Maybe its because I get to talk with a lot of teen/20somethings or maybe its because all my friends are cynical bastards … but I seem to defend the advertising business a lot.

And maybe because of that I thought I should take a moment and share some truths.

Because the business (for the majority) is not made up of liars, hucksters, clowns, alcoholics, smarmy assholes or even ‘yahoos’ in general <although it may be more fun if it were>.

And mostly we try and tell the truth to businesses and consumers.  I say mostly because I admit that there are some moments inside an agency where one of the minority (from the above aforementioned majority) find a voice (most typically with regard to new business) and says things that send a shiver up my ethical spine.


Some truth (I imagine this is just an abbreviated list of truths of which we could add many many more if I were to think about it more).

Advertising is not always about just selling stuff.

Advertising isn’t just a catalyst for buying (or convincing someone to buy) … it is a catalyst for how people see things, think about things and, sometimes, actually do things. I heard Spike Lee once say .. “I feel a responsibility for everything I create <because millions will see it>.” Advertising may be the most powerful thing out there to affect people. We know we are in a business … but we also know we impact people significantly more than the sales numbers ever reflect.  We in the business never forget this (albeit it may look like we have on occasion). Ok.  Let’s just say that the people in advertising who really ‘get it’ never forget this.

That said …

Yes. Creativity is about results & awards (or recognition).

We understand what we do makes an impact … and should be measured by some type of results. On the other hand … because it is creativity we like some creative validation that you didn’t just have to throw mud against the wall to make something stick. The truth is that advertising people thrive on both. And we have to … because sometimes bad advertising can generate results. And people get fooled by just looking at sales results (and not examining the results in terms of what people actually think … because that impacts future behavior). Good advertising can generate better results (and better long term impressions). And awards help better delineate between the crappy advertising that shows results and good advertising that shows results.

We like results & recognition. And we like people talking about it … speaking of which …

Social media is actually not that social.

We care about social media.  Probably more than most business owners actually do. Many businesses create an illusion of ‘social’ but in reality maintain a relatively non-social business model (as defined in traditional social terms). So. The truth? The term social media has taken on galactic size proportions standing for everything … and nothing. Here is the truth. Most social media vehicles are simply information disseminators. They aren’t social. They permit people and businesses to narcissistically spew forth ad nausea about themselves. What makes the web different is that there is an OPPORTUNITY to respond. If you take part in responding … well … it still isn’t social … it has simply become a dialogue (sort of). It only becomes social when there is some interaction like talking with someone at a party. Trust me on this one … in most cases it remains at stage one (the spewing part). For the most part the current social world is a monologue.

Oh.  Just like TV.

Now. This doesn’t diminish the importance of social media and the future … it’s just that the good agencies keep perspective and actually recommend what is going to be the best for a clients’ business.

Ok. Back to TV.

Television is not dead.

One TV ad on American Idol can reach more teens then a PitBull tweet. And make a bigger impression (because you have those funny moving picture thingies).

Anyway.  As long as tv executives keep their heads out of their asses often enough to actually produce programs people will watch … there will be TV ads. And as long as there is TV advertising there will be a maddening mix of insightfully educating entertaining executions and pedantic pedestrian drivel waste of :30 seconds.

Why is that? ….

We don’t know what works (for sure).

Sure. There are some basic principles that can insure your advertising will be in the “good” portion of the gene pool but, in the end, setting research aside … people are fickle and clients (in general) find it difficult to make the hard choices (because they prefer to ‘please’ rather than ‘prod’ the mind) needed so that the advertising actually has enough sharp edges on it to stand out. I will say this … give a good advertising agency (not a hack agency) one year to do whatever they believed was the best thing to do and I would bet over 80%+ of everything they did would be good (people like it) and effective (creates results).

Anyway. We are probably like songwriters. We write songs and we know some are better than others when we write them. We also kind of recognize when we write a hit – on the off chance when we write something like that – but you can never be sure until it is actually out there for all to hear & see.

And we do care what people think …

We do care about clients (most of them).

There is nothing better than knowing you have created something people like and generates results in partnership with a client you respect.


The only advertising people who have no/little respect for their clients or nothing good/nice to say about their clients (most typical comment is “they just aren’t that smart”) aren’t good advertising people. And you don’t want to work with them anyway.

And we do care about the people who buy the stuff too, but …

The consumer is not the king/queen.

Sorry to burst everyone’s bubble but if they were (kings & queens) they could demand anything they wanted … and businesses would go out of business chasing their fleeting whims <demands>.

Here is the truth. A sale is a partnership between the seller & the buyer. At its best it is a marriagelike relationship. In either case … things are balanced … with one not significantly more important than the other. And why is this important? Well. With balance there is trust. And that is the basis for any long term brand or business proposition. Treat them like a king/queen? Yikes.  At some point they will believe they are one and … well … treat the company like a serf (that is bad by the way).

Speaking of how people are treated …

Creative <advertising> people always have a thread of insecurity (or fear).

If people want to wonder why creative people (or agency people in general) do wacky things … well … try this on for size. Remember what it felt like the first time you were in love and decided to say it out loud? You were scared shitless it wouldn’t be reciprocated. Or, worse, someone would just laugh. Well. That’s life in advertising on a daily basis. Creative ideas and ads and thoughts are emotionally, typically insightful, parts of our soul we elected to have the kahones to share with the public. In the end no client is the enemy, the consumer isn’t the enemy … fear is the enemy.  Understand that and you understand the people in the business.


I am sure I missed some other truths, but those are probably the biggies.

Good advertising people don’t lie. Either by omission or in actual ‘untruths’ or even in partial truths. And they actually have the clients’ business interest in mind with almost everything they do … because when a client is successful, even if an agency may not get credit, they almost never get fired.

That’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth (at least for today).

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Written by Bruce