It’s Mostly Garbage

I could give you a dozen or more reasons why advertising sucks, but there’s no need. There’s no need because there’s an entire blog dedicated to the topic.
“RestrictionsApply” at Why Advertising Sucks spells it out pretty nicely.

I blame my dad for making me realize the truth. He once asked me the following: “How is it that you, as an advertising professional, spend so much time, energy, sleepless nights, lost weekends, arguments and fights with your coworkers, countless mind-numbing meetings, tolerate idiotic changes, and actually compromise with people who have shit for brains, just to come up with a 30ss ad? How is it that it takes over two months to do this? After all, when your ad finally goes on the air, there’s a 98% I’ll change the channel. And if you’re doing print, there’s a 99.9% chance I’ll flip right by it and use it to line my bird’s cage.”
Of course, his observations totally pissed me off, and I tried to defend the creative and artistic merit behind the process. I tried to defend the economic process behind it all, the business of advertising, and what it means. He wasn’t buying it. He simply said: “It’s not worth it. Your time can be better spent enjoying and living your life, not bending backwards to make someone else money.”

For 13 years now, I’ve been saying it is worth it, but I have struggled to believe my own pitch.
I suppose like anything in life, advertising is what you make it. If you make advertising that offends for brands that don’t deserve your best efforts, then you have a problem. On the other hand, if you make advertising that educates and entertains for companies doing good things, there’s no problem.

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. Carl LaFong says:

    If anyone can find a way to enjoy life without having to bend over backwards to make someone else money, please let the rest of us know.

  2. Of course this post will draw me out…
    I love the process of making ads, even the funky parts.
    It’s like pizza -even when it’s bad it’s still pretty good.
    And there’s an even older saying: It beats digging ditches.

  3. Yes, but sometimes people insist on placing pineapple on their pizza. Doing so waters down the final product miserably, IMO.
    As for ditches, ditches have helped win wars and provided much needed irrigation and sanitation.

  4. I don’t miss ‘big’ agency life one bit. When I left Bozell – the same time as David – I ended up at friend’s established 12 person design studio. That isn’t to say we aren’t as dysfunctional, but the problems are magnified when more people are in the mix.
    Nearly two years ago I *thought* I ached to get back into agency services and left for a growing 12-person agency that *thought* like they were a 120-person agency and had the dysfunctionality to match. The last straw was at 10:00pm on a Thursday night before I had a 6:30am flight for vacation the next morning and they insisted I cancel it – for the second time in as many months.
    I finished the major project I was working on for them – I guess because I have ethics – and promptly resigned when it was finished and moved back to the studio.
    We’re small and we don’t have the glamorous clients, but we have clients that value our input, ideas and creativity. I’ve had more projects that began as ideas we took to the client on a whim than I ever had filter through account service in my agency jobs.

  5. I don’t miss the large agency atmosphere at all. Having done work with a larger entity, the excess of wrongly-assumed high-minged thought, expansive hours needed to push something thru the grinder, and for sure the over-abundance of blah-F’in-blah-because-I-love-to-hear-myself-talk-to-prove-I-paid-lots-for-my-education only served to hinder processes; The very processes supposedly put in place to avoid just such hinderances. Ironic much?
    Working solo or in a small collaborative/collective way now for the last few years, what I have learned is that the bloated multi-hundred person agencies are not doing anything necessarily better. They are the lethargic bureaucracy where as small shops and indie creatives have become the nimble attack forces. I have seen a lot of freelancers in recent years carry their own client lists and gain notoriety and acclaim because they have only client and self to answer to so far more of those creative and prograssive ideas come thru rahter than getting stuck in “committee”.
    It just a more effective way to work, not only from a decision-making standpoint but also from a monetary view. It’s simple sportscar physics… big engine/small body. It’s called the power-to-weight ratio. You can’t run a charter bus on a Pinto powerplant!