Advertising isn’t complicated, but we like to make it sound like it is.

Okay try this: advertising splits basically into two schools of thought, Sartre or Kant.

Sartre was an existentialist; that already sounds more complicated than it is.

It’s called existentialism because its motto is: “existence precedes essence”.

Which again sounds complicated, but just means that someone existing happens before the rules about how we should exist.

So existence is the reality, the rules are made up afterwards.

See, that’s actually not complicated at all.

If we don’t exist, how can there be any rules?

That being the case, there can’t be any absolute right or wrong, just what we decide.

Although there isn’t an absolute right or wrong, there are rules for how society works.

So if we break society’s rules, there are consequences.

I found it best described as: “There is no right and wrong, there is only cause and effect”.

So we can’t hide behind right and wrong, we make a decision and take the consequences.

That’s uncomfortable for a lot of people, as Sartre said “We are condemned to be free”.

Hiding behind good intentions was acting ‘in bad faith’ – ‘behaving inauthentically’.

It freed us from responsibility for our actions because we could hide behind what we claimedwas right or wrong.

So for Sartre, the consequences of our action were the only reality.

Kant was the opposite of Sartre.

Kant believed we could never guarantee the consequences of our actions, so to predict them was delusional.

Kant believed therefore that intention was everything.

Kant believed in the ‘categorical imperative’, that sounds complicated but it needn’t be.

You must behave as you would wish everyone in the world to behave, at all times, there are no exceptions.

If you decide you want everyone to be honest, you must always be unthinkingly honest in all situations, regardless of the consequences.

For instance, your friend may come to your door and ask you to hide her because she is being chased by a murderer.

You hide her, but then the murderer comes to your door and asks if you are hiding her.

For Kant, you have to be honest and admit you are, that is the categorical imperative.

Imperative meaning you never have a choice.

Existentialism means you always have to choose.

For Kant, the intention is everything regardless of the consequences.

For Sartre, we must choose the consequences, intention is just an illusion.

So how does this relate to advertising?

I see current advertising as behaving like Kant, intention is everything regardless of the consequences.

Total faith is placed in brand-purpose, it doesn’t matter whether anyone remembers the name, or even what’s being sold, as long as they identify with the emotional appeal the belief is they will choose whatever the brand is.

Against this is Sartre, where there are no rules for advertising, just the fact of results.

What the product’s name is, what it does, who it’s being sold to, what media is best used, what will get noticed and remembered, how to take advantage over the competition.

Current advertising preference is for Kantian advertising, intention is everything.

Existential advertising is seen as crude and old-fashioned.

Of course, neither Kantian nor existential advertising is always right or wrong.

But if I had to make a choice, I know which one I’d choose.