Advertisers can't create needs

I've enjoyed a number of interesting conversations with advertising fans and critics about the creation of needs. My own position? Advertisers can't create needs, or desires, or even wants. They can only play with what hungers already exist within us.

I'm not referring to how planned obsolescence and the advertising associated with it creates need. I'm referring to the belief that advertisers can actually create a need from scratch - ex nihilo, if you will.

For example, is "bad breath" real, or is it a manufactured issue that helps to sell breath mints and Listerine?

6 comments:

M.joshua September 17, 2008 at 10:36 AM  

I think there's another reality that has to be considered: The Client reality.

For most of us advertisers. We're simply stuck in a situation of limitation: Whatever clients our agency is capable of securing, we get the responsibility of doing work for. We may have a little say in it, but unless you're a salesman or the director of the agency, it seems like we get very little say of what we actually get to advertise.

(I say this from an Art Director's perspective)

Bob Robinson September 20, 2008 at 8:55 AM  

Sam,
As I watched Benjamin Barber on Bill Moyer's Journal, I found myself exclaiming, "Amen!"
He said, "Capitalism is no longer manufacturing goods to meet real needs and human wants. It's manufacturing needs to sell us all the goods it's got to produce."

Sam Van Eman September 22, 2008 at 2:04 PM  

Joshua,
Here's to being influential, regardless of where you stand on your agency's ladder.

Bob,
I watched the interview with Benjamin Barber (author of Consumed). Good stuff. It's hard to cheer for advertising when someone points out its faults like that, but there are enough redeemable qualities for me to continue promoting its improvement and calling it to serve as a Kingdom-reflecting social communicator.

Thanks for the link!

M.joshua September 22, 2008 at 2:17 PM  

Thanks, Sam. Thanks for getting together with me on Saturday, too. I really appreciated it.

Sam Van Eman September 22, 2008 at 2:19 PM  

My pleasure, Joshua. Sometime I'll have to see some of your work.

Bob Robinson September 23, 2008 at 9:33 PM  

{"but there are enough redeemable qualities for me to continue promoting its improvement and calling it to serve as a Kingdom-reflecting social communicator."}

I agree. If only advertisers used this artform and science to promote innovative goods and services for the common good instead of trying to create needs in order to drum up a market for stuff they already want to sell.

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