Consumer Insights · Media Strategy · Brand Planning | Los Angeles, CA

Laura Desmond: Advertising for Good & Commerce

Recently, TED, known more for its conferences and videos, put up TED Conversations, a sort of discussion board for addressing  the world issues TED is already known for tackling. It allows for broader engagement and differing perspectives. Yesterday, Starcom MediaVest CEO, Laura Desmond posted this question:

Can advertising be both a force for commerce AND a force for good?

I certainly believe the answer to that question is yes. As a form of persuasive conversation, advertising is neither good nor bad. It is simply a tool to accomplish a goal. Whether the ways it is used in practice benefit society is a more complex question, and arguments on both sides appeared in the TED post:

“I think it’s up to the Account Execs to streamline their budgets to free up some money for worthwhile initiatives while making an effort to seek out less morally questionable accounts. The creatives are begging you to do this, but we’d never be heard for fear of being laughed out of a boardroom. You would be surprised how many people get into this industry for the right reasons, but end up doing the wrong work.” – Patrick Orr

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“‘Advertising is the modern substitute for argument; its function is to make the worse appear the better.’
George Santayana

I find a lot of advertising insulting to my intelligence and most of it irrelevant. As such, even if the purpose of an advert was in pursuit of some greater good, I would probably continue to ignore it or be suspicious of the motivation behind it, which, I imagine renders it ineffective.” – Scott Armstrong

While I would find it hard to justify entering an industry that does no good in the world, I certainly see the ethical complexities of advertising practice. It was interesting to see a variety of perspectives and goals, both inside and outside the industry, represented in this conversation. Read or join the TED conversation here.

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