Is there any room for idealists in advertising?

The Ad Contrarian, Bob Hoffman, says that there is a difference between telling lies and peddling BS. To keep politically correct and still be able to share his views, I will use the Queen’s English version of BS — which is ‘dung’. When people lie, they know what the truth is and they intentionally misrepresent it, but people who hawk ‘dung’ don’t know the truth and often don’t care. They are out to make a point or sell you and idea and they really don’t care if what they say is true or not.

The advertising and marketing sector is full of people vending the stuff and that’s why 80% of CEO’s don’t trust their CMO’s. “That’s absolute ‘cow dung’,” I hear you say, but if you are more interested in winning awards at Cannes than driving sales then something has got to give. Marketing departments and advertising agencies are infested with people who are either obsessed by control, or those who are motivated by their own personal image, respectively known as Succeeders and Aspirers.

The egos that they bundle around the office take up so much room that there is literally no space for the idealist, who walks in quoting the Greats with lines like “Advertising is truth well told.” Another name for the idealist is The Reformer, according to Y&R 4Cs, and they may come into ad agencies as number crunchers or research analysts and are quickly spat out like lukewarm Christians.

Thus the only place that Reformers can exist in agencies is on the creative brief, within the description of the target audience. To the narcissistic ad executive they are very complex beings, who are not easy to understand or indeed to please. They like to hold hands and sing Kumbaya all day long as they discuss ways of saving the world from itself.

For this reason, I guess, many of them end up working for Save the Whales, the Danish Refugee Fund or the multitude of NGOs out there. They are very cerebral and often overthink things that should very well be left alone and oddly enough this puts them at the leading edge of society. Needless to say their core motivation in life is enlightenment and therefore they seek things that have harmony and alignment, and that are generally good for the world.

So, how do you attract the most anti-materialistic group to your product? Well, you could start by remembering that their choices in life are expensive. Living life off organic food and products is more expensive than living off those mass produced economy brands, and this tells you that they are willing to fork out tonnes of cash for merchandise that supports a sustainable world.

Apple, with its superior design standards and minimalist presentation appeals to The Reformer, and they added a cherry on top when they responded appropriately to the e-waste problem. In 2016 they launched the iPhone SE which took the body of an older model and kitted it out with the latest chip, software and features of the latest model. Thus instead of relegating the old phones to the rubbish heap, certain components were recycled and this demonstrated that they were doing their bit to reduce e-waste in the world. Now that display of thoughtfulness built into product design inspires devotion within The Reformers.


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