if we also landed in a kind of consensus that we would appreciate it if coprorations and advertisers speak whenever possible to the higher and better of "we the people" and that there is no reason not to do that

      but that we as individuals have to take repsonsbility for our own choices and our actions..we can't expect corporations and advertisers to re engineer us

      .I didn't expect this conversation to lead to such fundamentally important ground.Thank you all. I have learned so much being here with you

      .PS Charles..rag top? sports model? miles?? ( just kidding.. I will never give up my bright red 2001 jeep wrangler soft top..even if it takes an army to put the top up and down)
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    Jun 5 2011: What you think about Information Security in the life?
  • Jun 2 2011: I little more awareness about the sub-conscious impact of visual used in some adds. e.g cosmetics for various skin diseases should be less into providing graphic illustrations with mug-shots. I think auto suggestion can be both auditory as well as visual and it seems like advertisers are either insensitive or unaware of these issues and should take care.

    Another point would be an emphasis on understanding the strategic goals of the organization and implementing strategic marketing plans which take into consideration the evolving nature of the business and the challenges that could be faced in the future. e.g Oil and Gas companies should have a strategic timeline for diversifying into alternative industries and advertising companies should understand and appreciate their role as facilitators in the quest for better more environmentally sustainable alternatives. (tobacco industry would also benefit from such integrated strategic marketing systems that will help in weaning them away and assist them in branching out into new development initiatives.

    Advertisers face another challenge with respect to the sophisticated viewer who perceives their pitch with more awareness of techniques and can actually understand where the presentation is aimed and it's effectiveness. People are less likely to be susceptible to a pitch that is in sharp contrast to the actual information on the ground. e.g an ad for an Oil & Gas company provides it's viewers with it's emphasis on corporate social responsibilities which the news networks are exposing catastrophic environmental damage to the eco-system. Flexibility is essential in today's fast track news dissemination.
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      Jun 2 2011: I stopped watching video clips on CNN because between every clip there was commercial. The frequency really got to me then there was a particular commercial that was very loud and I found the situation obnoxious to the point where I no longer use that feature of the site.
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    Jun 2 2011: Do advertisers' contribute in driving consumerism in developed nations (US, EU, Japan, etc)? and with this as a model for the developing nations (China, Brazil, India, etc.), how will consumerism effect global inequalities and earth sustainability in the future?

    Using latest figures available, in 2005, the wealthiest 20% of the world accounted for 76.6% of total private consumption. The poorest 20% just 1.5%. ( , )
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      Jun 2 2011: do everyone else contribute?
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      Jun 3 2011: Advertisers invented consumerism..actually intentionally .engineered the shift from a nation of citizens actively engaged in democracy and living sustainable lives to a nation of ego centric over spenders who have n oidea what their governmnet is doing and are too lazy to find out.

      Eddie, below, introduced us to this amazing film on the birth of advertisng and public relations.It was an eye opener and it tells us a lot about our vulnerability to manipulation.

      But it's all so simple. We can totally ignore advertising, choose ad free enviornments to get our news and entertainment and live sustainably. If we don't live responsibly we can't blame advertisers or for that matter the product manufactuerers for alll the things we say are wrong.

      Every single choice we make as individuals is either in the direction o breaking or feeding that cycle of consumerism that feeds the plutonomy beast .

      Obviously advertisers and public relations firms will always be be the front end o that beast doing everything they can to get us buy more than we can afford and not worry too much abouts the degredataion of people or the environment that it took to bring that product to market..

      We can break that cycle just by living responsibly, buying sustainably, alining our values with our will in every choice we make.

      Or what? We try and talk advertisers into re- engineering us all back to that?
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        Jun 3 2011: I was speaking with a friend last night and the idea of being aware of what you are buying came up. I wanted to know if anyone knows of a source of information to quickly check if the product is made in sweat shops or what not. I know there is a coalition of coffee growers that have a special mark but is there any thing else? Perhaps a website that I can check the stats on the manufacture? If not do you think there should be?
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          Jun 3 2011: no, there is no labeling..there is guidance..but it is doanle to 100% align every pucrchase with green values or values on exploitation of childrena nd laborers. You can do a little leg work to see if you favorite store eg Gap gets high marks or your favorite can find our which ocuntries are known for exploutaion and avoid all products from those countries. That is part of taking individual resposnbility for making sure all our purchases line up with all our values..with what we say we beleive in.
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        Jun 3 2011: Well taking it upon ourselves is all well and great but it would be much more effective if we added what we learned to a community based system that one could visit, input the company or product name, and get a few scores for such things as eco-friendliness and humanitarianism.
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          Jun 3 2011: yes, thomas, but we cannot wiat for that to happen to begin aligning our values with our choices in the market place.. the basis for making such decisions is's not such abig's no so hard..

          we just have to to do it
  • Jun 2 2011: To: Krisztián Pintér Part 2

    You write, “if an adult person decides to disregard the harmful effects for some perceived or real benefits, it is their decision to make, and not yours.” But this is completely missing the point. I’m not telling them not to smoke. If I am telling anyone, which I am not, it would be telling cigarette companies not to advertise addictive poison. In reality it would have to be a democratic decision. So this is not about me dictating.

    You say I have the right to educate and organise campaigns and then you connect doing those things to being “instead of working on a better world” and that this is because “some people (you mean me I presume) want to force their value on others.

    First, not all campaigns are about “forcing your values on others.” For example a TV campaign against domestic abuse. Second, as someone who sees no problem with multi million dollar advertising campaigns selling addictive poisons as cool lifestyle statements I would have though that you would have been all for any type of campaign? But no, if it’s an anti-smoking campaign suddenly that is “forcing values on others!”

    Don’t you think it is rather peculiar that you, the person defending the right of cigarette companies to advertise a product that has and continues to kill millions of people is the same person trying to connect my thinking to “murdering 20% of the people in death camps?”

    I am donning my intellectual helmet in preparedness for your next salvo!
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      Jun 2 2011: you mixed up something here. banning ads is forcing your views on others. making a campaign is not. that's why i recommend organizing campaigns, and not banning ads.

