Last weekend I was enjoying a weekend in the country at my dad’s house. I opened a cupboard to make pancakes and had an epiphany: Ad people are evil. They must be. They wield their seductive mind tricks onto the herds of unsuspecting consumers, impregnating their heads with just one impulse: BUY. BUY. BUY. And as a result, the poor consumers buy everything ad people tell them to. It’s true. People buy stuff they don’t need. All the time.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m an ‘ad man’ myself. I appreciate the ‘art of turning creativity into business opportunities for brands’. It’s just that I entertain the naive notion that even ad people should have some code of ethics. That advertising should be about more than just selling, conversion numbers, and ROI.
A big part of it starts with the product. I think that if a product truly sucks, a responsible ad man should have the guts to tell his client: “Sorry, man, but I will not help you sell this”. Instead, ad people will simply ask about the marketing budget, then come up with a brilliant creative scheme, and finally set a trap for the herd. Mission accomplished. Then there is the brand. I firmly believe that the most important qualities on a brand manager’s resume should be a sense of humor and a pair of balls. Otherwise, the only advertising left will be bland and mediocre.
A responsible ad man should have the guts to tell his client: “Sorry, man, but I will not help you sell this”
Lastly, of course, a big chunk of responsibility lies with the consumers themselves. The sheep that blindly walk into our traps. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they stop and actually think before they bought something? What would the world be like if people spend their money on things they love, instead of things they accidentally pass on some aisle.
Can you picture it? Only great products, advertised in a beautiful and/or hilarious fashion, being bought by happy people that know exactly what they want. And it never rains.
So how did we get from pancakes to ‘ad people are evil’, ‘brands need to grow a pair,’ and ‘over-consumers need to wake up’? Check this out. I opened the cupboard, found pancake mix and checked the date. It said: “Don’t open after September 11th 2003”. Now it’s not the 9-11 part that got to me. It’s the 2003 part. This box of pancake mix had been sitting quietly in this little cupboard since the year that space shuttle Columbia and Yugoslavia both ceased to exist. The year you went to see Bad Boys II in the cinema and read The Kite Runner for the first time.
Then, out of curiosity I grabbed another box. Fortune Cookies from 2002 – another must-have right there… The next one was an authentic Thai Coconut Milk Rice Dessert. August 2000. 50% off, paid for in Dutch Guilders, because the Euro didn’t exist yet. I found Baby Corn old enough to go to college, and chicken soup that finally answered the question ‘which came first?’ I’ve made a little collage of all the products I found in that sneaky little cupboard – click to enlarge. Enjoy.
PS. Speaking of stuff you don’t need: one of my favorite webshops is called IWANTONEOFTHOSE.com. Their slogan: “Stuff you don’t need, but really, really want“.