At a party recently, I met a woman who introduced herself as a Collections Manager for an art gallery. What does a Collections Manager do? I asked. She got a faraway look and began to elucidate: she puts her considerable art education to use by explaining the gallery's works to a collector, elaborating on a painting's influences, its origins, on what makes it remarkable, so that often the collector wants to take it home for himself. Like, buy it? I asked. Turns out she works on commission, and it took supreme self control for me not to remark on the similarity of our occupations. I knew that to do so would be an insult to her.
But why? Why is advertising one of the world's most reviled professions, one that in surveys, rates below even car dealers? We provide entertainment--often more entertainment than the content into which our stuff is embedded. We can't lie anymore, thanks to a labyrinth of consumer-protecting rules to which copy must comply. (Now, deceptive ads result in expensive lawsuits by entire cities.) And, in best case scenarios, what we do actually constitutes public education. (See Dove.)
But then, I'm knocked off my high horse by something like this. The Wall Street Journal discloses that Wacoal is introducing a girdle for men. The man-girdle is being advertised first in Japan (as if salarymen aren't already under enough pressure) not as a vanity product, but health-promoting. A statement from a doctor claims the underwear helps reduce body fat. It comes (of course) with a promotional DVD jam-packed with product benefits like how the girdle makes you take longer strides, helping you expend calories.
Between this and a scoop from Tangerine Toad alerting me to a SkyMall magazine ad hawking Gravity Defyer Shoes, I see there's still plenty to begrudge about advertising. No wonder I am reticent to disclose my profession in public, as when traveling abroad I sometimes lie about my country of origin (um, I'm from Canada) so as not to elicit in strangers feelings of undue contempt.