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Laura Desmond


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Can advertising be both a force for commerce AND a force for good?

People love to say they hate advertising – and in many ways, I think we've earned our bad reputation (which might sound strange coming from the CEO of the largest media agency in the world). Personally, I believe that advertising has a responsibility to be more informative, more relevant, and more reliable in helping people navigate the landscape of choices in their lives. At the same time, we have to honor our commitment and responsibility to our client partners to grow their businesses and build their brands. In your view, what advertisers are doing the best job of serving this dual role in a genuine way? What are some examples you've seen, both past and present, that demonstrate being a force for good as well as a force for business? What more can be done in this space?

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    Jan 14 2012: "Advertising is the modern substitute for argument; its function is to make the worse appear the better."
    George Santayana

    I find a lot of advertising insulting to my intelligence and most of it irrelevant. As such, even if the purpose of an advert was in pursuit of some greater good, I would probably continue to ignore it or be suspicious of the motivation behind it, which, I imagine renders it ineffective.
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      Jan 16 2012: I think your sentiments capture the “bad reputation” I mentioned and that’s exactly why I believe it’s an important topic to explore. It’s crucial that advertisers act with authenticity. If they don’t, their message will be rejected in exactly that way you’ve expressed. I hope this conversation is a small step forward in pushing our industry to listen to audiences and behave differently. Anything is possible with good intentions and I do believe we can elevate advertising to be a force for good.
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        Jan 17 2012: In New Zealand, there is plenty of advertising to promote healthy lifestyles, safe-driving and so on. This is funded by ACC, which is a tax-payer funded accident compensation (beats suing each other) and other not-for-profit organisations.

        For an advertising company to create ads for good causes, they would need to separate themselves completely from remuneration. If this is not done, the very media-savvy generations we have become will be immediately suspiscious of motivation. This may seem a small thing, but is the basis on which people build their perceptions.

        The very fact that companies selling products and advertisers talk about creating a "trustworthy" brand, fails because people are wise to most of the tricks of spin-doctoring and sales-pitching.

        I agree that, in some instances, education works and putting messages frequently in front of people does change attitudes (see anti-smoking campaigns).

        Personally, and I may or may not be alone in this, mass media, in all forms is a facade, a thin veneer over reality. I understand that this has been the nature of the beast for some time but this is the exact thing that now smacks of artifice and is the great barrier that advertisers must overcome.
      • Jan 23 2012: I agree with you Laura.

        People who make ads--especially copywriters--tend to only concentrate on the way to express their creative ideas into the ads without considering the matter of relevance, the matter of authenticity, and the matter of "good intention".
        If their attention is all about their benefits that come from their works--making seemingly very memorable and innovative advertisements. And if they do not consider their "silent duty" as the people who convince other people to buy and use their products, their irresponsible and selfish works won't be helpful at all to their consumers and to the people who watch their ads frequently. And more importantly, before long, the company that emerge in the ads will lose their reliable reputation from their customers, which means it is a matter of time that the company fails.

        If they had been honest and wise enough to think about "win-win" situation beforehand,
        the terrible situation I demonstrated above woulnd't have happened.
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      . . 100+

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      Jan 18 2012: I am sure my receptors, which were burnt out by ad-over-dosages sustained in the years I watched TV, are beyond repair in this life time, "rendering ineffective" all ads.
  • Jan 24 2012: I think your central premise is entirely disingenuous. You say:

    "Personally, I believe that advertising has a responsibility to be more informative, more relevant, and more reliable in helping people navigate the landscape of choices in their lives. At the same time, we have to honor our commitment and responsibility to our client partners to grow their businesses and build their brands "

    But there is a false a priori assumption here that you are providing a service to the people who see your (or any) adverts. You are, by definition, doing what you say in the second half of your premise: looking after the interests of your clients, but it is not a dual role: that is all you are doing.

    You can invent all sorts of justifications and arguments that you are in some way providing a service to your viewers, i.e you are giving people useful information, but that is at best a totally subjective view of what you're doing, and in real terms it is simply untrue. You have no way of knowing whether the information you provide is useful, and furthermore, as an advertiser, you are not presenting the information in an objective, neutral way, but in a way that is designed to sell that idea to your viewer, no matter how you try and wrap it up.

