For years I objected to advertising. I refused to consider it as a potential career path. I was young, idealistic – I knew better. I had no desire to sell Frank another pair of jeans or a razor whose sixth blade would surely slice skin. The industry was morally corrupt. It preyed on the weak-willed and intellectually inferior… and then my parents cut me off.
All of a sudden advertising looked pretty good. I was an all right writer. I’d published short stories in print and online to mediocre reviews and, let’s be honest, if the Internet didn’t rip me a new one, I must not have been half bad.
So, I decided that a copywriter was the thing to be. I tossed my morals aside, I mocked up a portfolio, and somehow I managed to get hired at Noise as the Copywriter Intern. With bated breath I readied myself to descend into the depths of moral abandon.
As any intern soon learns: I didn’t know shit. I couldn’t write a 90 character Facebook ad or concept an IAB (what the hell is an IAB?) but all that was irrelevant.
What I was really interested in was discovering just how evil these fat cats were. Would they laugh at poor old Frank as their commercial caused him to fork over the last of his line of credit for a new car lease? Would they stuff their faces as Susan sent her kids to school with raw potatoes so she could afford a second plasma TV? A little dramatic, maybe, but I was convinced that the answer to both of these questions was yes.
Now, even as I’m writing this, I’m nervously waiting for the other shoe to drop but so far, it’s not like that at all. Where’s the cunning manipulation? The deceitfulness? The utter disdain for the consumer?
It’s more art studio than used car lot. More think-tank than street-urchin-trench-coat-bazaar. On its best days it’s a creative orgy curated by Jackson Pollock. On its worst… well, I probably haven’t seen it on its worst.
It’s not about manipulating my good pal Frank – it’s about exciting him. It’s about offering him utility and value in an innovative way. Advertising isn’t a mind control tactic – it’s a conversation.
Of course, it’s not all sunshine. It can be silly at times (and I mean that in the most derogatory way possible – imagine selling a pencil and not being allowed to call it a pencil or even refer to its ability to write) but… surprisingly enough, advertisers aren’t Satan incarnate. Yeah… that’s what I’ve learned. Advertisers: not Satan incarnate.