      also bear in mind that death camps never were advertised, and people didn't blindly fall for ads, having problems with addiction later. people were taken there by force.
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        Jun 2 2011: No, you're right, people were taken to death camps BY people who blindly fell for ads in the form of propaganda.
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          Jun 2 2011: hence my recommendation: we need to teach people how not to fall for propaganda. because otherwise those who seek control over other people will always find their way to twist people's minds.
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        Jun 2 2011: Krisztián, I have a lot of warmth for the logic of your arguments and the sense that you speak You set out your thoughts carefully and with clarity. I don't agree with everything you have posted on this topic, but I greatly respect how you have skilfully and coherently argued.
        John, I find if very hard to follow what you're talking about. I think you may well have some interesting ideas, but I find it hard to understand.
        Don't you even believe in the rule of law, the legitimacy of legal patents and brandmarks, the freedom of the individual to make free choices, the freedom of expression whether it be religion or the right of Abortionist and Beer companies (or Cigarettes, back when it was legal to advertise)?
        Businesses aren't aliens, they're part of our lives. Small businesses are owned by hard-working folks like you and I - running shops, bicycle repairers, plumbers, ad agencies or whatever. Big businesses are, oh exactly the same, they're owned by hard working people like you and I through our pensions, investments, and insurance.
        Through the innovations of great men and women and thanks to these amazing corporations (protected by patents, brands etc), the World is a wonderful place where in the West, post-industrial revolution, Real GDP has doubled every generation. We are literally 4x better off than our grandparent. (Although, the folks in the communist countries were a bit less fortunate and lost a couple of generations of growth... but hey, they're catching up fast).
        Advertising is part of this ecosystem, just like Delivery Trucks, IT Systems, Accountants, Lawyers or whatever. The folks in Madison Avenue are to be celebrated just like the Lawyers of Lincoln's Inn.
        If it's Legal, it's ok to advertise it. If it's illegal, it's not OK.
        The responsibility of my plumber, lawyer, accountant, bicycle guy, builder, adman, etc is only to me, not to you. If you want pay towards my house being built, then you have the right to give the builder some pointers
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          Jun 2 2011: thanks for your support. helps when i feel like swimming upstream. i also read your comments with great interest.
        • Jun 3 2011: Hi James,

          just to clarify, I am not saying I agree with the world being run by finacial and physical violence and I certainly hope that in the future we can live in a world that is not run like this.

          Please watch the film The Corporation, that may change your disposition about corporations.

        • Jun 7 2011: Hi James,

          I appreciate your response. I don't think the points I raised are intellectually hard to understand, it must be a matter of our conflicting ideas about how the world is that makes it hard for me to understand you and you me. Hopefully we both have a sport or something else we love in common!

          There is a world of difference between a small business and a multinational corporation. I do not fear the effects of advertising if it s only 'Bob' advertising his bikes in the local paper.

          For example, unlike 'Bob' British Petroleum, "Like most of its fellow oil companies and a number of industry associations, BP was formerly a member of the Global Climate Coalition (GCC): The coalition has heavily lobbied governments and has mounted persuasive advertising campaigns in the US to turn public opinion against concrete action on greenhouse gas emissions. The so called 'carbon club' lead the way in undermining public support for action to curb climate change." Source

          "Big businesses are, oh exactly the same, they're owned by hard working people like you and I through our pensions, investments, and insurance." I don't 'buy' that at all, I hear people say that on the TV from time to time. The truth is most people in the world have no investments and no pension. Those that have pensions have increasingly seen their pensions disappear one way or another. Look at the difference in wealth between the top 1% of the British population, the power they have and the then look at the wealth and power of everyone else and then tell me that we are somehow the owners of corporations. More on this and the lawlessness of the world please see
          and this

      • Jun 7 2011: Dear Krisztián,

        my apologies for offending you, I sincerely did not intend to. I have a dry sense of humour and don't always know when to use it and when not to.
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          Jun 7 2011: mkay
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          Jun 8 2011: John, hi
          Re. ownership of companies. Of course if you take folk in Saharan Africa, they don't have pensions/insurance and don't have a stake in big corporations. But nor do they own bicycel repair shops, ad agencies, plumbers etc. If we take the hard working folk here in Denver where I am today, or Manchester UK where I spend a lot of time, or London UK etc etc, some folks own their own businesses (shops, carpenters, smithies, ad agencies etc) and some folks participate in bigger companies through ownership through savings and investments, pensions etc. The public sector folk with their generous pensions of course have some of the biggest stakes in private companies (quite funny, really...). So, a distinction between a small business, a medium size or a big one is all a bit spurious. We own them all!!!
          If you don't like Advertising (and by implication therefore, brandmarks, patents etc), and you appear not to be a fan of commerce, what kind of system would you prefer? How would companies be organised, their investments protected and innovation (cool stuff like Groupon, valued at $20bn... think how much wealth that's going to create) be incentivised. I probably think Democracy and Capitalism (or Innovation-alism actually, as that what creates money not Capital now) are the least worst systems, but I can't think of anything better. Can you?
  • Jun 2 2011: To: Krisztián Pintér Part 1

    Ouch! Those are some pretty sharp connections you are making. Still, it's great to be able to wrestle with these things, thanks!

    Firstly this is not about me wanting to dictate to people. May I refer you to a three part post to James Walker in which I bring up issues of authoritarianism and democracy?

    Secondly, there is a world of difference between characterising people as mindless drones and being aware that billions of people are vulnerable, and seeking to talk about ways of defending them from psychopathic tobacco corporations. I myself have often been vulnerable, who has not? From your logic, if you are ever vulnerable you would not want anyone to help or defend you? If you become sick or old you would not want to be protected or looked after by anyone?

    When I started smoking at eighteen I knew the word addictive, but having never been addicted before I did not really know the meaning of the word. It took me numerous attempts throughout the sixteen years that I smoked to give up, then I new what addiction meant, but not before.

    When you are young and naïve seeing lots of bronzed Marlboro cowboys and cool John Player Special racing drivers on TV or spread across billboards certainly makes you think that maybe smoking can’t be as bad as some people say. “Why would anyone promote something that could kill you?” And once you are addicted the addiction plays with your mind; it certainly did not help me to overcome my addiction by seeing lots of cool smoking adverts that completely pander to that addicted voice in your head. The addicted voice says things like, I am young, I can give up, but not now, later, “it can’t be that bad, why would they advertise something that kills people?”
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      Jun 2 2011: 1. you are not supposed to protect anyone. they don't need and don't want your protection. if they do, they will ask for it. if you help someone who does not want it, it is not a help anymore, it is patronizing. stop putting you over other people, for your own sake.

      2. if you have vulnerabilities, work on them.

      3. corporations are not psychopaths, because they are not persons. a company has a single function to produce some good that is needed. by your logic, a machine is also a psychopath. a knife too.

      4. you seem to be motivated by your own falling for smoking. these personal reasons cloud your vision. you simply deny your own personal responsibility, and look for the one to blame. it would help you to accept that you made a mistake, and start helping other people to quit. and not bashing those, who delivered you the product you personally chose to buy.
      • Jun 2 2011: 1 I've ready talked about number 1 but you seem to have a lacuna about democracy.

        2 We all have vulnerabilities, perhaps yours may be that on this subject you appear to have very little compassion.

        3 Under law corporations are legal persons (utterly crazy yet true). Have you seen the film The Corporation, I recommend you do, it's a great film. It is by your logic and not mine that a knife is a psychopath. I was talking about corporations, which are made of people and are legally defined as having the same rights as persons and yet have the character traits of a psychopath. Corporations single function is not to produce as you say "some good," their legally defined function is to maximise profits for their investors, this is above any other consideration.

        4 Yes I am partly motivated by my 'personal reasons,' sometimes people call this being motivated by experience. I'm also motivated by knowing millions of fallible, vulnerable people, which we all are, including you, continue to be preyed upon by powerful rapacious corporations causing death and suffering in vast industrial quantities. But no, to you this is all the fault of the victims and not one percent of the problem is with the corporate drug dealers?

