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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 24 2012: The revolution in data-driven solutions is really helping change the mechanics of advertising in positive ways. We are also seeing, however, the counter pressure of commercial interests. While Amazon and web-based ad companies are using data about me to target ads, the flip side is the "sponsored" placements from Facebook, et al that overrides the personalized stream. I am skeptical that a purely personalized ad mechanic will survive the pressure to generate demand from corporations for new products (without a clear tie-in to existing customer interests) or perhaps less wholesome products, that users may select against when asked, but buy in moments of weakness like junk-foods. To the extent that established linkage algorithms can be overridden at all, its likely to take large amounts of spending, placement and repetition that will suppress small innovators in favor of large firms with ad budgets. The tension between these two forces will always limit the utility of paid advertising to the mass market. There is no "sweet spot" between them.

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