Listening to the radio this morning, fuming over another silly story about how out of control Christmas is. It is admittadley a crass commercial juggernaut, but what irked me about this story was the traditional scapegoating of 'Advertising'. Everyone who works in advertising I guess.
The narrative we're supposed to swallow is that the commercialization of Christmas is completely out of control because of the influence of advertising on vulnerable kids. This assumes that advertising is truly nefarious and that both kids and parents are powerless to resist its instructions to spend, spend, spend. Nonsense.
Advertising is much dumber than that. It can't create need, it can only address it. Ad legend David Ogilvy said; "Advertising reflects the mores of society, but it does not influence them." On another occasion he added; "Advertising is only evil when it advertises evil things". Right there with you Mr. Ogilvy.
If marketers and ad people are positioning evil goods in front of kids, that would be evil, but that is not what's happening with Christmas. All the ad spending aimed at kids is just basic advertising function. You've got parents with money to spend and companies with products that kids love. All that's missing is the information, and that's where advertising comes in. Not to create a need, but to connect an audience with a brand or product that can meet its needs for a certain price. In that transaction no one's freedom is taken away. No one is being fooled. Kids and parents remain always free to say no to any or all enticements.
As a very warm antidote to all the seasonal negativity, I submit this link to a beautiful, emotional spot from John Lewis in the UK. It evokes a much more sentimental take on gift giving. It slows right down and questions the Christmas spending frenzy, and it's so good, I bet it sold a ton of product.
Thanks to Matt Lamanque for pointing out this great spot.