“The thing I hate the most about advertising is that it attracts all the bright, creative and ambitious young people, leaving us mainly with the slow and self-obsessed to become our artists. Modern art is a disaster area. Never in the field of human history has so much been used by so many to say so little.”
A couple of years ago I had a very nice conversation in Melbourne with Richard Slaughter, one of the giants of futures studies. We talked about foresight, Melbourne street art, post-conventional leadership and many other things. He advised me/us to do two things;
- Create infrastructure which builds social foresight.
- Identify and highlight absurdities, which need to be challenged.
The second is something I haven’t paid much attention to since I talked to Richard. Of course I identify and highlight absurdities here in my blog, but I don’t actively work to do it. Perhaps that’s the role of this blog….?
Richard especially mentioned one such absurdity, which seemed to be of great concern to him; the glossy magazines which come with our major newspapers on Saturdays and Sundays. The weekend lifestyle magazines, full of ads which aim to perpetuate the unsustainable lifestyle of the developed world: The clean, airbrushed perfect lifestyle, which doesn’t exist.
Today, we in the developed world understand this. We know that these images are as true as Santa Claus. We have learnt that this glossy life only exists in Vanity Fair articles and George Clooney films. We know that it has nothing to do with reality and that gloss doesn’t equal happiness, but rather Sertraline, divorce and addiction.
But the issue is that we’ve made the developing world believe that gloss means happiness. We have inspired China, Brazil, India and other countries, which are slowly pulling themselves out of poverty to head into gloss. This is why we see the Chinese line up outside the Louis Vuitton and Prada shops in London, NYC, Paris and Tokyo.
They want to become glossy.
A form of societal changemaking which fascinates me now, is the concept of ‘systems acupuncture’. This approach involves to identify and intervene through systemic pressure points or critical spots in society. Instead of massive incremental change, or radical violent change, this rather builds on small, smart actions, directed towards sensitive areas.
One of these so-called “societal acupoints” is advertising, which the people behind non-profit organisation Adbusters realised years ago. They are probably the advocates and activists sticking the sharpest acupuncture needles into the advertising industry today.
But there are others.
- The blog Zen Habits recently suggested that “the biggest obstacle to a wonderfully minimalist life is advertising”.
- Lei Cidade Limpa is a 2006 law in the city Sao Paolo, which prohibits advertising such as that of outdoor posters.
- Commercial Alert is a non-profit that opposes advertising to children and the commercialization of culture, education, and government.
The challenge for these organisations and lawmakers is that we humans love gloss. We love George Clooney, Vanity Fair articles, beautiful people, old Bugattis, Rolex watches and Riva boats.
But that doesn’t mean we need them on our breakfast table on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
I don’t think we in the developed world need advertising any longer. We’re past that.
In fact no one in the world needs advertising I guess.
So let’s think about how we can change things to pay people who work in the ad industry to make art and comedy instead.
I’m sure Banksy and Richard Slaughter would like that.