        5 I am starting to think you are a corporate algorithm!
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          Jun 2 2011: 2, we all have vulnerabilities, so we all have to work on them. and not blaming others.

          3, under law maybe, but i doubt psychopath is a legal term. i saw the movie, and i liked it, but i knew for sure that people will draw far fetched conclusions from it. but unless a psychopath does something harmful, he is free to move around, and interact with other people. so is the company. and while it is an abnormal condition for a human, a company is by its nature "single minded". deal with it.

          4, motivated by experience and blinded by experience is different. i assert that you blame tobacco companies for your own downfall. it is not a good thing to do. you did it wrong, and i'm happy that you were strong enough to overcome it. it is not the tobacco manufacturer's fault that you fell for smoking. just as it is not your friends', wife's, church's or whatever's success that you dropped it. it is your success.

          5, and i'm starting to be fed up with your insults.
  • Jun 1 2011: To: James Walker, Part 3

    I heartily disagree with you when you narrow the choices down to two.

    “There can only be 2 judges of how you limit advertising on the grounds of "morality":
    - What YOU as an individual feel happy to do, and that's a RESPONSIBILITY to yourself
    - What's Legal, and that I guess is the RESPONSIBILITY to a wider group that many of the posts here have alluded to”

    Firstly, your first ‘choice’ does not exist; obviously, “You as an individual,” have no power to “limit advertising,” this leaves only one of your two judges able to “limit advertising” and that is, as you say “What’s Legal.”

    But “What’s legal” is almost exactly the thing you argue against! You say you do not want an ad-Tsar yet you hand the decisions on advertising to “What’s Legal” in other words to a highly centralised decision making system made up of very few people effecting the whole population.

    James, I very much appreciate you taking the time to debate this subject with me. Thanks
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      Jun 2 2011: John hi there
      I said 2 choices of the judge of who says if an ad is Ok or not.
      - Yourself, as the creator of ads, you have a accountability to your own morality
      - A Legal obligation, ie: not to advertise Cigarettes now here in the UK, because to do so is illegal
      On top of that, there is your responsibility as a creator of the ad to the Advertiser who has paid you to make it.

      I am anti Tsar, anti-mob rule, anti-anarchy. I am pro Law.

      The problem with mass ethics is that what if folks don't agree. Do you think it's ok to advertise Casinos, Abortionists, Beauty Parlours, Prostitution, Political Parties, Beer, Big Cars? It's tricky with these, but easy with cigarettes. So, that's why I think just better to leave it to the rule of law.
  • Jun 1 2011: To: James Walker, Part 2

    You raise some really interesting points and questions, “I am [not?] so presumptuous to force my personal morality on other people, and I don't really want anyone else making that decision for me either,” you write. However, in a functioning democracy the question would not be about you, an individual forcing your morality on other people, or about an individual forcing their morality on you. To the population the question is, do we want cigarette advertising? Do we want to publicise and glamorise something that is highly addictive and that kills hundreds of thousands of people every year? Given that most of us know of a friend or family member who has died from smoking related disease, it is my guess that the vast majority of people would be against it.

    I think your question “where would you draw the line?” is an unintentional diversion. It is centralised power which seeks standardisation of rules to spread over none identical situations. It is anti-democratic forces, such as legal representatives of cigarette companies who group separate individual things together as one thing and then say that no decision can be made because they are all different. It’s a kind of intellectual slight of hand. Why is it so difficult to judge cigarette advertising on it’s own merits or lack of them? Why do we have to say “If we make this decision we have to make the same decision about other things that are not exactly the same the same?”

    I feel the same about your question, ”And, who would be the ad-Tsar with thumbs up/thumbs down at the coliseum of advertising morality?” Why do you suppose we need authoritarian, centralised, overly powerful dictators to make decisions on behalf of the population? Can I light heartedly accuse you of a straw Tsar argument!
  • Jun 1 2011: To: James Walker, Part 1

    You write "I live in London. I sincerely believe here we are in a City ruled by law, not fear of violence." If that is so why do financial institutes and the government continually get away with breaking the law on a vast scale?

    The financial violence done to millions in Britain and around the world by London’s hedge funds, casino banking, drug money laundering and offshore tax avoiding. I have seen very little law taking place around these issues. See and

    Then there is the invasion of Iraq: Where not one of the ringleaders has been charged or ever looks likely to be charged for the following criminal behaviour; “to initiate a war of not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” Both the financial and physical violence emanating from London has caused catastrophic amounts of death, destruction and suffering on a vast industrial scale. Nobody is in prison for organising any of this.

    To return to cigarette advertising: Which is really a debate about democracy when we get right down to it; the reason I brought up the idea of us living in a lawless world is that it seemed to me that your argument seemed to divert thinking on this issue away from common sense and morality and towards anti-democratic forces. You unblinkingly assume that we, the population can not compile our individual morality into a group decision, and in so doing hand our democratic ability, indeed, moral right to make group decisions over to an extraordinarily small number of people.

    While many laws are good, and make sense, it still does not take away from the sense I have that ethics and law are what become of morality when money and power have had their way with it.
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    Jun 1 2011: i start a new thread to somewhat separate this thought, something like a new aspect.

    human body is an environment. some germs find that environment comfortable to live in. some of these are good for us, and some of them are bad. it is hard to formulate a rule what kind of germs can survive in or on the human body. but we can say for sure that the characteristics of the body and the germ itself determines it, and some germs find us a livable place, others don't.

    similarly, human mind is an environment for thoughts. some ideas can survive in the mind, and spread to other minds. some do not. some of these ideas are beneficial, some are detrimental. it is hard to tell what ideas can survive. but the characteristics of the human mind and the idea itself are determining it.

    the idea of smoking is probably bad, but it spreads. and many more, like pizza-hamburger-fries diet. how to battle the fast spreading, but harmful ideas?

    one way is to shut down certain human activities. ban alcohol. ban drugs. ban dangerous sports. ban advertisements. ban certain kinds of investments. doing so, we reduce the exposure to harmful ideas. and at the same time, we leave the mind defenseless to the idea if it somehow sneaks in anyway.

    or we can find ways to identify the ideas, and strengthen our mental immune system, to be able to say no to them.

    controlling advertisements is a never ending, ever growing battle with mental germs.
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      Jun 1 2011: I agree with you and have said the same thing here in nay different posts. If we elect not to buy those products..they will go away..the whole kit and kaboodle..the productsthe ads..all ofit..

      ads refelect who we are as a culture it is a nirror being held up to us

      if we don't like what we see

      we can chnage what we are
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        Jun 1 2011: I will agree that ads can be a reflection of our culture. However, they are also a reflection of what the ad agencies and their clients perceive as to what will get people to accept an invitation. Or an avenue to gear society towards the change that will benefit them the most.
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          Jun 2 2011: Thomas..did you see that film Eddie posted? Mindblowing on how Bernays, Freuds nephew created public relations and created the idea that democracy should be about cunsuming and feeding desires..not about active democracy or living within ones means.Fascinati ng..and a little disheartening..and very much to your point.
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        Jun 2 2011: Now how to change it once again?
    • Jun 1 2011: Krisztián, allow me to pick three examples from billions of others. How does the uneducated miner in China, or the seamstress in Indonesia, both working in terrible conditions, often for 60-80 hours a week for a pittance, exhausted, used and abused "find ways to identify the ideas, and strengthen our [their] mental immune system, to be able to say no to them [the adverts].?