    In my humble opinion, advertising is by definition immoral, and advertising to children is deeply immoral. This is not to deny that adverts can be extremely entertaining and enjoyable, but please don't kid yourself that you are doing something that is in any way philanthropic. You are in the persuasion business. Persuasion is not a morally neutral art, it is seeking to deliberately influence another for commercial gain. If you want to do good, stop selling things people by and large don't need or want, and start educating people in the things that are desperately needed right now; awareness of every individual's responsibility toward their fellow beings and the planet would be a start. Brave of you to enter into a debate about it though.
    • Jan 25 2012: Advertising DOES provide a service to me, so the assumption is not totally false. If the assumption were that advertisers provide a service to EVERYONE in all cases, that would not be true.

      How am I to make an informed buying decision about a product or service without knowing at the outset what is even available?

      You say, "Persuasion is not a morally neutral art, it is seeking to deliberately influence another for commercial gain." You are seeking to persuade readers of your comment that your position has merit. Do you have intent of commercial gain? Your statement is fundamentally flawed.

      Your whole comment is fundamentally flawed, from beginning to end.
      • Jan 25 2012: I'm sorry, but that is incorrect. If you wish to find out about something, you simply look it up. You do not need advertising to lead you or goad you into making a decision; you are (surely?) capable of researching something yourself. If you wish to make an informed decision, go to a forum, read unbiased information, it's not rocket science.

        I am not seeking to persuade anyone of my interpetation of the morality of advertising, I am simply stating it; I am not prompted by commercial gain to do this. My statement is not fundamentally flawed, you have simply not understood it.
        • Jan 25 2012: Hud.
          Who would provide said unbiased information? Product reviews are biased in their very nature, and often misleading as they have not done their research.
          Marketing is certainly not a morally neutral art or science, and neither are the reviews you refer to. Relying on information from multiple sources is likely the best way to research, and the manufacturer of a product, or provider of the service is certainly the most knowledgable of all. Done right, a marketer is informing the public of the benefits of their product. Without their input, how can you make a truly informed decision? Further, if the provider of that product is providing a guarantee or warantee with their product - is this practice morally devoid as well? Not as cut and dry as one might hope....
        • Jan 25 2012: That's wierd Hud...how did you buy your computer? Find out about TED? Get to enjoy TED? Decide on the clothes you wear or the food you buy? Do scientists get their idea to market by publishing research? How do they know what to be interested in to study? Advertising is one part of the marketing equation and in and of itself it is not immoral. That's like saying guns are dangerous! You have to be a participant to give it morality (or a lack of). Advertising missing people on milk cartons is not a bad thing as is the advertising that milk is good for you. Having the milk board and the FDA ram 'information' down your throat that they know is lies is immoral but you can't blame the medium for that. It's the user of the medium that is to blame...such as our dear host on this conversation!
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    Jan 23 2012: This is an interesting question, primarily because of who is asking it. I have to admit, I approach my answer to this with skepticism...it feels to me like a veiled attempt at earning my trust so I am a more captive audience for future attempts at making profit. When you talk about the possibility of advertising used as a mechanism for social good...I have to wonder to what end you are seeking to accomplish this? Is it so you can brand yourselves as a company that is working for social good so that you might earn more profit and be more effective for you clients, or is it because you recognize yourselves as in possession of unique access to the mediascape as you shape public wants, desires, priorities and expectations? The power held by those with access to the media, while recognized by many as relevant, is largely misunderstood. So, when you talk about what you can do for social good, I would begin with how self reflexive is this process? Do you recognize the power you hold in the shaping of public perspective? Do you recognize the power you have in restricting some options and enabling others? Do you recognize your position in relation to the rest of us without access to this forum---and what do you expect to do with it?

    I consider the power of media...and advertising in particular a good deal in my field of study. While it's not my central focus, it is something that plays into everything I consider as an academic. For an in depth explanation of how advertising has a negative impact on our expectations of ourselves from a gendered perspective...see the following two blog entries that consider the very specific impact of media on gendered identities.... http://kathy-momphd.blogspot.com/2011/05/sexualizing-femininity.html (femininity) and for a look at the social construction of masculinity, see http://kathy-momphd.blogspot.com/2011/07/film-ratings.html

    Another example: http://www.designmadeingermany.de/2011/27618/
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      Jan 24 2012: Skepticism is something advertisers must deal with quite a bit, and I’ve seen a healthy dose of it in the replies to this TED conversation. Fair enough.

