Is Advertising the Work of the Devil?

Devil

It is.

If we follow the memes of the Judeo-Christian tradition, we see that the devil’s most potent tool for winning over human souls is temptation. Uh, oh. That’s what we do! Are we evil when we tempt someone with a Buy One, Get One Free offer on their tires? Will a reader succumbing to visions of cleaner carpets at a sizeable discount be sucked down to H-E-Double-hockey-sticks?

I like to think that saving money on car insurance, living healthier, looking sexier and planning with the right investment house are good things. But are we doing the work of the Good Samaritan when we talk of whiter whites and brighter brights, or are we appealing to the consumer’s base sense of vanity? Are we selling more for less or mortal sin?

This is a huge responsibility we bear. On reflection, perhaps we should ask if it is we who are evil or if it is the products and services we promote? (That way we can blame it on the client and everybody’s happy.) Are there relative levels of evil? Maybe showing a healthy child drinking milk is not so bad. Maybe showing a happy couple skipping through a field when the product is a sexual enhancement pill is heinous. Then again, some think milk creates bad cholesterol and that sex is good for your heart. It’s confusing.

Besides, is being a devil really a bad thing? Who can hate the Dirt Devil, or deviled eggs or devil’s food cookies? I mean, if Betty Crocker makes them, how can they be bad? Wait. I see the evil at work there. Decades of Betty Crocker branding might be making me think she’s not bad, when in fact she eats babies for breakfast. Allow me another line of argument.

What would the world be without advertising? Commerce would suffer. Things would be primitive. How would anyone know where to buy a new plow or that one even exists? How could one find a reliable mastodon exterminating service? Life would be simpler. Perhaps more peaceful (mastodon attacks not withstanding.) People could go back to face-to-face barter and stay blissfully ignorant of the resources on the other side of the hill. Luxuries would vanish. Basic comforts would be rare. Life would hover slightly above subsistence survival. Tribe A would be fearful that Tribe B would come and take their stuff. Wars. Violence. Life under a cloud of fear. A little advertising could’ve prevented that.

So, we’re off the hook. We’re not evil. We’re not devils. We’re wise facilitators of commerce who make the world a better place, who raise standards of living and encourage indulgence in life’s finery. Hmm, maybe we’re more like angels. Then again, as I think of the pugilistic little Hawaiian Punch guy, the beer-and-babes Dos Equis Man and the Go Daddy Girl, we’re much more fun when we embrace our inner devils.

John Graham, Copy Director @ Creative Dimensions