We Should All Be Thankful For Advertising
I know that Thanksgiving is over, but I wanted to say that I was and am thankful for the advertising industry (of course in addition to my family, health, friends and good fortune). And not just for the ad I saw in a taxi last week that informed me that I could use American Express Rewards Points to pay my fares (which I'm now doing regularly when in cabs with Verifone screens). I am thankful for advertising because it does so much for us, far more than most of us give it credit for.
Advertising takes a lot of heat from almost everybody these days -- as it always has. It has been a natural target for generations who only see it as a superficial generator of desires for things we don't really need.
Passing and expressing personal judgments is something absolutely everyone loves to do. It's easy to criticize ads you don't like. It's easy to complain about the number of ads you get. (I don't know anyone who would like to receive MORE ads). It's easy to complain about the lack of relevance of many of the ads you see. We all certainly get our fair share of ads that don't speak to our individual needs, wants and wows. It's easy to complain about the interruption or intrusion that ads may make in your media consumption, which can be pretty annoying.
It's easy to complain about online advertising's faux relevance when you have the same e-commerce ads following you around the Web for weeks on end, from site to site. It's easy to blame advertising for almost everything from materialism to obesity, from fickleness or substance abuse to apathy or meandering values. It is easy to blame advertising for waste in the world, from product packaging to purchases of "unneeded" products, or for inviting people to drive gas-guzzling cars.
The quickness with which folks complain about advertising, and the veracity of their charges, certainly has an impact on many of us in the industry. It does me. However, criticism of advertising is one of the reasons that I am proudest to work in the industry.
Advertising is what enables free expression. The greatest platforms in the world, for the free expression and debate of opinions, are largely or significantly funded by advertising.
Advertising is a key catalyst in our economies. The vast majority of the world's most robust economies are largely or significantly catalyzed by advertising and related commercial communication. You can't have massively high distribution, low-friction consumer economies without readily available commercial information about consumer goods and services.
Advertising is a valuable part of our culture, conversations and societies. You don't need to look any further than social media to know that brands, products and their advertisements are an enormous -- and at times, integral -- part of people's conversations and identity, both individually and collectively.
Fundamentally, advertising matters, and our lives are much better for it. Of course, we can certainly make it better. When my nine-year-old wants to understand if there is nobility in my profession, I tell her first about how we help pay the bills for free speech, a free press and lots of great stuff to buy. Then, when she challenges me on the many parts of advertising she doesn't like, I tell her I'm working hard to create a future with fewer, more relevant ads.