      To answer your question, yes, I do recognize that the advertising industry has unique access to media that can shape public wants, desires, priorities and expectations. That’s why I believe it’s important for advertisers to participate in communities and hear for themselves what people think, feel and do. Social media has accelerated advertisers’ access to this type of feedback. It’s an exciting time when the power of individual voices can create real change. Consider this: 22-year-old Molly Katchpole started an online petition against monthly debit card fees and Bank of America listened. They halted plans to charge a monthly debit card fee. Another example (albeit a bit more lighthearted): Millions of Facebook fans joined together to convince NBC to book Betty White as the host of Saturday Night Live – and she did on Mother’s Day 2010.

      So yes, our industry has unique access to shape our culture – but now more than ever so do individuals who harness the power of media to achieve a shared purpose.
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        Jan 24 2012: Hi Laura,
        Thanks for your response and engaging in the discussion. While my response here is skeptical, I don't so much categorize my standpoint as skeptical as I do responsible, and ultimately, hopeful. The images and messages that permeate our culture absolutely shape our perspective about ourselves, others, the world--all of which has a direct impact on how we orient ourselves toward the very real problems that face us as a global community. When we begin to recognize the power inherent in these messages to shape our frames of reference, particularly when we allow them to wash over us without critically examining them, we can start to more actively engage in the creation of a reality that we can all have a productive part in. Advertisers are but one of many contributors to the messages that shape expectations about who we are as men, women, members of specific ethnic groups, professional affiliations, what it means to succeed...the list goes on and on. It is the perpetuation of a stigmatized, harmful social identity that can serve as a potential limitation to how we see ourselves and how others see us. This then impacts how much voice we have in any global discussion.

        So, while I recognize attempts at trying to achieve a positive message while still selling products as a well intended step toward contributing to a better world, I think it is important to first consider what the message is doing to limit the possibilities of individual actors based on the creation and perpetuation of social expectations for specific identity groups--does it contribute to or contradict the dominant messages about what is and is not expected of specific groups of people? Does it perpetuate or challenge dominant stereotypes? How might the message be tweaked to counter this and open up space for the individual? This is the kind of self-reflexivity I would like to see on the part of our advertisers and others with access to the creation of media messages.
  • Jan 21 2012: @Laura Desmond

    Quote: "Can advertising be both a force for commerce AND a force for good?"
    >> Advertising without the underlying competitive mechanism is called educating. So is advertising good? No.

    Quote: "People love to say they hate advertising – and in many ways, I think we've earned our bad reputation (which might sound strange coming from the CEO of the largest media agency in the world)."
    >> That is not strange, just honest. And when honest has become strange, something is horribly wrong. Inverse the inverted.

    Quote: "I think we've earned our bad reputation".
    >> Why do you think this? From the video: cluttered, false, aggressive and intrusive. Then I hear a "but" and you continue by telling why educating people is good. And educating people is good, you just don't need advertisements for that.

    Video link: http://www.youtube.com/tedaws?x=us_showcasephase2_8498_27
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      Jan 25 2012: Advertisement is necessary. And like politics, it will always exist as long as there are people. If you cannot turn an apparently existed thing into good force, you admit failure.

      Besides, you can find examples of advertisement do both: for commerce and for good.
      • Jan 25 2012: Why do you think advertisement is necessary? And why do you think politics and advertisement will always exist as long as there are people?

        What examples can you give that do both, a force for commerce and a force for good?
  • Jan 27 2012: In the interests of full disclosure, I have worked in an advertising agency, and currently work in a role in my current organization where I am responsible for a lot of advertising as part of our marketing efforts.

    I am of the view that advertising is inherently "not good"-- and I am referring to advertising in its more specific meaning (the one-way market-facing communication meaning) as opposed to all forms of marketing.

    I have always felt (since I was quite young), that advertising-- were I to assign a personality to it-- is, well, kind of date-rapey. Yes, I just said that. Advertising is that guy who comes into a party, isn't really interested in you at all (he's not even listening to what you're talking about), he just wants interrupt you to talk about himself and, by the way, almost nothing he says about himself in any way squares up with your actual experience of the guy. This is the same guy who told TiVo that their "commercial skip" button shouldn't skip commercials anymore-- because people will use it to skip commercials and we don't want them to be able to skip commercials. Yes, we want to force people to have to see things they do not want to see.

    I have been looking (off and on) for a decade for a way to, literally, end advertising-- while still providing a way for people with wants and needs a way to connect with businesses ready to meet those wants and needs, but on a more equal, open and honest footing.

