I’ve just read another outraged article about advertising.

This article is shocked about how advertising lies.

Advertising that pretends not to be advertising: native advertising.

Where a journalist pretends to be writing an article, but it’s actually sponsored by a brand or product.

The article says “The fact is that an inherently manipulative industry tries to present itself as honest and trustworthy”.

Well, advertising that pretends not be advertising is the result of people who are ashamed to be in advertising.

People who worry it may compromise their artistic integrity.

People who would rather be making art.

So they disguise what they’re doing.

They avoid naming the product, they avoid catchy slogans, above all they avoid looking like they are selling anything.

Subtlety and stealth are all important.

These people have forgotten (or maybe they never learned) the most important difference between advertising and art.

Art is for the artist.

Advertising isn’t.

Advertising, unlike art, is all about communication.

“If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one around to hear it, is there a sound?”

In the case of art (as argued by Duchamp) the answer is yes.

In the case of advertising, the answer is no.

A communication isn’t a communication until it’s been received.

And it won’t be received unless people want to receive it.

Howard Gossage said “People don’t read ads. They read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad”.

That’s the truth.

Ordinary people aren’t annoyed by advertising.

They’re annoyed by anything boring whether it’s adverts, films, music, programmes, speeches, poetry, the news, or graffiti.

People aren’t stupid.

They know the little films between the programmes are adverts.

The only sin advertising commits for ordinary people is boredom.

If it makes them laugh, if it’s interesting, if it’s worth passing on, then it’s okay.

If it’s not any of those things it’s an irritation.

If it’s ashamed about what it is and tries to pretend it’s something else then it’s a lie, manipulation.

No one likes that.

That was the lesson we should have learned from Bernbach.

People like advertising that’s honest.

Not just a piece of pretend-art.

The article said “An ad that pretends to be art is like someone who smiles warmly at you because they want something from you”.

Consumers know that; they’re not dopes.

The article ends like this:

“Perhaps capitalism that makes no attempt to conceal its intentions is the best we can hope for”.

The article meant that as a bad thing, but I think it’s a good thing.

Stop lying, stop being ashamed of what we do, stop pretending it’s something else.


Admit we’re selling stuff and make it enjoyable.