Why I dislike advertising

So I finally figured how to write a successful blog post; disagree with Banksy. I’m also learning that there are a lot of hypocrites in the world that are extremely keen to lambast someone who admits working commercially. Being called a nazi by a commercials director for example.

Some 5000 views in 24 hours later, I feel like a certain percentage of those readers ran with it in the wrong direction. I feel like I need to correct a few things in that respect and now perhaps lay down some areas where Mr Banksy and I might see common ground. If he cared what I thought.

It was never my intent to come across as some champion of advertising; I was simply disagreeing with some of the points in a specific text.

Advertising now accounts for roughly 40% of my income and 5% of my time. In addition to this I create work for the publishing, editorial, music, art and occasionally fashion industries. Aware that a lot of what I create is for nought – as is the way with most designers, let’s be honest – I have also donated my time creating new work for charities as well as donating existing work for auction for smaller charities. I have refused to work on campaigns for the Army, credit cards and cigarette companies and my conscience, I feel, is relatively clear.

Last year I tweeted that “Everyone who works in advertising needs to get good at something else. And fast.” And I meant it.

Banksy can sleep well knowing that the industry he loathes so much simply won’t exist in 10-15 years time. Advertising is an industry constantly on the back foot. Chasing the zeitgeist and struggling to remain relevant in a world where it is increasingly difficult to do so. The ever-more weird and potentially intrusive ways that we see it penetrating our lives are a result of this, and this disparate and inefficient way of garnering people’s attention is unsustainable.

The industry is already 50% of the size it was 10 years ago – still too big for some – and this is a downward trend which will continue. To that end, the public will see companies trying to engage them in progressively odd and extreme ways. One more recession will be the final twist of the knife.

In the worst cases of online advertising, I have seen companies willing to pay up to $1 per ‘Like’ for their brands on Facebook. That’s a pretty tragic statistic. Google’s recent changes to their privacy policy are seen as a sinister turn – which, in truth, they are and they’ll make a lot of money from it – but I really do believe in the public’s ability to exercise their free will, make choices and, where appropriate, remove themselves from situations where advertising has soiled things in their eyes. You can leave Facebook. You can stop using Google. Make your phone ex-directory and de-list it to prevent sales calls. You can even ask the Post Office to stop sending you junk mail. These are all ways that, if you really believe advertising to be evil, will reduce your exposure to it markedly. However, when you start downloading TV shows and films, don’t act surprised when the quantity of said shows and films begins to dry up. Equally, if you stop buying magazines that sell ad space, you’ll find they very quickly disappear too.

At best, advertising can provide a cultural touchpoint. I remember fondly watching the PG Tips monkeys in the 80’s. At it’s worst it’s an inconvenience, nothing more. Bear with me.

People who claim that advertising is the reason for the First world’s insecurity and consumerist nature are ignoring one crucial fact: that since the dawn of man, each individual has always wanted what another has. Whether it’s a big stick, a stone or a fucking Porsche. It is our species’ cross to bear. It is the reason we fight and while advertising may trade on this aspect of our make-up, it is not the cause.

I dislike advertising for different reasons to Banksy. I dislike it because I worked in it. It is wasteful, disorganised – chaotic even – and has a false sense of importance. It doesn’t respect the people who choose to make it their career and it takes up for too much of their time. It is frustrating, and while I made good friends in industry, I also met some absolute prats. For those reasons, and no other, I no longer work in an advertising agency. If a company that I don’t take particular issue with wants to pay me to create something for their brand, then I have no problem with that.

So that’s where I stand. I’m not going to enable comments on here because I’m not interested, in this instance, in what anyone else thinks. Ultimately, everyone has to find their own way through their lives and this is something that is personal to me. I don’t expect agreement nor disagreement.

_ CW