Advertising is defined as ““, and that’s exactly what it does. It puts a certain object/person/service on the spot and tries to get as much attention onto that subject as possible.
This is an area of work where creativity is a must, it’s reason behind all of it and why some campaigns work and others don’t. Advertising is always pushing the boundaries of what can be done and how it can be done (guerrilla advertising, viral campaigns). However this creative component doesn’t refer only to the “creative jobs” (graphic design, illustration, copy writing, etc) but also to the strategy behind every campaign and most important, the concept. It’s worth mentioning that ad campaigns are not based on assumptions and stereotypes but rather they have solid foundations in human and consumer behavior.
Another important thing to mention is that advertising is not only about selling a product, but it can also be used to produce a positive change in society. It’s creativity to the service of social causes, like drinking and driving/texting, global warming or animal extinction. The campaigns aim to produce a change in people and make them reflect in different ways.
In a way, advertising is about manipulating the target audience into doing something specific, it’s about producing a desired reaction. In today’s world, advertising agencies are seen as the creators of unnecessary needs. For example, encouraging people to buy a new cellphone; people might not need it but the the ads might make them feel like they need to buy the it to improve their lives, capture better memories with their friends, be more connected, etc. It can be seen as messing with people’s mind to sell more. So, is this OK? Maybe yes, maybe not. It all depends on the perspective you look at it. In my opinion it’s not, I believe that advertising mainly focuses on selling things that people don’t actually need but think they they do.
The whole ethical part is rather an ambiguous subject, what for one group is OK for others is offensive. There is no possible way that you can please everyone, so you focus on your target. Even so, creating controversy around a certain subject is what companies want, they get more attention even if it’s not entirely good. I’m going to let the next Levi’s commercial explain this for me. In my case I find it really funny and creative but for other people (even of my age so it’s not a generation thing) it might be extremely offensive, so as they say: it all depends on perspective. Read the name first to decide if you want to see it.
Before I finish I just want to share one more thing about the whole ethics topic and different perspectives. It’s about a magazine that ISIS publishes to recruit jihadist in western countries. Rather than outrageous I find it quite interesting (this doesn’t mean I support it) that even a terrorist group uses advertising as a means to get more people on their side. Again, it’s manipulation. For most countries in the world this might be something extremely bad, but for the people behind this magazine (designers, writers, printers, etc) and behind ISIS it might be the right thing to do, a sign of patriotism, a stand in what they believe is correct and good for them.