Trust me; we aren’t that bad- Reasons for why advertisers aren’t as sleazy as people think.

May 19, 2017

Guest Article By: Carson Sauer

Now I can’t speak for you, but I find that one the biggest perks of being in the advertising industry is the high interest from those who aren’t. It’s fun to discuss current trends and the process of making an effective campaign (it also gives me a chance to talk about myself, and I love to talk about myself.)  However, sometimes with high interest comes high judgement. Questions such as “how do you trick consumers?”  or “are you ready for the cut-throat industry?” come frequently, and I wondered if others shared the view of the “immoral Mad Men”.

 This inspired me to do further research.

As it turns out, the public perception of advertising executives is not overly positive. Regarding trustworthiness, Ad Execs are consistently ranked low compared to other professions. Is this skepticism deserved? Here are some reasons that might help provide the right context for those who don’t trust your occupation.

The Watchdog Effect

 The watchdog effect speaks to the process of making the public aware of inconsistencies and or falsehoods about any significant news happening. Although most commonly used in the world of journalism, the same concept applies to advertising. If an advertisement can be condemned for being boring, insensitive, sexualized, loud, irrelevant or cliché, you can be ensured that a deceitful ad will be ripped apart. A false advertisement often results in a negative brand image for the client and a negative reputation for the advertising agency.

A frustrated consumer, a competing brand or vigilant website, such as The MAD Mix, all work as watchdogs to confirm that advertisements are held to a high and honest standard.

 Uninformed Person: “Advertisers try to trick us.”

 Potential Response: “If you were tricked by an ad would you trust that brand ever again? No? Then I guess tricking you isn’t in our best interest.”

 We are Storytellers.

I’m sure at least a few of you are familiar with the phrase “We are Storytellers”. Not only is it the tagline for Humber’s Advertising and Marketing Communications program, but, for me, it has become the go-to answer for what we do in advertising.

Advertising is exactly that, a story, and like most stories, creative liberties will be taken to intrigue the audience. It is important for critics to understand that the intention is not to deceive but rather provide insight into a brand’s personality. Red Bull doesn’t give you wings, buying a Lincoln won’t turn you in Matthew McConaughey, and there is no such thing as a puppy monkey baby. But that’s perfectly fine.

 Uninformed Person: “Advertisements depict a fake reality.”

 Potential Response: “Was the ad memorable? Did you understand the message? Did it evoke an emotion?  These are all realities.

 Don Draper is not our boss

Let me begin with a confession; I have a man crush on Don Draper. I’ve watched every episode of Mad Men, dressed up as him for Halloween and even proclaimed myself as “the millennial Don Draper” to my Intro to Advertising class.  He is a fascinating character in Mad Men’s setting of 1960’s New York, where he finds consistent success as a creative director navigating the advertising industry. However, he has what most people would consider unflattering traits. He is an alcoholic, womanizer and above all else a pathological liar. He lies at work, he lies to family and oh yes, he lied about his identity.  Don Draper’s persona throughout the series was to drink, lie and then come up with a brilliant advertising campaign.

An excellent formula for a captivating anti-hero but a terrible and unrealistic representation of a what an advertising executive by today’s standards. The truth is, Don Draper’s bad behaviour would overshadow his talent and would certainly end his career. Unfortunately, due to the popularity of the show, people may use Don as a reference to today’s ad executive, and that’s simply unfair. It is also important to note that Mad Men was set in the 1960’s- an era where the advertising industry had an entirely different dynamic. Women and minorities had little to no influence, smoking was advertised without health concern, and overall ethics were questionable. Making a comparison to today’s advertising even more unreasonable.

The Don Draper/Mad Men vs. today’s advertisers is a debate for a future article.

Uninformed Person: “Will you become the next Don Draper?”

 Potential Response:“Yes. In a modern era where I intend to form honest relationships with my co-workers, drink only in appropriate scenarios such as networking events where I’ll adhere to the two-drink max rule and won’t leave the office for weeks at a time. So wait…will I be Don Draper?…maybe not.

 What do you think?

 Do you think that advertisers deserve a better perspective? Or is the stigma is justified?

Carson Sauer is a recent graduate of the Advertising and Marketing Communications program at Humber College. Although, he is not done with education quite yet as he will return to Humber for the Advertising Copywriting Post Grad next fall.  Connect with Carson on Instagram and LinkedIn.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Vanessa May 19, 2017 at 9:46 pm

    Awesome article Carson!

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