There are moments when I feel ashamed to be associated with the industry I started my career in and one such moment was the Clio awards ceremony in New York last week where Jerry Seinfeld, an astute observer of human nature, delivered the surely iconic line “I love advertising because I love lying”.

It wasn’t the line itself that offended me, but the response of the audience, who unlike Seinfeld have supposedly dedicated at least their business lives to the profession he was condemning. To whoop and applaud the statement that your life is a sham seems to me to be the response of a very stupid person. Yet, sadly (and maybe unsurprisingly for an advertising shin-dig) there was plenty of whooping and applause.

These whoopers and applauders are the people I left advertising to escape, but until this ceremony I had assumed had, since, largely disappeared from the scene, victims of clear thinking and responsible marketing practices. Not so it seems , but worse still the entire Clio thing apparently now panders to the advertising industry’s lowest common denominator.

Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely committed to the principle of the “big idea” and I’m passionate about quality of execution. To that extent I agree with the principles of the Clio award. What pisses me off is that the party has become the purpose. We are seeing creativity for creativity’s sake, often with no reference to the commercial value of the ideas and production values and the audiences at these events are looking and behaving increasingly like the pissed-up air-heads who stagger between the waterfront bars of Ibiza. We don’t need programmes that encourage or reward self-interested idiots to screw people over. In fact, if I were head of an agency whose employees were at these Clio awards I’d be scanning the videos to identify those who disgraced my business by applauding Seinfeld’s statement rather than hanging their head in shame and firing their asses!

The top line quote from Seinfeld’s speech however was the statement “In advertising everything is the way you wish it was. I don’t care that it won’t be like that when I eventually get the product being advertised, because between seeing the commercial and owning the thing, I am happy”.

And that’s the crunch ladies and gentlemen. That’s the cynical, stupid, short-term, road-to-nowhere philosophy that has and continues with increasing regularity, to bring businesses to their knees, and I’m glad that it does, if only because it proves there is justice in this world.

We should never forget that our role as marketers, even those in the increasingly marginalised corner of marketing known as “advertising”, is to help businesses deliver products and services that contribute something to people who need them. It is NOT to use our skill with words and emotions and take advantage of people’s trust and gullibility to screw them over.

It should be every organisation’s objective to deliver the promises it makes. Failure to do so, even with the best intentions, is a condemnation of your business skills. For a business to make promises with no intention of delivering is not only a clear demonstration of the abject failure of the marketers in that organisation, but the worst possible condemnation of the humanity of everyone else .

Any advertising person or marketer, who thinks it’s their job, as Seinfeld suggests, to lie should firstly stay well away from me and secondly get out of the business. And if you are dumb enough to think that Seinfeld was being ironic and it’s all a bit of grown-up humour, you are clearly too egocentric and stupid to recognise that the joke is on you. Seinfeld was clearly distancing himself from the shallow facade that the advertising industry seems intent on maintaining and ridiculing you and the shallow unprincipled world you like to call home.

First published on LinkedIn October 2014

Phil Darby
August 2, 2018

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