Saturday, December 29, 2007

why people hate us

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.

6 comments:

daily biz said...

I have often wondered why people don't like advertisers too when, like you said, often our content is more entertaining and more truthful than the shows people are watching or magazines people are reading.

But...I am shameless enough to proudly admit to working in advertising (and to being an American).

To which my sister replies that being shameless is just the sort of trait I would need to be in this business.

She thinks that she is very funny.

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

Thanks for posting from the tundra, daily biz. I think your (funny) sister is right.

Bob Hoffman said...

Hello ad broad,

Just came across your blog today and am reading through it and enjoying it. I have a comment on your entry "why people hate us." People don't actually hate us. They hate "the advertising industry", which we all do, but don't actually hate advertising or advertising practitioners. In fact, they kinda like us and like to talk about advertising.

You beat me to the "Welcome to Scotland" post by over two months, which pisses me off.

However, I'm afraid I've got you on the "oldest working writer in advertising" claim. Although I'm sure there are some among my colleagues would question the "working" part.

Enjoying, keep writing.

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

Thanks for the read and generous words, Bob. Can't say I agree that our detractors reserve venom for the industry only--isn't that like claiming anti-American sentiment abroad isn't aimed at Americans? But maybe you hang out with more evolved people than I do.

So, were you in attendance at the agency dinosaurs party last week?

Bob Hoffman said...

My experience is that as soon as people find out I'm in the ad business they 1)crack a joke about how bad advertising is, then 2) bug the shit out of me with questions and opinions.

It's like going to Seattle. First they tell you how great Seattle is, then they ask you if you know about any jobs in SF.

As for going to an industry party, I'd rather sit through a webinar on search optimization.

Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating.

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

A webinar on search optimization-ha! Too true. You must be gainfully employed, Bob. Party attendance required for dinosaurs looking for work.