Saturday, October 30, 2010

October 10 - No advertising

Not long after the dust had settled on yet another year of over-hyped self-congratulatory advertising industry back patting at Cannes, a much more interesting awards related story began doing the rounds of the blogosphere.

Esteemed US adman Alex Bogusky wrote a post on his blog petitioning for a new type of award, to be given to companies who manage to do something good without having to resort to advertising.

Chatter around Bogusky’s post was all over Twitter when it first dropped, leading to a misconception that what he actually wanted was a new non-advertising award. Which is anything but what he was arguing for.

It does however show that social media channels often fall victim to Chinese whispers.

In actual fact, Bogusky’s post was written to raise awareness of advertising to children and the ethics and responsibilities thereof. In his own words, he wanted an award to recognise “Brands that have decided to take into consideration all the potential effects of their marketing and have built a plan that carefully avoids abusing the power of advertising.”

Now that’s a pretty lofty goal, I think you’ll agree. Sadly though, I think it got lost in some sort of an “OMG! Bogusky wants a non-advertising award” haze on Twitter.

Luckily for me, I clicked on one of the dozens of retweets and mentions of Bogusky original post and found myself printing out his blog post so I could read it over the weekend.

Away from the hysteria of social media. Bogusky’s post laid out a calm considered argument against advertising to children. And that was pretty much it.

As the policeman at an accident would say, nothing much to see here. Move on.

But then I got to thinking.

Doesn’t Bogusky’s agency have Burger King as a client? Yes. And hasn’t his agency produced several X-Box computer game tie-ins with Burger King? Yes again.

So now, not only was the blog post nothing like what I expected it to be about. Nor was the man who wrote it.

Bogusky is one of the superstars of modern American advertising. So why would he write something, in the style of a manifesto, which decried the use of advertising, in an area his agency had very obviously benefited from?

So I put aside the printout and did a bit of digging online.

It didn’t take me long to find out that Bogusky’s agency had chosen several years ago not to handle any advertising of Burger King products to kids under twelve. I also found out that the man in question had recently resigned from his own agency.

After a lifetime in advertising, Bogusky had seen the good it had done, for companies, for economies and for his bank balance. But he could also see how much power advertising wielded.

His aim now, as he moves into the next stage of his obviously stellar career, is to get the industry to monitor some of that power.

Self-policing, if you will.

In his own words, “What if we decided that advertising to children was something none of us would engage in anymore?”

Now I’m not sure about you, but if he manages to pull something like this off, Bogusky could well become adland’s answer to Jamie Oliver.

Which as anyone with an opinion on advertising will tell you, is the last thing they ever expected from the man most of us industry observers considered to be the consummate adman.


Click here to read Bogusky’s blog post in its entirety.

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