Be The Change

One of my favorite change agents, Tom Asacker, has written a short but deep treatise on the meaning of life. He says it’s our business to to be useful, honorable and compassionate.
Here’s what he says about honor:

Are you honest, straightforward, trustworthy? Do you play fair? And if not, whom do you think you’re fooling? I’ll tell you who. You’re fooling your kids! You are not doing them a favor by providing for their financial security through your Machiavellian methods. That’s simply more b.s. self-talk to make you feel good about your self-serving actions. What they need during these chaotic times is a role model to teach them what’s truly important in life. So for their sake, get real! And be passionate about something bigger than money.

I think many of us who serve corporate masters, also known as Fortune 500 clients, struggle mightily with this. I know I do. “Honest, straightforward and trustworthy” simply are not concepts that appear in the corporate charter. Whereas financial gain at all costs does.
Unless you happen to own the agency where you work and select clients based on your own elevated criteria, the grim reality is your talent will, at times, be used for ill purposes. As idealistic as I remain, I can’t envision a futute where agency types will reform corporate America. Reforming our own businesses and our own industry is the best we can hope for and that challenge is daunting in its own right. Yet, it’s one worth getting out of bed for.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Thanks for the post of encouragement, David. I once had the privilege of owning an agency whose charter was to work with only nonprofits. Of course, I learned what everyone else seemed to know: the place couldn’t make money. But not because nonprofits didn’t have money– this was the Clinton years. Most communications directors of nonprofits (the brand managers equivalent) were lawyers or academics: results-oriented word people with no appreciation of the power of visual. They generally took a pretty dim view of our business and couldn’t conceive of spending more on a NYT ad than they did on the annual salary of some of the idealists working for them. (many with trust funds.) Big wads of funding would go to research instead–doorstopping volumes that nobody read but would be tangible evidence that their fees had bought something. Happily for the state of the world, cd’s of nonprofits seem savvier now–look at But, I’ve long since rejoined the axis of evil, pimping for corporate masters who do not begrudge me my kids’ college tuitions.

  2. A Google Search on ‘meaning of life’ served up your post and I just wanted to take the time to say thank you! If more people would shout this message from the rooftops, change will happen.
    After getting “pinked” from ad space sales due to the dot com implosion, I’ve been “reforming” my own world and trying to be a struggling author. But if/when I have to return to the ad world, I hope I do business with companies who get out of bed on the same side as you!
    Thanks again!
    Louise Lewis, Author
    No Experts Needed: The Meaning of Life According to You!