      "How does the fourteen year old child in Manchester or London with alcoholic, abusive parents "find ways to identify the ideas, and strengthen our [their] mental immune system, to be able to say no to them [the adverts].?
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        Jun 1 2011: I suppose the knowledge would have to build on itself like a traditional immune system. Just because they are in those situations does not mean they always will be.
        • Jun 2 2011: So you would not defend a man with a broken leg from being mugged because in the future he might be able to defend himself?
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        Jun 2 2011: You're kind of stretching it there.
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        Jun 2 2011: uneducated people can become educated through the process of education. instead of choking the world with your "high ethics", you should work on that instead. however, i'm not entirely sure that chinese miners are so much less educated than many people in the west.

        children can't buy cigarettes. if their parents allow them to get anyway, you have a problem with the parent, not the tobacco manufacturer.

        so again, you deny personal responsibility, yours and others', and choose to blame the producer. scapegoat, that is.
    • Jun 7 2011: Krisztián

      correction: I used the word psychopath, I should have used the word pathological, got my paths mixed up. Not seen the film The Corporation for years.

      Corporations are immensely powerful pathological institutions and as such are extraordinarily dangerous. It's not a question 'deal' with it. Is there not some part of you that is concerned about having our governments effectively taken over by corporate interests?
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        Jun 7 2011: so you call companies psychopaths, i tell you that psychopath is a human trait, and companies are not humans. then you argue that okay, not psychopath, but pathological. don't you see what my reply to that will be? pathological also a term that does not apply to non-human or non-biological things. companies can not be pathological either.

        all other points you make here are also false. not all corporations are powerful, and it is debatable whether the biggest corporations has the power of even a middle sized country's government.

        this is definitely a question of deal with it. a rock is hard. when we engage in any activity involving rocks, we simply use that knowledge, and don't try to make all rocks on the earth soft. you know the drill, if you plan to make a road through a large rock, you will need explosives. that's it. the company is a machine to effectively transform resources to products people buy. you can hate it if you want, but better know about it, and design our systems around that fact.

        governments are still elected. if corporations managed to control them, it happens with the approval of the voters. it is a pity that hundreds of millions fell for such scams, but since it happened, better start to work on it. spread the word, educate people, and stop trying to take the place of the current leaders yourself.
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    Jun 1 2011: Nice to see ya Debra. I must disagree in part. The Viagra campaign was the kind of sober info delivery that I like, but it falls short, so to speak. I have no stats to rely on, but I'm guessing that as many younger guys use Viagra (just for fun) as older men who really need it. But there is no mention of that invisible market. But on balance, its not important.

    Try to find ANY TV commercial that does not rely on fantasy. Every picture is fantasy, every idea is science fiction. It's as if advertisers believe their target audience are all stoned or drunk, game-playing or day dreaming. Every fat slob swigging beer is convinced that he will get the hot babe, if only he drinks even more.

    Is there such a thing as reality-based advertising? Fantasy is fun, but not to the complete exclusion of reality.
    When I shop for a car, for example, I don't want a fantasy price, I want the real thing.
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      Jun 1 2011: Ok Clay, your response helped me. As I understand it you do not object to the use of art or humour or mystery or even entertainment you just do not want the advertisement to be misleading or larger than life, so to speak. Am I on track?
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        Jun 2 2011: Actually, its much simpler. Almost all TV commercial treat the demographic as morons. The level of discourse is so sophomoric that it insults intelligence. As I said, I don't object to fantasy, but almost EVERY commercial is fantasy. That tells me they are aimed at kids and that insulting.
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      Jun 1 2011: The great thing about the beer ads is they do not lie, drink enough beer and you get the hot babe. However, your opinion of said hot babe may change in the morning.
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    Jun 1 2011: TV advertising is mostly dumbed down fantasy aimed at kids or those with child-like minds. Recently I read that the demographic assumptions upon which the Nielson ratings are based were critically flawed, and therefore aiming the bulk of TV ads at children and young adults was a waste of ad dollars.

    If advertising aimed at adults instead of young people, advertising would improve. Solid logic would be required to convince older buyers. Ads would smarten-up. Reality would replace fantasy. Hopefully soon.
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      Jun 1 2011: Hey Clay! Nice to encounter you again.

      I agree with part of your posting but I am reminded of the hugely successful Viagara ads which were aimed directly at adults- and not much logic was used.
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        Jun 1 2011: When it comes to Viagra you don't need logic, in fact it might get in the way.
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          Jun 1 2011: maybe they should give away a free speedo with every $1,000 of viagra perscrptions; a trip to St Barts for every $10,000..
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          Jun 1 2011: Lindsay! You're hot today!
  • Jun 1 2011: @Krisztián Pintér, "in my moral code, selling cigarettes with lifestyle is perfectly acceptable." I am shocked that any reasonably well educated person could ever say such a thing.

    Why would anyone want to do anything that causes people to do more of something that will slowly poison or kill them? OK, institutionalised greed and ignorance, I'll give you that, but are there any other reasons?
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      Jun 1 2011: better question: why would people willfully take something that slowly poison or kill them?
      • Jun 1 2011: I'm shocked at your seeming utter disregard for people.

        Seriously, that's a better question? Asking a question you should know the answer too? But I suppose you would have to care about people who are, or have been, vulnerable to the cynical mind games of cigarette advertisers. If you cared you would know the answer, surely?

        Answer to your question:

        Because cigarettes smoker generally start when they are young, know less, and believe that they don't have to worry about any negative consequences in the way that young people have done for millennia.

        Also, because once you start smoking it is extremely hard to give up as nicotine is very addictive. I started smoking when I was 18, it took me five attempts and sixteen years before I was finally able to give up. The addiction makes you lie to yourself about the negative consequences and advertisers are there to amplify the voice of your addiction. More than this, at a time when young people are often insecure about their image, advertising campaigns were/are designed to make smoking look cool.

        What you are arguing for is the right for advertisers to promote anything, no matter how dangerous it maybe. All, moral, legal or ethical responsibility is with them, the people.

