Sunday, May 15, 2011

Advertising is Sexy

By: Emily Lasko

Sexy. One of the first terms that I heard associated very often with advertising when I entered Scripps my Freshman year as an advertising major was the word "sexy." Advertising, as noted by Chris Moore of Olgivy and Mather as well as Pamela Divinsky for CNN, has a seductive element to it. Divinsky, in her article for CNN brings up an interesting point to this debate about ethics in advertising. Yes as advertisers we are held accountable for what we advertise; however on the other hand, as consumers there is this aspect of desire and passion that we want to see from ads.

Chris Moore goes into detail about why advertisers do what they do. In his speech he compares ad agencies to lawyers and that is our job to show our clients in the best light. Just like journalists strive to report the truth and report on what they are passionate about, advertisers are passionate about the campaigns we develop and implement. We strive to break into the consumers train of thought and influence a reaction. In the end it's true that the client wants to see results in terms of sales, but as the agency that developed the ad, we want to see results in terms of action and memorability. Is it ethically wrong to try to influence a certain behavior? You tell me. And in that case is it ethical for a retailer or other client to approach an agency to create these ads?

Advertising does have legal requirements to follow. Issues around children and hazardous substances for example get the most heat from consumers and critics. The ethical issues with advertising I feel center more around the effects of a certain ad as opposed to the ad itself. These don't force anyone to do a certain thing, only encourage it.

This article discusses how advertising has become easier to track and predict. It is true that advertisers and media agencies can keep track of who is watching what and how often they are watching it. With all the new digital and social media, though, this issue does not seem like an ethical one to me. How often to people look at tweets or statuses to see what their friends are doing? Is that ethical? It's reality and we're all intrigued by it.

Although this Axe ad may offend some people, deep down the main intent is to give the target audience a laugh which it achieves. Now we all know that a body spray does not make hundreds of women flock a man; but agencies know that sarcasm and embellishment are key insights to their target audience and they play that up.

Agencies also understand that consumers think better about their clients when they are associated with a social problem or concern. For example, Yoplait may be encouraging consumers to buy more yogurt but they have also developed the most successful breast cancer awareness campaign. Maybe you didn't want to have that yogurt this morning and the big bad ad agency encouraged you to buy it. But is that really important in the long run? I don't think so folks.

Bottom line, it's our job to honestly and truthfully provide our clients with ads that will put them in the best light. There are ethical issues to everything, but in the end, society needs advertising. Media corporations would go bankrupt without it and companies would never be able to sell anything. Our job is more creative and based on insight rather than producing sales even though in the end that's what the consumer sees. Pretty much, advertising is sexy. You may think it's annoying but it's a guilty pleasure we all take part in.

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