Sunday, September 23, 2007

The mind of an Adman

Regular readers will know my dislike of advertising. It is unavoidable when travelling on the Underground, in the form of posters at the stations and placards on the inside of the trains. And any insight into the mindset of those who create this stuff is helpful, in making it easier to resist the endless lies.

So here is an extract from an interview in The Guardian a few days ago with Chamath Palilhapitiya, the VP of product marketing and operations of Facebook.

“We honestly believe if we make advertising more compelling and more socially relevant, we can have significantly less but it being more valuable…the thing is not to have as many ads as possible but to make them as essential and necessary as possible. And then it is not viewed as advertising but as content” (source:

Whoops, what a giveaway. Leaving aside the wonderful idea that there are things that the VP dishonestly believes, he has laid bare the essence of what admen believe – that their products are essential, that we actually need them, that they are as, if not more, relevant than the actual content of the website (TV programme, newspaper…) that we have chosen to read or watch or listen to.

So let me, as VP for plain speaking of Ramblings, make clear – adverts are not essential. They are basically lies. They distort reality. They purport to provide information, but by only giving us information that the admen wishes us to have, and by suppressing anything that the admen consider may be detrimental to their products, in reality they bamboozle and confuse us. And the idea that adverts will come to be considered on the same level of content is really frightening. It means that Facebook users will be unable to distinguish genuine friends and contacts from people trying to sell them something. There will be no distinction between people doing things because of a mutual interest, and people who care only about the money they can make out of you. Ultimately no distinction between truth and lies.

Do I protest too much? Remember the decades in which tobacco manufacturers assured us that smoking was good for us? And those in which we were told about how alcoholic drinks were good for us? The cosmetics firms that cruelly use animals for testing? The cosmetics firms that today sell water and vegetable oils mixed into “creams” to “reduce the signs of ageing”? The airlines who claim to fly to certain cities when in reality they fly to airports many miles from those cities? The ads that claim “Everyone’s talking about…” a brand new product that nobody has ever heard of before? And so on, endlessly, on and on.

No, I protest too little.

No comments:

Post a Comment