        But the main problem here is that most people, most of the time, deal with each other with respect. In other words we trust each other. It is deeply in-bedded in us that the building trust and trusting people is deeply important to us, it makes our real lives work. I believe that advertisers take advantage of peoples trust, even if, or perhaps especially if this can be done subliminally. "How can smoking be so bad if there are (or have been) all these adverts around showing healthy cowboys and cool race car drivers? Surely nobody would be so criminal to promote smoking if it was so bad, surely the health departments of governments would ban such advertising?" I may have thought to myself back in 1985 when I started smoking
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          Jun 1 2011: Hi John..did you see my comments below on the ban on cigratette advertsing? all of a sudden seems very wierd to me (although I endorsed it whole heaetedly at the time) that we banned ads but not the product.

          To me baming adverisers for essentially affirming what "we the people" desire is a sort of "the devil made made me do it defense" no defense at all The entire arguement holding ad agencies responsble for the sins of their clients holds no sway with me..

 and me are the mroal conscious beings..corporations are not moral conscious beings. the primary responbility is not by products that corrput the enviornment, come form epxloitation etc. Capital Markets exist through our consent. If we boycott..they shut down. It;s as simpe as that. Remember the Sullivan rrinciple which called on everyone in the wolrd to boycott South Africa until it ended aprtheid. We can do that every time we care enough to choose.

          Blaming advrerisers is just a bizarre extension of the commodification of narcissism fostered by what the internet has been to date.

          It is "we" not advretisers who have to shape up and aline our actions with our values. If noone buys clothes that aren't fair market fair wage guanteed one will produce such's as simple as that.,
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          Jun 1 2011: in my eyes, you are the one that treat people as mindless drones, incapable to make decisions for themselves. they need you to tell them what to do. you don't trust them, you want to shape their lives.

          everyone knows tobacco is addictive. everyone knows it is harmful. there is no trickery or fraud involved in selling it. so if an adult person decides to disregard the harmful effects for some perceived or real benefits, it is their decision to make, and not yours.

          you have the right, on the other hand, to educate people, to spread the word, to organize anti-smoking campaigns, to finance such campaigns. but here we go again. instead of working on a better world, some people just want to force their values on others. such thinking starts with banning "evil" things, and ends in murdering 20% of the people in death camps.
    • Jun 1 2011: I think this is relevant to the discussion. Go watch "The Century of The Self" at

      It's a documentary how corporations started applying psychoanalysis into public relations.
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        Jun 1 2011: Eddie..GREAT LINK!!!

        T he ultimate source of the "devil made me do it" defense for our bad choices..the original seed of the commodification of narcissism .I am about to bring a conversation on the commodification of narcissism to Ted Conversations and have included this link. Hope you will all join me there

        It goes right to the heart of the big resistence obvious here to what Jmes is saying about "responsibility" Forgive me James if I over simplify..and I am speaking not for James but for what I see of value in his point, which is that .responsbility is a matter iif indiviudual conscious choice..not something we can prescribe for othesr or delegate to others.

        Culturally we have become nearly incapable of that. We can't take responsbility for our own choices. We buy products evry day that we know full well violate our stated values..we blame advertisers and manufacturers insteda of taking responsbility for our values, acting on our values and simply not buyingthese things..
        • Jun 1 2011: Hi Lindsay,

          You wrote ".did you see my comments below on the ban on cigarette advertising? all of a sudden seems very weird to me (although I endorsed it whole heartedly at the time) that we banned ads but not the product."

          I think the answer is fairly well known. If you ban recreational substances they become a whole new, unregulated market for criminals to run and profit from. I believe that is one of the reasons why Prohibition in the States was ended; the government could not stop alcohol production or drinking, but could see that they had handed over a vast market to the criminal class which in turn created a whole set of other problems.

          The same would be true if you tried to ban growing tobacco, cigarette manufacture and distribution. However banning advertising of certain products is very easy to implement and is the common sense thing to do. Why advertise any dangerous and addictive substance?
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        Jun 1 2011: Just wanted to thank you Eddie for that terrific link. I loved the way it traced the influence of Bernays, Freud's nephew in establishing psychoanalysis in public relations. This wholesale and blatant manipulation of people is really troubling.

        Bernays surely felt that he had responsibility only to the guy who would make him rich. He helped put the entire American population out of the drivers seat by turning them from citizens with a voice to mere consumers. The bizzare thing is that very few of Freud's theories ever stood up against any kind of scrutiny in terms of validity and yet they had so very much effect on society.
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      Jun 1 2011: John hi
      So, tobacco remains an emotive subject, both generally and in specific relation to advertising.
      Tobacco is a great example because it is so extreme, and helps us understand a point of principle precisely because wilfully poisoning people for profit is a a pretty abhorrent idea, and (although not a nice thought) it is the case that the creators of ads for Tobacco had no more responsibility to external audiences than the Tobacco's companies lawyers.
      Ok, so you think some Legal products shouldn't be advertised, so what about: Fatty foods; Strong spirits; Beer; Chips; Processed Meats....? Many of my friends argue that the advertising industry is complicit in creating unhealthy expectations of physical beauty and does too often objectifies women. Cosmetics, Fragrance, and a lot of luxury goods advertising presents a view of the World that I am uncomfortable with. Some people might say selling Automobiles with poor fuel economy is not to be encouraged. I might not think the advertising of certain crappy food should be allowed. But, John, where would you draw the line? And, who would be the ad-Tsar with thumbs up/thumbs down at the coliseum of advertising morality? I am so presumptuous to force my personal morality on other people, and I don't really want anyone else making that decision for me either.
      There can only be 2 judges of how you limit advertising on the grounds of "morality":
      - What YOU as an individual feel happy to do, and that's a RESPONSIBILITY to yourself
      - What's Legal, and that I guess is the RESPONSIBILITY to a wider group that many of the posts here have alluded to
      Otherwise, the only responsibility is the provision of services to your client. Just like a plumber, architect, lawyer, doctor etc.
      • Jun 1 2011: Nice argument James, but you seem to believe that the world is governed by the law. It's not, it's governed by physical and financial violence.

        If adverts are promoting something that is dangerous a population has a right to defend itself from that. If they live in a functioning democracy advertising cigarettes would be banned from promoting destructive behaviour.

        It's really a question of weather you believe that the right to advertise a deadly product out ways the right of people to act intelligently and stop that from happening. In other words hundreds of thousand of lung tumours are less important than the right of cigarette companies to promote their products, to enrich themselves and their stock holders.
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          Jun 1 2011: John, I live in London. I sincerely believe here we are in a City ruled by law, not fear of violence.
          Without law - you have one opinionated individual, or a group of folks, trying to assert their moral authority to be superior to other's. I'm just not that vain to think I have that right :)
          Cigarette advertising was banned, by law, for the reasons you say.
          But what about advertising of those things not by law, but I think morally a bit dodgy in some people's eyes... Crap food; Spirits, Gambling; Big cars that are fuel inefficient; Abortion services, etc? Abortions's a good one, as you'll get very polarised views on the morality of abortionists' advertising, and the only way to avoid a screaming match over whose moral authority is greater, is to say that we have to be governed by the rule of law. If it's legal, it's ok to advertise it. Personally, my own morality might wan to ban Gambling advertising but say that Abortion is ok, or vice versa, but I don't have the right to impose my thinking on other people.
          The rule of law has to be above the arbitrary morality of one, ten, a thousand or a million people.
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          Jun 1 2011: @ james.

