I read an article on the weekend that really irked me. It wasn’t the content of the article that shocked me (though it should have – it was regarding the sexualisation of girls), or the massive generalisations it espoused (to the tune of practically blaming feminism for the rise in violent female behaviours), it was that the article almost entirely rode on the back of a tired, unsubstantiated cliché – advertising is to blame for practically all of
People who have never bothered to educate themselves about the creation and application of advertising must think all ads are created Macbeth-style – with three evil witches cackling around a boiling cauldron, pausing only to chant ‘bubble, bubble, toil and trouble’. They must think that the strategy behind an advertisement is conjured up with the sole intention of manipulating the consumers mind to make them buy, and then buy some more. They must view ads as some type of mystical force which have the ability to change their behaviours and force them into performing actions they would really prefer not to.
I am the first to admit that advertising can be a dirty business. It can promote stereotypes and can normalise unhealthy behaviours. Notice my use of the word ‘can’. Advertising ‘can’ do some of these things, but let me tell you a little secret – the consumer has responsibilities too. I am not suggesting that degrading or sexualised advertising exists only because there is a market for it (though some advertisers would argue with me), I am saying that in Australia the consumer has some of the strongest avenues available to protect themselves from advertising which they deem offensive. A quick google search uncovers many agencies dedicated to keeping advertising standards in Australia amongst the highest in the world, and all of them actively work to protect Australian viewers, readers and listeners from receiving advertising deemed offensive. The point is, if an advertising message offends you it probably offends other people too. So do something about it. The only way to reign in rogue behaviours in the advertising world is to object to it.
Which brings me to my next point: All advertisers/marketers/Macbeth’s witches – whatever you care to call us – are not bastards. You may find it hard to believe, but there are people out in the advertising world not only with hearts, but morals as well. Some of us care about the messages we send to the world outside the agency. Some of us believe that the responsibility of our position deserves attendance which is analytic whilst sensitive in nature. Some of us can hold our heads high and know that the job we do fulfils the very first objective of the Jack in the box mantra – first, do no harm.
So, while I won’t hold my breath for it, it would be great to receive credit where credit’s due. Now, I must be off – the cauldron is boiling over.