    I will definitely allow that some advertising is relatively better than others-- although when I see an ad that touches me emotionally, I'm pretty immediately met with the thought "They just connected with me emotionally... to get my money." I mean, commerce is what's behind it all anyway-- they're not reaching out to me just to make sure I'm doin' okay.
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    Jan 24 2012: The key to any successful advertising campaign, especially one that is attempting to enhance the positive aspects of an organization, is "believability". If the campaign is in any way at odds with the public perception of the sponsor then there will rightly be skepticism, cynicism, or perhaps even downright scorn elicited from the viewing audience. This obviously presents a problem to any organization that wants to improve it's public image, all the more reason to remember to not let your public perception slide in the first place.

    Can you imagine the possibilities if the organization was created as a change agent for social responsibility from the get-go? Not only as a vehicle for generating owner/shareholder profits, but as a true example of Profit-Donation Capitalism? Some notable examples of this ethos: "Newman's Own", or Tom's "One-for-One" whereby any shoe purchase also results in another pair of shoes going to underprivileged children. How simple, honest, and direct would their advertising be then? Would they even NEED advertising?.

    Perhaps the best and truest way for advertisers to generate good will is for good will to be part of the organizations's founding principles, and not something to be embraced simply to burnish their rusty public exteriors.
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      Jan 25 2012: Those are great examples. You could hold both of those up as the gold standard for all corporations and marketers with a desire to do good. Thanks for sharing.

      You raise one of the all time great debates for our industry - do great products even need advertising? I think of it this way - If I did something good for the world, but nobody saw me do it, did I really do something good? Many people will still answer yes to that question, so I'll take it a step farther. How much greater of an impact would I have had if the good I did was seen by one other person? What about millions of people? When you consider the ripple effect, I think advertising is worth it.
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        Jan 25 2012: Thanks Laura for the reply and for sparking this discussion in the first place.

        I agree that advertising's "ripple effect" can surely broaden the impact of a great product or a worthy brand, but, as in all things, there are trade-offs to consider. Every dollar spent on advertising will dilute the profit-donation equation, so the potential benefits of any ad campaign must be carefully analyzed. Further, there is the danger of being perceived as "tooting one's own horn" so to speak, consequently the campaign would need to maintain an overall sense of honest humility and social responsibility. I suppose that under those conditions an ad campaign could be very beneficial, to the general (or targeted) public as well as to the advertising entity.

        However, there are alternatives to classic, mainstream advertising. If the story is compelling enough, and the products are interesting enough, couldn't the endeavor itself become "News"? And, as such, could not widespread exposure be manifested via contemporary print and broadcast news/talk outlets, as well as online social networks, blogs, and other forms of "information dissemination" simply on the basis of being noteworthy?

        I'm certainly not tolling the death-knell for the advertising industry, but in a connected society with a decentralized information flow there are new paradigms in play.
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    Jan 24 2012: Dove soap commercials over the years have shown imagery of oil soaked birds being scrubbed and released by volunteers. It is a clever use of the product, and it is an inspiring reminder to volunteer and help animals. More importantly it demonstrates how the product works and how it works well. Advertisers can do more by recognizing their own biases, recognizing the biases of their society, and contributing works that oppose these biases. What I mean is self-accountability.
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      Jan 24 2012: I believe you are speaking of the Dawn Saves Wildlife campaign:
      That’s a great example. It may be one of the best illustrations of an ad being a force for good and a force for commerce. It not only shows the Brand giving back to the world, but also – as you said – demonstrates the effectiveness of the product. Thanks for posting!
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    Jan 27 2012: To everyone who has taken the time to comment on this conversation - thank you! I love being part of the TED community and have sincerely enjoyed reading your comments over the past two weeks. I appreciate all of your thought-provoking responses and hope this is just the beginning of a meaningful discussion about the purpose of advertising.
  • Jan 27 2012: no no no.. sorry. advertising is bad because it is something which is not chosen it is something repetitively given to people when they are trying ot watch a movie read a book..i like national geographic i like reading articals about africa and how the people have suffered due to diamond mining.... next to this i am forced again and again to look at seiko wathces encrusted with diamonds.... if they had brought out a magazine about diamonds i would not have bought it... advertising means someone is forcing you to looka t something you would not choose to watch listening to musci you would not choose and eventually buying things you would not choose... if there is a good product a good film or a good song and someone finds it they will pass it on to their friends and with the internet things can "go viral " at an amazing speed songs are shared by people who would never have had to money to advertise produce etc their music but they are good and people like them so their music spreads. if on the other hand every shop you go to every bus you take every time you turn on i tines or the tv you are forced to listen to some pop star {and youar e of a certain age rang that is interested in the topics of said star such as sex and hot boys or whatever crap theyre singing about these days} then youw ill buy that product.. you have not looked for it you have just been mass marketed you were not shared by your peers..and this means the bio diversity of products is more to do with the powers of advertising than th eingenuity of the product or the needs of the buyer which sucks.. it has played its part in our history from violence to soporific comsumerism and that is good because before advertising the forms of control over us were far more brutal... but i think we will leave it behind very soon and allow people to choose and spread their memes products and inovations by choice rather than by imposition and i think advertising will become a crime.
  • Jan 25 2012: To each their own in terms of how they define good but I will give some more food for thought. Lets use online affiliate marketing/advertising as the example as there are many ads that have made me chuckle or provided minor entertainment but when clicked delivered a false promise. Therefore, if "good" encompasses entertainment or amusement then yes advertising can be a force for commerce and a force for good.

