Shrivel Factor

As a maker of advertising, I’ve often had to confront the unsustainable mass consumption model my very existence, and the industry’s, relies upon. I’ve used this site, as you may know, to share many of my reflections on the matter.
Here’s one from another source, Adweek’s Brian Morrissey:

What happens when we move beyond the mass consumerism that’s propped up our economies for so long? For kicks, I often ask ad types this question during meetings to see the responses. I often get quizzical looks. This is impossible, I’m told. But is it? Many of the problems we face right now are at their root an indictment of debt-fueled consumption. Cheap credit made us feel rich to buy big houses, then use the fake wealth of them to buy more stuff. Cheap fuel means bigger cars, more pollution, etc.
Every step of the way, advertising was there to underpin this untenable cycle. We are a nation of spenders that needs to become savers. This is a major challenge for an industry premised on making us buy stuff we don’t need.

Marketing as service is a step in the right direction, for sure. But there are some problems marketing can’t fix. Reducing consumption across the board appears to be one them.
Allow me if you will to make a quick case for quality over quantity, in consumption of media and products or services. No one in advertising can say the world needs more advertising and keep a straight face. The world doesn’t need more advertising. What advertisers needs is better advertising. When the messaging is better, much less of it will do.



About David Burn

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. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.