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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Guest blog: Adman and Eve.

They say prostitution is the oldest profession. They, as usual, are dead wrong.

It’s the second oldest.

Let’s go back to the very beginning, to the Serpent in the Garden of Eden. His task was a tricky one: to persuade an unconvinced consumer to try a product they had good reason to avoid. His job was to sell the apple; to make it seem so appealing, so tantalising, that Eve would risk a fall from grace for a quick nibble.

But succeed he did and advertising was born.

I pause here, partly for effect, and partly to decide where I’m going with this. As an advertising copywriter by trade, I bump into many people I could place into one of two categories: first, those who believe advertising is the work of the devil, responsible for many of the evils of the world and made by manipulative morons. Second, those who have seen the TV series “Mad Men” and are disappointed I’m not taller and more charismatic.

Both groups are somewhat deluded.

It’s not that the industry is particularly altruistic – it isn’t. It’s simply an industry that reflects society’s wider needs. Here are a few things to consider:

• Despite claims to the contrary, you can’t make people buy something they don’t want; you can make people buy more of something or maybe switch to a competing product, but that’s about it. What about children? Well, what about them - yes, they are particularly vulnerable to suggestion, but there’s a time-tested safeguard against this – it’s called parenting.

• Yes, many “bad” things have been advertised (like cigarettes). But so have many “good” things (like charities and public awareness campaigns).

• Without advertising it would be tough to make informed consumer choices because you wouldn’t know what was available (catalogues can be useful huh?). Also, you would end up buying local products rather than the best products. Why? Because potentially better products from farther afield would have no opportunity to generate awareness in your local market.

• Without advertising revenue, many enjoyable and useful things wouldn’t exist – lots of TV and radio stations, as well as free websites like Facebook, Google and Twitter to name just a few – and all the jobs that go along with them.

What am I getting at? I suppose I'm saying our oldest profession isn't all bad. So, maybe next time you hear someone ranting about advertising, you might spare a few moments to argue the toss.

We’re not the devils people think we are.

(This is a guest blog written by Phil from

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