    Lets use a better example in beer commercials. Alcohol is a substances that is constantly abused and negatively affects the lives of hundreds of thousands of people every year but I laugh and/or smile at almost every beer commercial I see.

    The major point I'm trying to make is that advertising/marketing is to increase sales. If the product, service, or cause your advertising happens to do "good" (however you define it) then you sleep easier at night.
  • Jan 25 2012: Ok so for example, the new Acura ads show a man in football gear being stripped and then redressed in a fancy suit (essentially being "upgraded") while a deep voice says "it works for people, why not cars?" and the man is then replaced by the new Acura, conveying the idea that we can be "upgraded" by the new Acura. The truth is, we will not be upgraded by the new Acura, but rather we will be significantly poorer financially and arguably spiritually poorer as well for believing that a car would upgrade us in the first place.
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    Jan 25 2012: No.

    I think the only ads I can think of that have been a "force for the good" have been anti-ads. In other words, ads designed to counter the effects of other ads, which seem like a giant waste of cash. If only the original ads had been held to some sort of standard, they wouldn't have run.

    All I know is that now I want a house hippo.
  • Jan 25 2012: Dear Laura,
    Perhaps reword the questions:
    1. In your view, what advertisers are doing the best job of serving the interest of the world - humanity, nature and community?
    2. What are some examples you've seen past and present that demonstrate that advertising can be a force for good, such as helping to reduce consumerism, while still being a force for sustainable business?
    3. What more can be done with advertising space to educate the public on the destructive nature of depending on ever expanding economies and business growth facilitated by the advertising industry?

    I'm sad to see TED allowing you to abuse the forum to suit your best interests by doing a survey that you can then use for creating more consumerism and profits for the companies you represent! You're a slick sales person but I'm not buying until you ask the questions that really need to be asked!!!
  • Jan 25 2012: It would be utopia if advertising was based solely on principled behaviour. At the vey least a guiding "do no harm" policy would be great..i.e targeting children or the lesser educated for fast/processed food or easy money with hidden or inflated costs is just plane wrong and does immeasurable harm. However in reality these clients exist so we need to develop better critical thinking strategies so we can make more informed choices. Perhaps an advertisement educating the public on the pitfalls of advertising and spin might be in order ;) At the end of the day I think we all know what the right thing to do is, it's just that advertising knows how to target our own rationalisations for not doing it....
  • Jan 25 2012: Please excuse my still developing thought - but I think this is a really interesting question. Advertising is a manipulative tool, arguably by definition. Advertisers manipulate consumers to think/feel/react in certain ways, and I feel that we have this natural tendency to immediately think of manipulation as bad. But I like to think of Tom's shoes (the shoe company where you pay a fairly overpriced amount for some canvas shoes and a pair of shoes is donated in a developing nation - for those who hadn't heard of what I'm referencing) as a great example of positive, social change advertising. Toms (Tom's?) became wildly popular, and I have a hard time believing it was because of the functionality of the actual shoe. The product's success was driven by its advertising campaign, manipulating people into believing that should pay exorbitant prices for a shoe and also for the satisfaction of knowing that they helped a child in Africa. Is this wrong? I don't think so.

