What I'm about to say will probably peeve off everyone I know in marketing and advertising. But I'm going to say it anyway. Just like any nationality can only truly be criticised by its own, after 13 years in corporate communications, I think I've earned the right to point.
I have come to believe that members of our industry thrive on the impossible deadlines, long hours and the ridiculous turnaround times we're all subjected to, because the degree of difficulty that these entail provide some validity to what is essentially an utterly meaningless pursuit - selling stuff to people that they don't need, on behalf of organizations that truly don't matter. What we do, at its core is rubbish. And we all know it - which is why so many find solace in getting lost in the difficulty and the semantics, so as not to have to look at themselves in the mirror and admit that we're lie-merchants and creative mercenaries whose task is to manipulate human emotions to make people decide in favour of morons that care only about bottom line.
We "manufacture consent", as the great modern day American linguist, philosopher and activist Noam Chomsky would put it. And the ultimate tragedy is that all that we do is based on a fundamental principle of manipulation that underpins all advertising and PR theory - invented by Edward Bernay who is hailed as father of modern PR - which is premised on the fact that all people are stupid members of a herd and whose emotions can be manipulated to reap favourable results for the manipulators. So we in marketing are essentially nothing more than manipulators' lackeys.
The trouble though is that we do has awful consequences, beyond just the fact that we've sold out our creativity for cash. And I'm as guilty as anyone!
I'm the schmuck who on behalf of a large retirement fund administrator scripted the videos that convinced retirement fund members to switch from defined benefit to defined contribution funds, which made the administrator millions and gave all its execs fat bonuses, but which essentially resulted in countless hard working people losing up to half their lifetime's retirement savings when markets crashed in 2008. I knew it was wrong but I wrote it anyway. That was my job you see. I'm also the paluka who after one of the country's major banks pulled off the dumbest merger in SA fin services history, scripted the then CEOs Xmas message video, in which he stated that there would be no job losses resulting from the merger - before he retrenched 4000 people a month later. I'm the dumbass that came up countless ways for SA banks to wine and dine their heavy hitters during last year's world cup - spending about R150 000 per couple - while the consumers they claim to care so much about were getting their debit orders bounced for going over by a hundred bucks. I'm the dingbat who scripted an ESKOM presentation lauding its efficiencies, about a month before blackouts began. And frankly I'm sick of it.
At best we've all sold out. At worst, and I truly fear the worst, we've become maestros of misrepresentation whose only real contribution is to the dissemination of misinformation and the making of false promises. And I don't want to be a manufacturer of consent any more!
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