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Charles Porter

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?



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  • 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"..ie no defense at all The entire arguement holding ad agencies responsble for the sins of their clients holds no sway with me..

          We..you and me are the mroal conscious beings..corporations are not moral conscious beings. the primary responbility is ours..to 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 ..no one will produce such clothes..it'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 http://www.archive.org/details/AdaCurtisCenturyoftheSelf_0

      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 Southwold..you'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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