Across The Pond, Advertising Isn’t Water. It’s Poison.

I’m not quite sure what to make of this. Writing in the Guardian, columnist George Monbiot laments the necessary evil that is advertising:

Some adverts appear to promote intrinsic values, associating their products with family life and strong communities. But they also create the impression that these values can be purchased, which demeans and undermines them. Even love is commingled with material aspiration, and those worthy of this love mostly conform to a narrow conception of beauty, lending greater weight to the importance of image.

I detest this poison, but I also recognise that I am becoming more dependent on it. As sales of print editions decline, newspapers lean even more heavily on advertising. Nor is the problem confined to the commercial media. Even those who write only for their own websites rely on search engines, platforms and programs ultimately funded by advertising. We’re hooked on a drug that is destroying society. As with all addictions, the first step is to admit to it.

What’s a little more interesting here is that on his own website, he expands upon this column with a fully sourced and footnoted version to back up the quotes and statistics he references.

Most of us who work in advertising, if we’ve ever been conflicted about what we do, have come to terms with it. For a journalist and columnist like Monbiot, it’s much harder–especially these days, when advertising is subsidizing the old guard news media more than ever.

But I’m curious: Is there anything in the British psyche, or the mindset of its media folks, to be more critical and cynical about the power of advertising than here in America?

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. Stefan Christou says:

    In my experience as a brit who has spent quite a lot of time around the US east coast, including in my formative years, and as a journalist; yes, we brits are more cynical than most in the US.

    I don’t know why most (white) Americans are less cynical but I expect it is because they have not needed to be as politicised nor have they lived in as unequal a society as many brits once endured.

    We brits, you see, once used to hang poor people from the gallows for crimes as petty as stealing a gentleman’s handkerchief, and our most moving poem, by William Blake, cites the terrible conditions of the industrial revolution’s workers in the ‘dark satanic mills’.

    George Monbiot is essentially a socialist who’s driving motivation stems from the struggle in Britain and Europe for the equality of man, which is something that white Americans, including Jews, enjoyed from the birth of their great nation.

    Black americans, in my experience, on the other hand seem just as cynical as we brits, perhaps even more so. Apologies for bringing race into this, but it seems that in America there is a big distinction between the two cultures and, obviously, this is especially true in terms of their historical narrative. And as any advertising person should know, narrative is key.

    So yes, we brits are more cynical, but we have our reasons.

    Here’s William Blake’s poem, in case you are interested, which is best known as a song, Jerusalem.

    And did those feet in ancient time

    And did those feet in ancient time.
    Walk upon England’s mountains green:
    And was the holy Lamb of God,
    On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

    And did the Countenance Divine,
    Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
    And was Jerusalem builded here,
    Among these dark Satanic Mills?

    Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
    Bring me my Arrows of desire:
    Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
    Bring me my Chariot of fire!

    I will not cease from Mental Fight,
    Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
    Till we have built Jerusalem,
    In Englands green & pleasant Land