“I got so I simply gagged every time I sat before my desk to write an ad.” -Hart Crane
I smile when “real writers” criticize their time making advertising. There’s a nostalgic quality to the criticism that lessens its impact and renders it charming. What makes me gag is the media garbage train, which includes everything from “The Housewives of Your Stupid City” to the masquerade of cable news and the onslaught of verbal nonsense clogging up our social streams and RSS feeds. So, Crane and I agree that we have a major problem and that we don’t want to contribute to it.
But unlike Hart Crane, when I sit down to write an ad, I am invigorated, not nauseated. The making of an ad is my chance to make things known and make them right, by a small degree for sure, but right nonetheless. What do I mean by “making things right” in an ad? I mean telling the truth about the company, in new and surprising ways. The fact is there are tens of thousands American companies making great products and providing terrific services. These companies have lots of authentic stories to tell, because happy customers like to share their favorite brand experiences. These companies also have the opportunity to contribute to the culture, and many of them do.
Making advertising the right way takes belief in, and loyalty to, a different path, and a steep, lonely path it can be. There is a ton of advertising that continues to mask unhealthy corporate agendas. And there’s a ton of relatively innocent advertising that is poorly constructed, from strategy through to execution. Here’s the rub though, low standards industry-wide and decades of bad practices can be overcome, one ad at a time. It may sound like a quixotic pursuit, and perhaps it is. So be it—take me to your windmills.
Personally, I find ethics in media and in business a fascinating topic. Media is incredibly powerful, and the potential for misuse extraordinarily high. Media can contribute to the demise, or to the coming together, of people. That’s why, for better or worse, I’m in it to win it.