Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I'm sorry, but Banksy's ad rant is tiresome

My brother David shared this from This Isn't Happiness:

You can also see the text better here.

I can understand why people feel imposed upon by outdoor advertising, but it is hardly something new. Look at the sides of old buildings — in the late 1800s and early 1900s, advertisers posted their message on anything that didn't move.

Like many other modern consumers, I've learned to tune out the majority of advertising messages hurled at me from every corner, broadcast, and electronic interaction I happen upon. As an adman, I count on this numbness as I try to find new ways to get attention, gain permission, and inspire sharing among more sophisticated audiences.

But this anti-capitalism, anger and anarchy is tiresome to me. An ad is not "a rock someone just threw at your head" — in most cases it is just another piece of banal visual pollution in the urban environment. Somebody paid somebody else to create a message, then paid yet someone else to post it on their property. It's all within the law, as long as they follow guidelines for hate speech, etc.

If you want to see better standards for advertising, you need to take a more active role as a consumer — organizing to reward brands that contribute something positive to your life, and shutting out the ones that irk you. It sounds idealistic, but it's all we've got. That's why I spend so much time deconstructing and trashing what I see as irresponsible advertising on this blog. I think and expect that our industry can do much better.

You could also lobby local politicians to reduce the number of ad placement opportunities on public land. We already have that here in Ottawa. But I actually miss seeing some of the more interesting billboards that go up in Montreal and Toronto.

Revolutionaries are a necessary part of social change. And I know that offensive ads can and will get vandalized by Adbusters and their ilk (and sometimes I find it extremely funny!)

But there is a difference between taking an action that is civilly disobedient, being prepared for the legal consequences if you are caught, and claiming a moral right or even imperative to do so. The former is revolutionary. The latter, in my humble opinion, is just deluded and arrogant.

I still enjoy his art, though. As long as it's not on the side of my house.

1 comment:

  1. the bad part of online advertising is that it is totally lost on me. most it is for more of what i just bought. if i buy chocolate ice cream, the next ad is for 'try this other brand of ice cream.'. it should be 'try our mocha orange sherbet!'. now i might not buy THAT, but i sure would check out a store that does sell something like that.