    Maybe advertising is still "evil" but we might need its manipulative powers to get powerful, social change businesses off the ground - and I think there is a lot of potential for good there.

  • Jan 24 2012: We are stepping into an age where advertising can easily be both a force for commerce AND a force for good. But two things need to happen (besides ad-agencies and corporations having integrity.)
    First, a shift from general advertising(GA) , to direct response(DR). Or at the very least, advertisements that stem from the foundations set by Claude Hopkins, Caples, etc. There are two problems with general advertising, besides being grossly ineffective.
    1) GA creates more noise than information. Cluttering the daily lives of consumers with information that does not matter. If advertisements were more relevant there would be a stronger and swifter flow of information that matters. (And this is done by taking the consumer's problem seriously, and then communicating the product's ability to solve their problem. Not catchy jingles, not commercials that make people laugh.)
    2) Hyper-targeting - Targeting consumers through strategic advertisement is not a new idea. But right now, the ability to target consumers through ads is unprecedented. (Did you hear about Perry Marshall's student who helped unseat a mayor in South Dakota, via hypertargeting via facebook http://tinyurl.com/6u4ctob.)
    If we are able to target relevant consumers, with relevant advertising (not jingles). Consumers will be much better off, because they no longer are bothered by meaningless advertisements ad nauseum . But instead they will have automatic access to relevant information that helps them solve problems in their life.
    Additionally, this will line the pockets of ad-agencies and corporations alike. The ads themselves will be more effective and wasteful spending will be cut dramatically.
    A shift from GA to DR, plus as we discover more and better ways to target consumers (and then implement it). This in tandem with advertisers and corporations having something relevant to say (they almost always do, they just rarely say it) - will create a new world for advertisers and consumers alike.
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      Jan 25 2012: I love watching how data and technology is transforming our industry. The more advancements advertising makes toward behavioral and hyper-local targeting, the more relevant it becomes. It's an exciting time and I love being part of an industry that is on the cutting edge of change.
  • Jan 24 2012: My personal answer is No. I was an advertiser for 10 years and struggled with this question as well. I eventually made a shift, in part because I honestly couldn't find a way to answer Yes.
  • Jan 24 2012: At base level, advertising is just letting people know about your product, where and how to buy it. Great! Er....not really. As a consumer, I actively associate many products with annoying advertising and will avoid the product. If I must watch something on tv, I turn the (spiked up) volume down during ad breaks. I don't like being shouted at, manipulated, patronised, bored to death, outright lied to and most of all, the intrusion. I haven't bought "womens'" magazines for years, as they seem to have little new/valid content - just endless pages of ads, most of which I find incredibly negative toward - well, women. I disengaged with most internet advertisements on pages a long time ago, though the interruption thing applies here too. Am I an ageing, hairy-armed, sackcloth clad troglodyte with no make-up? Hardly - I have more than my fair share of lovely 'stuff', which I seek out myself in shops, galleries, museums, fairs and markets - virtual and actual - and my friends and I talk/email/fb/tweet. I am soon to launch an atypical website - with an Emporium attached - and the question of advertising and how we handle it is very much on my mind. I know what we don't want to do to our audience, and that's my start point. And yes - I hope we can stay alive, too....
  • Jan 24 2012: WE took this on board as an agency in late last year. So much so that we changed our vision. Our vision is to "create inspiring and innovation solutions that Make a DIFFERENCE" . Our goal is to ensure that our personal and client impact and contribution to the community as well to the environment is always positive. Therefore we endeavor to create campaigns that make a difference - either utilising sustainable and biodegradable products or by their campaigns also contributing to a foundation, cause or charity. I also believe that all agencies have a choice of what products to work with - this would be reflected in your values as a business. We also have an in house CSR team that is allocated a set amount of hours per week to set initiatives and measureables for our business as well as our clients. These are used as part of our business KPI's quarterly and reported to the board to ensure there is as much positive impact as possible. ADvertising is the perfect medium to spread positive messages and create brand influence. Prime example being 77% of Australian women seek brands that are aligned with causes and 54% of those would switch brands if their preference does not.

