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Monday, November 26, 2007

Advertising, It Works on Advertisers Too

There is a widely misunderstood perception of advertising among those who are not intimately familiar with the industry. It's the idea that all advertisers are evil capitalist pigs who are bent on hawking their worthless wares to the unsuspecting masses that they manipulate through immoral and treacherous tactics. On top of that, they don't even care a bit about the inferior products they're selling, just as long as the register keeps ringing.

While the first part of that statement is certainly loaded—and a topic for another discussion—I wanted to take a moment to address the idea that advertisers actively sell items that they themselves believe to be crap. Although, I'm merely a lowly ad student, I can tell you that the majority of advertisers—and certainly the good ones—really do care about their clients quite genuinely. My friends already working are huge proponents of the brands they work for, just because they really do love them that much.

Even in school you can see it; the clients you work on change your behavior just because you've begun to feel a connection to them. After my work last quarter, I'm now a huge fan of Usinger's Sausage. If I were ever to need a moving service, you'd better believe the first place I'd call would be Two Men and a Truck. This quarter I knew next to nothing about Russia before starting on the tourism campaign; now I'm very intrigued to go explore that crazy country someday. I've got a National Geographic subscription coming in the mail ($10 for a year!). And, to top it all off, I've never really flossed regularly in my life before, but since working on Glide I do it every night. I feel guilty if I don't in fact.

Perhaps even more telling is when you feel completely stumped by a client you don't care about. Take tonight for example. My partner and I have been working on the Dell XPS laptop for a week now to absolutely zero avail. In fact, we've been spinning our wheels so badly that tonight we decided to scrap the whole thing and move on. Ultimately it came down to the simple fact that, being loyal Mac owners, we couldn't find any reason why someone would really want this computer over our favorite brand. We couldn't believe what we were trying to say.

Perhaps I'm a bad copywriter, perhaps it's a bad client, but I think that maybe it's not such a bad thing. If I don't genuinely believe that my product will make your life better—if I would never even consider buying it myself—who am I to tell you that you should put your hard-earned money towards it?

The stereotypical moral conundrum brought up in every college advertising ethics class is what do you do if your agency won a tobacco account, and you believe strongly against cigarettes? Do you move on and try to find a new job or shove your conscience into your stomach and ignore it for the next five years?

While that's an extreme case and one that's far different from a silly weekly class assignment, it's still a good question. I suppose it's nice to be reminded, even in school, that being honest is still an important trait to cling onto. As you learn about the clients that you really do care about, you find yourself in a place where you not only produce better work but also produce work that you can be proud of and believe in.

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