          .at the risk of bing censured for being off topic

          oh oh I hope the super modern glass house you are building is no where near'd have all the newlands and most of the village protesting on your front lawn..I may even fly over to join them.
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    May 31 2011: Hi Debra
    Haha! Actually my business partner in a past enterprise saw numbers in patterned carpets etc, and when he thought of a big number it had a distinct coloured shape that came into his head. Which is quite funny, because our business was all about econometrics, so lots and lots of big numbers!!!!
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      May 31 2011: Are you responding to my suggestion that you check out synesthesias?
      That is an interesting story!
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    May 30 2011: This is a bit off subject, I hope that's okay. David Collin brought up the ban on cigarette ads, so a legal over the counter product cannot not be advertised while prescription drugs a product that a highly trained physician must evaluate you and allow access to may be advertised? This to me is wrong. Even if cigarettes could advertise prescription drugs should not be able.
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    May 30 2011: Dear Charles

    One never knows where a Ted Conversation will lead and this exploration in response to your question has been fruitful and edifying..who'd have known?

    I happened to run accross this wonderful quote about advertsing that I wanted to share with all who have invested here in developing this conversation and bringing out its many ideas and insights

    “The television commercial is not at all about the character of products to be consumed. It is about the character of the consumers of products. Images of movie stars and famous athletes, of serene lakes and macho fishing trips, of elegant dinners and romantic interludes, of happy families packing their station wagons for a picnic in the country–these tell nothing about the product being sold. But they tell everything about the fears, fancies and dreams of those who might buy them. What the advertiser needs to know is not what is right about the product but what is wrong about the buyer” (Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death, 128)

    For me, .this quote reframes a lot of what has already been said here and speaks further to the Ted Talk on the Filter Bubble ( and I think as well to may other major themes here at Ted) It says that in a way when we look at commercials we are looking at ourselves..a mirror is being held up and it is us in that mirror. It isn't calling us to that or celebrating that. We are that. That is us. So, if we want commercials to show a different celebrate different values..we..the majority.. we.the community that has been much debated here... have to be that other thing we want commercials to be..commercials don't lead us there..they show us where we already are

    ..We can though ask them to show us at our best. and where possible, encourage our best, celebrate our best
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      May 29 2011: OK Richard, I need clarification as to why and to what end you chose that conversation, please.
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          May 29 2011: I am sorry but I am not yet understanding. I invite you to clarify either here or by email as you see fit. I feel from the posting and now it is confirmed here that you feel strongly about something but i am not yet able to grasp it.
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          May 29 2011: I am drifting at sea but with an earnest desire to understand.
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      May 29 2011: re chimps&children @Richard link 1

      scary. that we have done tha to our children alfreday by the age of 4 or 5..sad

      and how do you see these two links related to this conversation. I am not getting it..
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    May 29 2011: Enlighten? - peoples' wallets, maybe.

    Inform? - psuedo-scientific terminology and an already highly-selective presentation of the 'facts' rules this out.

    The best ad I have ever seen was by a supermarket, quite recently. They were pushing their chicken sachet of sauce or some such thing, but in the course of doing so, the meat-puppet (sorry, actor) actually showed how to chop up a whole chicken - something useful that most of us modern softies know nothing about.

    Entertain? Considering that, these days, any old tripe can garner hits and clicks, then I guess this is possible.

    Ads work to raise awareness that a product or company exists but beyond that, not much.

    Now, advertisments for an idea or provoking thought with no agenda or financial to-ing and fro-ing are something that would work for the 21st century.
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        May 29 2011: Raising awareness was always free - word of mouth about solid, honest products, so no, there is no reason to pay for advertising in the age of social nitpicking.

        All ideas are free. Profiting from an idea/intellectual property/copyright/clinging tight whatever you want to call it is just vulgar garnering of material wealth. I'm not coming at this conversation from that angle.

        Tax? Seems you can never shake that particular bugbear..
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      May 29 2011: Hi Scott..always nice to have your voice in any conversation..glad to see you here.. agree with you,

      As to your last..the rol eof ad agencies outside of the realm of PR for ideas..there alreday is an ad campaign going about doing the right thing..have you seen it? Not sure who funds it but I love it..shows people extending ordinary courtesies to one naother..excellent.
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    May 28 2011: they cannot legally use tricks to implant ideas or messages on the subconcious.. i think anything else is free game
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    May 27 2011: Trying to sell stuff is not a crime. Not understanding (1) our brain is wired to follow patterns on what we are confronted with (2) high contrast is observed as more real than little contrast... that is our problem. What we see a lot with a lot of contrast becomes our truth, no matter how bad it is for us in the end. Realizing that, the brain has it's limits, we can individually start to make better decisions for ourselves.

    On community responsibility; use your own free time to tell (a) your family (b) your neighbors and (c) your friends how and where you make 'better' choices. This makes YOU an ad maker in YOUR community... This is for 'Survival'

    We can hope Ad Makers only make ads of the most sustainable and healthy products.... But that doesn't pay the mortgage. And we live in a democracy, freedom of speech.

    Though we need 'ad makers' from before the industrial revolution, the people who can share visions on the future and products/services available to create "Star Trek". Philosophers, Writers, Toolmakers..... Currently these wise men and woman work in industrial advertisement and industrial ICT/Media...

    Let's all remember; the soap opera, television film, cartoons.... are all created with the goal to make people watch ads before and after. Not the way around.
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      May 27 2011: hello Richard..are there no ads that amuse you, challenge your wite? elevate you? move you with their beauty?
      have you never had a positive encounter with an ad?
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          May 27 2011: Hi Richard, there're lots of papers on the Value created by 'brands" (and de facto "advertising"). I guess it's a bit like arguing over patents, if you think patents are a good idea? Brands, like say "BMW", exist to protect something. It might be tangible, such as innovations in safety, or less tangible, but if you accept that brands bring greater value to a "commonwealth" (not that I care for such a concept) then so does advertising.
          Brand, advertising, trademarks, patents etc, they are all ways of creating an ecosystem that rewards, and therefore encourages INNOVATION and INVESTMENT (de-risks investment in a new factory etc), so I think economists would probably say Advertising, Patents and the like that create barriers to market entry (whether soft or hard) can be a good thing and actually do ultimately make us better off.
          I'm not sure about your comment regarding highly intelligent people working in advertising :)
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          May 27 2011: Richard, I'm with 'ya
          you'll stay with us, I hope.

          James, Merit of course in what you say..our entire economy is based on trade and consumption and hopefully innovations and new technologies are a high fact just affirmed by our President..

          so of course advertising sells product and we need product to fuel our economy. Important point..glad you made it.I didn't get a smile:)))
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          May 29 2011: richard..didn't get any of that :>(is that text talk????

          loved the The Story of stuff " You can't run a liear systemin finite world",,but that's off topic..
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    May 27 2011: the goal of advertisers is to sell our ads to our customers, who are brands.
    so, their only goal is to make ads that brands will like and will think efficient, not to sell their customers' products.
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      May 27 2011: Hi Nicholas..would appreciate your views as well on my point to James, that beyond the client-agency contract and the legal duties there, all advertsing, by its nature reaches out to, is present in, a broader community where, in most instances, only a few of us are potential consumers of a given product.

