Saturday, March 26, 2011


I worked for an advertising agency years ago, and it was run by a young sociopath who cheated the clients on billable hours and was a great salesman. He could get the clients to go for any damn thing.

The other night, I saw a TV documentary on advertising, on the PBS series “Independent Lens.” They interviewed five or six giants in the ad world, and these rich fat cats all congratulated themselves extravagantly on how creative they were, and how they were doing “real art” and bragging about their famous ad campaigns.

Frankly, it was enough to make you puke.

One guy crowed on and on about "Where's the beef?" as if that was a stroke of genius. Oh, nobody wanted that campaign, and everyone whined about it, and it went on to be wildly successful and it sold millions of crappy cheeseburgers for some fast-food chain. 

Oh, goody. To me, that's just another form of bullshit. (See my other blog: I don't see any social or artistic value in crappy cheeseburgers, no matter how many you sell.

Another rich ad guy went on and on about Toulouse Latrec, saying that those paintings that are world-famous art now were just advertising posters back when he painted them.

Yes, I would say, but Latrec was an artist first and an ad man later. These assholes think that their ads are art first, but they are not. Sure, sometimes, they rise to the level of art, but not very often.

They showed a commercial for Nike that had a series of girls, from about four to 10 years old, on playgrounds, saying things like, "If you let me participate in sports... I'll be less likely to put up with abuse from a man when I grow up .. I'll be more likely to find myself a career...." Etc., etc.  

That was wonderful. It made me cry. I'm not sure I'd call it art, but it sure was moving. A good message presented in fine style. I don't know if it sold a lot of sneakers, or athletic wear, but that was its purpose. Its purpose was not artistic, no matter how touching it was.

Usually, these ad men sell their souls to the devil and then sing about it. They are basically salesmen, and they try to sell you on the idea that they are artists. They call themselves "creatives" as if that made them artists. It does not. It makes them clever hucksters.

To me, advertising is a perversion of the creative process. It puts manipulating people before revealing some truth about human nature, and before presenting an object of beauty for its own sake.

I would have more respect for these ad men if they were more honest: Hey, we're in it for the money, and we make a lot of money, and we make money for our clients, too. We try to do it in fine style. If you don't like it, you can kiss our ass.

That would be OK with me. They can kiss mine, too.

(BTW, this real-life agency was not anything like the one on TV's "Mad Men," which I thought was total BS when I watched the first few episodes.)

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

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