“Bully” made me feel both responsible and ashamed. It got me thinking about the role advertising has in shaping what’s cool and what’s uncool, what’s normal and what’s weird. It reminded me of the many casting sessions I’ve sat through discussing whether a little girl was pretty enough to be seen with our client’s toy, or whether a woman was sexy enough to eat our client’s burger. Were they “aspirational?” As all of us in this industry know, such are the countless judgments we make when we’re shaping 30 short seconds.
What she’s hinting at here is something I’ve written about before: For the most part, advertising doesn’t set out to make people feel bad about themselves. But it is part of advertising’s past, and it does still happen. Every decision we make about the tonality of the work, or casting decisions, or the effect our work has on the audience, shapes the final product–no matter how small each decision may seem. Most of us don’t think about the cumulative effect all the decisions have.
On the other hand, I have no doubt there are plenty of people in advertising who don’t give a crap about the effect the work has on the culture and feel no responsibility for what it does to consumers– and these days, the marketing outslaught starts from the time the consumer is born.