Bob Garfield and a call for prophets

~ Frustration and gathering disgust that, despite the best of all forums for evaluating ad strategy and execution, my core principles espoused over a quarter century...seem to have had little or no effect on the practice of the craft. I continue to be awed and humbled by the best of what the industry produces. But I also think billions of client dollars every year are being squandered by narcissists, conmen, naifs and a number of blithering morons.

These sobering words come from Bob Garfield's list of reasons for ending AdReview, an industry-wide recognized column he began in 1975 in Advertising Age and ended last month.

If you've followed Garfield, you know that he's stirred the pot for two and a half decades. He has a cranky tone and his criticism often felt like grains of sand in your eye. Just when you think he'd let up, he'd blow more at you. Readers hurled their irritations back at him for years and his farewell post reflects this volatile relationship.

Yet he had his fans. Whether he pushed hard because it gave him a cheap thrill, or because ranting produced more site hits, or simply because he cared, Garfield was committed to cleaning house and there are plenty who loved him for it. I didn't always agree with him, but I admired his steadfast pursuit of better.

I believe advertisers can become good neighbors to the consumer next door. The prophetic work, however, can't be left to Bob Garfield and a few other nicer/nastier culture critics. It has to be done by all of us - the shelf-stockers and cart-fillers, the ad-making pied pipers and tune-entranced consumers, the bankers and parishioners. We're all in this business of discerning want and need and of serving our selves and others. There is room for satisfying both, yet the Great Commandments require enough from us that, if we all responded appropriately and constantly, we should see change.

Could the collective We reflect on our prophetic and lived-out response 25 years from now and be able to rewrite Garfield's frustration? I don't know, but we're still called to try.


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