Tuesday 25 October 2011

Monbiot mad at Mad Men: 'Advertising is poison'

Guardian commentator George Monbiot bites the hand that helps feed him today with a searing attack on advertising.

He describes it as a poison whose "pervasiveness and repetition act like a battering ram against our minds."

But accepts: "I am talking about the industry whose output frames this column and pays for it: advertising. For obvious reasons, it is seldom confronted by either the newspapers or the broadcasters."

Monbiot argues that newspapers will lean more heavily on advertising as print sales continue to fall.

He writes: "I detest this poison, but I also recognise that I am becoming more dependent on it. As sales of print editions decline, newspapers lean even more heavily on advertising. Nor is the problem confined to the commercial media. Even those who write only for their own websites rely on search engines, platforms and programs ultimately funded by advertising. We're hooked on a drug that is destroying society. As with all addictions, the first step is to admit to it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I write in response to George Monboit’s attack on advertising .

Damning Advertising en bloc is as foolhardy as damning the Cinema, Television or indeed the Press. It is no more a poison than they are.

Like them, it is merely a 'carrier'. Its merit or lack of it is entirely dependent on what it carries. It can be a force for good as well as evil.

I would be interested to see what poison Mr Monboit can uncover in my own advertisements for Army Officer Recruitment, The RSPCA or even Albert Bartlett’s Rooster Potatoes.

Advertising was born when tradesmen and farmers wished to sell their wares to people they did not know and were unlikely to meet. In essence, that is what it still does today.

Some of Mr Monboit's arguments about advertising creating markets for the horrid and harmful are valid, but his blanket rant only succeeds in muffling them.

He also seems to be suffering from a virulent new strain of Vance Packard syndrome. (Sufferers are easily recognized by their paranoid ramblings about 'hidden persuaders'.)

In my forty-year career as a copywriter at some of London’s most eminent and successful advertising agencies, not once did I find myself in a room with a neurobiologist intent on " bypassing the conscious mind."

However, I am sure there are latter day snake-oil salesmen peddling such drivel if, like Mr Monboit, one sets out intent on finding them.

Human beings reactions to stimuli are as individual as their fingerprints. A viewer, reader or listener’s susceptibility to noting or even noticing an advertisement alters at every moment of every day. We refer to the ‘art of persuasion’. A science it ain’t.

He is however correct in his belief that advertisers are intent on triggering emotional responses, rather than rational ones.

Those same forty years have taught me that fully rational decisions hardly exist, by and large we make even our rational choices for an emotional reason - we wish to be seen as sensible, caring or responsible.

Like it or not, there are few things as comforting as the glow of admiration.

Often the most effective way to encourage people to adopt the intrinsic values Mr Monboit quite rightly champions is to satisfy the extrinsic ones he loathes.

Mr Marc