    Last but not least, all true creative should start with research and an absolutely authentic message. No matter the product, brand or division, we have an opportunity to present the right message to the right buyer / viewer. Not all products are for everyone, not all brands are for everyone. It's about ensuring the right message is reaching the right group. We are all responsible for our choices be that the agency or the consumer as long as the message is true to point, the end goal should be achieved.
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      Jan 25 2012: This is inspired. Thank you for sharing your company vision statement. I believe more and more agencies are starting to follow this path. When we wrote our purpose statement for Starcom MediaVest Group we said our dream was "To grow our clients businesses by transforming human behavior through uplifting, meaningful Human Experiences".
  • Jan 24 2012: If you advertise as part of the commercial machine which is gradually grinding down the human population then I think you should be put in a cell and locked up until you realise and admit your role in the downward spiral of human liberty.

    If you are a small business or positive group and advertise in order to raise awarness of your cause or service then it is absolutely a good thing.

    The companies which do good unfortunately do not earn enough money in order to compete with the companies which ust make an absolute mint and can afford prime time tv advert slots etc.

    I think "advertising" can be fantastically influential, the best example must be Apple over the past 10 years. Through advertising (and having far superior products already on the market before anyone else) they have established themselves as Number 1.

    I rarely see greenpeace adverts on TV but more on facebook etc where it is cheaper and does not have as good an influence under the circumstances that using a pc to communicate uses far more brain power than staring at a tv screen absorbing whatever show/advert is pumped down your optic and audio nerves.

    Currently in times of financial hardship I have seen a worrying increase in online gambling sites advertised between daytime TV. ANd its main target audience?????.....the unemployed who are living on benefits and always searching for the elusive big cash injection to their life.

    Coincidence???? NOPE........... there is plenty of scientific proof which shows that those who have very little disposable income are more inclined to gamble because the pro's outweigh the risks of losing....especially when you didnt have to work for the little you had.......

    And at night time????? Online loan companys......to get that cash you have lost before payday.......

    A very very sneaky advertising campaign which should be dissallowed by the government,

    Advertising in times like this should be more responsibly aimed at productive things such as grow your own veg etc
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    Jan 24 2012: Advertising, Design and Communication is one of the greatest social tools we have. It is just terribly unfortunate that the majority of organizations willing to spend money on Advertising and Design need our expertise to navigate PR situations.

    I understand that to survive in the world of advertising most agencies need at least one of these heavy hitters on retainer. I'm just saying it would be nice to see more said agencies contributing to accounts that would benefit the quality of life for the world(not just humans) as a whole.

    As a professional in the industry I know that advertising can be Good. I also know how over worked concept and production artists can be by account executives to meet the goals of 'evil' advertising campaigns.

    I think it's up to the Account Execs to streamline their budgets to free up some money for worthwhile initiatives while making an effort to seek out less morally questionable accounts. The creatives are begging you to do this, but we'd never be heard for fear of being laughed out of a boardroom. You would be surprised how many people get into this industry for the right reasons, but end up doing the wrong work.
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      Jan 25 2012: Viewing advertising as a social tool is one of the themes I'm reading in many of the comments here. It's a good way to look at it, and I've personally seen more and more companies add social responsibility to their business objectives. Some clients are calling it "Grow the Good". I love that expression. It's something that ad execs need to seed in all levels of their organizations.
  • Jan 24 2012: What better use of advertising than to be a force for good -- good for the individual, good for the family, good for the organization...let's all do our best to make good competitive!
  • Jan 24 2012: I'm impressed with the Hellman's ad that draws attention to issues around food security
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      Jan 24 2012: I'm also impressed with this campaign. I would have loved to see some infrastructure put in place at the retail level to give the public a easy path to action.
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      Jan 25 2012: Thanks, Mark. I don't know if I've seen that one. If you have a moment, I'd love it if you could post a link.
  • Jan 21 2012: There is no doubt in my mind that advertising can be used for commerce and for good (and also for really bad).
    With good I would refer to quite a few governments that run ad-campaigns to inform people about the dangers which certain life styles have. For instance in the Netherlands a lot of ads have run to promote save sex (which btw could work as a perfect example of how commerce could be a force for good). Also I remember some ads about 'what to do when confronted with .....' by a few governments (where .... = you see violence / someone is in need of medical attention / etc.)
    However the biggest problem there is with adds being 'both good for commerce while doing good'. Is that in almost all cases you have to first explain that something is wrong with the world. This then causes a negative feeling or cognetive dissonance which you do not want to have linked to a product.
    Because ads are always short it is impossible to 'have the bad feeling being washed away' before the ad has ended. Therefor I believe that none of the companies will run an ad-campaign which does the above.

