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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 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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