Advertising Shapes The Popular Culture. And Bullying Is A Part Of That Culture.

Writing in Ad Age, Claudia Caplan, CMO of RP3, takes a look at the documentary “Bully” and asks whether our industry has some culpability in shaping a culture where bullying is promiment.

“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.

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. Right, because once you open that can of self serve Whoop Ass it can easily ruin your career. 

    I worked on Camel for three years, and every freaking day I asked myself, “What the hell am I doing?” When I finally walked away, it took another three years to remove the tobacco stains. So my advice is be careful what you agree to do in this business, or any other. I don’t regret the choices I made to help Camel, but it derailed me just as much as it lifted me up.