      In fact every ad is addressed, is it not, to "all of us"" hoping that some non-consumers of your clients product will choose your clients product as a result of your efforts on their behalf?

      ,It is to us that larger audience of the entire public that there is an accountability beyond whether or not we make that choice to buy your clients product.

      As the designer and creator of what is placed before us..the public who cannot avoid your work product, you do, in fact, have an accountability to "we the people" and there are always moral, philosophical and ethical choices an ad agency can make in thinking about "we the people" .For example..I actually enjoy the Geico, Aflac and Progressive commercials.. They do their job beautifully in distinguishing their client barnd, communicating what is offered and winning a very positive connection . But beyond that they have a charm and a humanity that makes them a welcome presence in the whole community of us who are exposed to the ads. The Calvin Kline ads and the ads in Vanity Fair are beautiful ..many are art; they have great aesthetic value that enriches and elevates.

      So there are always creative choices an ad agency can make at no additional costs..which build added good will for the clients product and which also contribute something worthwhile to the entire public exposed to your work product.
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        May 27 2011: Lindsay hi
        I think it's interesting what you assert, a bit like externalities in economics (I don't believe in those either, by the way) but the conclusion surely is that Advertising (as well as selling goods, services) can be a force for Good or Bad in what Thomas calls "society" or you call "the people".
        Putting aside that i don't think there is any such thing as "society" or "the people", or any responsibility other than one that is mutually and consciously entered into (eg: a contract, marriage etc), the assertion that advertising can do Good must mean that you think it can do Bad. Really? Can advertising be a "Bad" force? Can it do harm? I don't really think so, c'mon it's just ads, it's a bit patronising to "the people" to think they can be damaged by just ads.
        The people (not "the people" are sentient individuals. Let's not talk down to them; let's not patronise them. Of course the creators of advertising have no responsibility other than contractually to the brands they contract to deliver services for.
        (But, I make the usual caveat - the adfolks can be good-guys; an agency might promote a "good" agenda of sustainability, positive advancement of the disadvantaged etc, and to do so might be GOOD business in both senses... but this is not the same as a RESPONSIBILITY).
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          May 27 2011: Hello James and thanks for your reply ( love your picture by the way.. reminded me immediately of fellow blue water sailor William F. Buckley)

          ..of course knew you would not resonate with my suggestion that there is an implied accountability for your work products to the general population exposed to your product

          . It is very apparent that we think of the place of the individual in the wolrd in very different ways. And that is why your voice is valuable here..why I welcome it here
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          May 27 2011: "the assertion that advertising can do Good must mean that you think it can do Bad. Really? Can advertising be a "Bad" force? Can it do harm?"
          If advertising cannot sway the view of the public then it is not nearly as valuable an asset as many people claim. Of course advertising can be a force of good or bad, the overtures of the ads can sway opinion on different issues. With advertising some issues can be made to seem acceptable that are not.
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          May 29 2011: Hmm. James, I spent 35 years battling the cigarette industry and watching people die of lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and other diseases when I worked in public health. So you don't think the advertisers who worked hand in hand with the cigarette industry (the Marlboro Man, Joe the Camel for kids) has no responsibility whatsoever for contributing to perhaps the most devastatingly destructive product in human history? The tobacco industry maintained for decades (and still do) they have no responsibility for what happens to the smoker because they don't hold a gun to their heads and force them to smoke. By the same token advertisers absolve themselves of any responsibility for consequences to customers and, for that matter, to taxpayers for all the billions of healthcare dollars that have been and continue to be spent on trying to save these people?

          Advertising does have consequences for people and for society. Marketers are part of the perpetuation of harm no matter how facilely they try to spin it away with abstractions.
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          May 29 2011: I am in absolute agreement with David on this. Ironically, the main whistleblower against the tobacco industry was so blackballed for telling the truth that he could not find work and was hired by the Canadian government to create effective societal advertising and campaigns against smoking that were highly effective in cutting smoking and apparently in reducing smoking related deaths.

          Advertising is a business that knows full well the tools that it uses to manipulate the human mind and desires for good or for ill.
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          May 29 2011: David..I had actually forgotten the cigarette advertising ban and also the liquor advertising bans (not sure they became federal law). Thinking of that intervention strategy in the context of this conversation raises some very interesting isues in the context of this conversation. Actually the idea that products deemed dangerous to helath and especially dangerous to underage users can still be sold but we banned davertsing of them is a very strange intervention when you think about it.

          Looking over a bit of the history on is very clear that this anti advertising stratgey put a lo tof weight on the seductive manipulative power of advertising . In the case of tobacco oft said by proponen s of the ban the advertiising promoted the idea that smoking is sexy, romantic, sophiticated, associated iwth sucess and style etc. And they won, So thatindicates that the public considers adverisement to have considerable input to our culture.

          It strikes me now asa very strange intervention..but perhaps an acurate perception of the influence of adveriusement son our culture..
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          May 29 2011: david, don't you think that smokers themselves are responsible for their own condition?
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        May 31 2011: David and others,
        Thinking of the tobacco industry and advertising in interesting. But I find it hard to agree with you on the question of Responsibility.
        - Did the Tobacco company's lawyers have a responsibility to anyone but the tobacco company?
        Sure, the good folks of Madison Avenue might feel bad that they were complicit in the early and terrible deaths of millions of people.... but feeling bad is different to a Responsibility.
        Charles Porter asked his question in a very specific way, and I have responded accordingly. Had the question being asked about whether the creators of advertising might want to make entertaining ads or might not want to work on tobacco ads etc, there might have been a different answer. BUT, Charles used the word RESPONSIBILITY, and we need to be very clear and precise about where a Responsibility sits.
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          May 31 2011: yes..good point..James..the question was framed in trems of the "responsibility" of advertisers

          .actually this conversation has brought me 'round to a very different place than I started from ( which all good conversations should)

          .if we leave with the same ideas we came in with not much worthwhile has happened.

          Elsewhere I posted a quote that basically said that what advertisers show us is "us" if we don't like what we see..we can try to change what we are. .and that happens person by person

          each person taking responsibility for his/her own output in the world

          The commodification of narcissim faciltated and actually built by the internet seems to have fostered the idea that our personal values should be taken up by government rather than by our own actions, should be taken up coprorations and the advertisers who promote them, rather than in the choice of what we purchse and who we purchaset from.

