I had just started working in an advertising agency when I met my aunt at our annual family day. She asked me how I was doing and when I told her about my new job she interrupted me with the following reply: ‘I hate advertising. All those messages I dont want to read or listen to. They are really annoying‘ (the internet had not settled in yet, so the examples she was referring to were about print ads and radio).
Although it felt like a strange way to start a conversation, I decided to keep calm and ask her about her motives. Would she be willing to pay more for a newspaper without ads, or risk the chance of missing out on her favorite social activities because there was no announcement in the local free sheet?
I agree that spam has never been as intrusive as it is today. But the debate on unsolicited or irrelevant communication has always been on the agenda. The only difference is that nowadays, with video on demand and adblockers, the consumers have the power. They decide whether they want to be chosen or not when advertisers are looking for an audience.
Yet what worries me is the lack of depth in these discussions. Dont we have to look further than the obvious? Because, in my opinion, power always comes with responsibility.
What about the fear of missing out? Missing out on great content when tomorrow there are no great journalists left. Missing out on the freedom of opinion since media can be bought by those who have money. Missing out on interesting things that enlarge our vision, ideas or perception.
As the owner of an advertising agency I am willing to take my responsibility and make our commercial messages as relevant and entertaining as possible. I can only hope that our society will also feel a similar responsibility in choosing quality over quantity.
There is no such thing as a free lunch. From free bus services to free green energy: we all know the real cost now. The only thing in life you really can get for free is the air we breathe and true friendship. Even if we go for very cheap, we will lose in the end. Because the cheapest egg cant be made on the most beautiful farm and the cheapest clothes wont be made in the best factories in the world.
And as strange as this may seem, you need (good) advertising to make this possible. Because advertising allows (free) media to go and search for good content: something new, something you were not aware of, something that can change your perception and finally even your opinion. Let us never lose that freedom by choosing to ban all advertising. In the long run, bad advertising will only punish the brands and agencies responsible for lousy communication.
Its a self-fulfilling prophecy, even without any adblockers. So we dont really need them, do we?
PS.: Oh yes
And as for my aunt for those of you who were still wondering after her son graduated from art school, he started working in an advertising agency. Im quite convinced this has changed her opinion on all those bad ads.