    The only 'good examples' where ads try to do good are commercials that show the world as 'it should be'. For instance there are many beer commercials that show a world where friends come to eachothers place to have a beer and share a laugh. This might encourage more people to do the same.

    One thing that I would find important to see in future commercials that 'are for the good'. Is that people from different religious backgrounds and people who look very different are treated as equals to the rest. Because although we say that the world is already like that I see time and again that it is not. And I believe that a lot of fear could be taken away from people if they saw that there is nothing dangerous about others.
  • Jan 27 2012: Ideal advertising highlights products, services, or ideas that stand to make a positive difference in people's lives. If consumers see value in the offer, then presumably they adopt the product/service/idea. In this scenario both parties win: the advertiser earns the consumer's business and the consumer's life is improved in some way.

    Of course, not all - or perhaps even much - advertising is ideal. Yet it is clear that advertisers that approach this ideal do better for themselves and their customers' well-being at the same time. For example, in work we're doing at The Center For Positive Marketing at Fordham University, we've observed quite a strong correlation between brands' well-being (read: financial value) and the well-being of the people they serve. This result dovetails nicely with the Harvard Business Review piece Ms. Desmond cited in an earlier comment.

    Advertisers need to more explicitly recognize these relationships and aim for this ideal. Advertising can and should uplift businesses, consumers, and society as a whole.

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    Jan 27 2012: Laura,
    The ad world doesn't deserve the bad reputation, the clients also bear that responsibility! Companies with a bad product or service do want to advertise that product.

    Perhaps the responsibility of ad men is denying that advertising a product won't help.
    In an ad agency, who would dare to turn down a client after realizing their product sucks...? "Sorry sir or M'am, but we believe you should first improve your product/service before deciding to spend a significant amount of money to advertise it". Your point of view is the same as David Ogilvy's: inform, help.

    I love marketing and communication strategy (that's my job) but I'm allergic to ads. Here is why. The century-old traditional advertising model could be compared today to "shout and sell", whereas we do have the means to "talk" with consumers when they want and eventually help them, which benefits both the consumers and the brands.

    Mass-advertising with "shout and sell" techniques still works, unfortunately. But content marketing, that is to speak about everything relevant to the product but the product itself is a great way to engage a meaningful conversation with consumers and help them make a (better) choice.

    One of the first (commercial) example is www.beinggirl.com by P&G: Help teenage girls addressing (embarrassing) questions about becoming an adult. Of course it is meant to sell, but P&G did put their products in a very discrete way. It was a great success and I believe still is.

    For above the line ads, the example of Nike is nice: translating what your company stands for into something meaningful (see Michael Porter's Thick Value theory for that matter)

    In a nutshell: Today, the ad industry has the means to "talk & serve", which eventually sells more (!) instead of shout & (trying desperately to) sell, which becomes more and more difficult (and big kudos to the creative directors who still manage to do it!)
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      Jan 27 2012: I wholeheartedly agree that "being a force of good" needs to be embedded in a company's culture and long term vision. The Nike Foundation is a good example. As I referenced in a previous comment, there was a great article recently in the Harvard Business Review titled "How Great Companies Think Differently". It talks about how successful companies balance short term financial goals and long term societal benefits.

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    Jan 26 2012: "do great products even need advertising?" Yes, they do. Because the media is the present power of delivering an information. People use media as a source of information. In my opinion the real question is: who are these people who decide in media agencies if a product is a good one? There is, and always will be, a big issue about earning money and morality. Is there a place for a geniune way of deciding what's good what's wrong? If a media agency achives a position in consumer's market as a 'moral' one - it wins.
  • Jan 26 2012: Dear Laura,
    the topic is so interesting and I would like to have the time to read all the comments.
    I've been studying the relation between advertising and good and I discovered the power of archetypes, of jungian archetypal psychology and the methodology of archetypal branding by Pearson and Mark.

    My new book with all my reflections is going to be published in Italy on February 21th. The title is "Create! How to design a contagious communication (and make the world a better place)".

    I have also a keynote that I'm presenting in english. You can find here the slides: http://www.slideshare.net/mirkopallera/create-how-to-design-contagious-communication-cristal

    My next presentation will be at Davos (Switzerland). http://forumdavos.com/ I hope to see someone of you there.
    If you are interested in contacting me you can find me here or on Facebook: http://www.ninjamarketing.it/author/mirko-pallera/
    by the way I'm looking for publishers in different languages so if you are interested I can send you more information . very best to you