          If you buy a garment that is a product of is not the advertsiers duty to warn you about that or encourage you to think about that. It's not the governments duty to make it easy for you by labeling every garment. It's your responsbility through your own personal choices to only buy garments that reflect your values

          . It's your (ours, the individuals) to choose to take up that work

          or not
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    May 27 2011: In my experience most creatives would like to enlighten, inform, and entertain. When they don't it's because there is a cost associated with it—it's either less effective, too much work, small ROI, customers don't get it, client doesn't get it, etc. These are all pressures that push advertising toward the dumb and effective and away from brilliant and enlightening. To say that advertisers have an obligation to make entertaining ads is to say that they are responsible for absorbing these costs—that they have some sort of duty to a society that isn't rewarding their efforts through regular market forces.

    Your job must put you in a position to have a deep insight into the effectiveness of advertising and the cost/reward ratio of making smart ads vs dumb ones. This is all measurable, right?

    I would rephrase the question:

    If enlightening advertising is more successful for clients, why isn't the market forcing advertising toward the more enlightened? If it's not more successful, is it really ethical for advertisers to disregard this fact and choose a solution that is not the best for their client?

    I don't think you can escape the large segment of society who respond well to dumb ads. To say that ad creatives have an obligation to make engaging work in spite of this is like saying pop musicians or best selling authors have an obligation to write more interesting music and books even if they won't sell as well. You would be saying that they need to make sacrifices so a few of the enlightened people can feel good about the culture they live in.
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      May 27 2011: Mark..interesting and important point you make..advertising means selling means connecting with a culture that is more dumbed down than enlightened...and then of course the advertisement and the products most likely feed back into the cycle of dumbing down.

      .But are there are limits.?

      Chucks superbowl ads caused quite a stir, for instance..assuming it nevertheless served the client put the client on the map and generated tons of business..was that a step even further down than is neccessary to reach a broad audience?

      .Milton Glaser, who didn't believe advertisng was the place to be if one's goal was to use art to elevate, showed with his whole life..with every single project that the fundamental elements of advertsing..color, font spatial arrangement can elevate..can enlighten, can make a positive statement. His work speaks to a belief that dumbed down is a version of opperssed..that inside everyone is a being that yearns to be enlightened yearns to be reached there. awakened there.

      .But to Chuck's point, Glaser felt representing corporate clients sverely limited the opportunity to use art to elevate.
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    May 26 2011: Charles, I know that your company Crispin, Porter & Bogusky did the notorious Groupon Superbowl ads and assume your question is framed form the very negative bru haha on that..even made Conan. Are you asking us whether it is ok to use any tactic that gets results for your client? And did Groupon do well by your ad campaign? Were they happy? Did they get a good result? Did it serve your very celebrated and much honored firm well?
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      May 26 2011: Hey Lindsay! You are doing great work here, girl!
      I followed the first link you posted and I saw the ads. One was with Timothy Hutton and the other was with Liz Hurley.
      I understand why people were offended but I thought they were an interesting idea. The problem was that they were handled in a ham handed way. They sucked you into the serious world issue and then tried to link something kind of trivial to it. They aimed for funny and got a kind of reaction to what was percieved as disrespect.I They might have managed to turn it around if it had not been such a short ad. Lack of time to develop the concept might have been part of the problem.
      I did however, read at one point that the worst ads- especially ones that made people mad- persisted in memory long after others did and in the end all people remembered was the brand- which meant if achieved its goal. And in this case people are talking about it and so the product name keeps getting mentioned.

      I bet this is more than Charlie bargained for when he asked his question!
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    May 25 2011: My uncle was creative director for a major international London Advertsing agency in the 60's-70's. They got the account for promote Iran

    . My uncle kept wanting his client to show the rich cultural history and great beauty..they wanted to show pictures of military aircraft and things to do with thei new identity as Iran ( never saw the final campaign)my point?

    The moral responsibility and final say is really with the client not the advertising agency. my uncle was a brilliant, funny and clever man..a humanist..his personal values were very much in line with ideas of truth and moral repsonsbility..but he could go only so far and if the client didn't agree ..not much could be done.

    .a frim or individual can make a moral choice not to do certain types of ads or convey certain types of messages and I would certianly have a big thumbs up for them..but utimately a client is reposnble for the product...all aspects of the product including how it is packaged and marketed.
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      May 26 2011: Hi Lindsay
      That's an interesting fact you shared.
      Just look a bit deep inside. The time scale , and who was in power in Iran at that time , what was their base of power to get more insight why they wanted to show Tanks or Fighter air crafts.

      It was growth phase of "Cold War" globally. Iran was ruled by Shah then , though it was more tolerant country that time the power base of Shah was definitely not people. So he needed to frighten people and also the neighbours so obvious choice was that disappointing your greatly creative uncle.

      But todays perspective in business is very different. No more monopoly rather fiercely competitive as products / services have low / no differentiation. So success depends on how much they understand their consumers and customers, which in business jargon the call Customer Centricity, Consumer Centricity. More over now a days consumers are more aware and well informed. So for business they are no more in the thorne of "Shah". They need to care for consumers for their top and bottom line.

      And consumers are also not dumb so it's not easy job to make them fool. Just an example , last week while in business trip one of my colleague from Europe as he knew I am from Bangladesh , he just asked me in course of discussion , please tell me one thing about this brand of jeans , showing that what he was wearing, "I saw it is made in Bangladesh, I love this brand , but tell me if you know , whether they use Child Labour there, if so I will never again buy this brand"?

      I was impressed with extent of that colleagues awareness and concern about social justice.
      So Lindsay , I really think now a days Ad Agencies really have their space to play responsibly, interestingly most of the time company executive itself don't know much about their own product as was shown in one of TED talk here (in case if you missed it)
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    May 25 2011: In the era of corporate social responsibilty AD agency can't deny this though final choice remains at the hand of the company that appoints the ad agency to pick and choose.

    Well Ad agency also can drive their clients by coming up with different option all of which are with in boundary of social responsibility so Client will only pick and choose from those options.

    Above all it depends on overall vision of the agency whether they are only after Money by achieving Client Satisfaction only or they want to achieve both I mean Client Satisfactio & Their Social Responsibilty.....

    Shifting responsibilty is easy , taking ownership always needs something more.............
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    May 25 2011: Does music need to be colourful? Does a painting need to be noisy? The question suggests the relevance of a dimension which is non-sensical.
    By coincidence - sure, effective commercial communication MIGHT be fun and liked; equally, effectiveness could be the result of being dissonant and unpleasant. But a composer of music doesn't need to think if his music is yellow, or an artist if his painting is buzzing.
    So, the answer is no. The creators of advertising have no other responsibility apart from to their client.
    However, part of an agency's sales pitch to a client might be that the agency employs a disproportionate number of disabled people, or that the agency believes in promoting positive images of women in the ads, believe that viewers should be informed, entertained and treated intelligently, and it might be that the case that the admen/women are really good people. The client might CHOOSE to appoint agency that wants to behave like this, but it's not the agency's responsibility to do anything other than act in the interests of the client.
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      May 25 2011: Hello James,

      Your response leads me to hope that you wll look up a closed TED talk:
      The man who tasted shapes. Have you ever experienced synesthesias.