advertising and other stuff. no, really.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Consumer insurgency? Or internal affairs.

Ad Age has a piece today on Alex Bogusky’s newest project FearLess, a direction he’d hinted at taking when he left the business not long ago. His new focus is as lead “insurgent in the new consumer revolution.” Read up on what they’re planning at his site including things like an updating of President Kennedy’s Consumer Bill of Rights.

Predictable responses in the comments section cover off the usual suspects though: Alex made a lot of money off consumers and now he’s their friend, or props for standing up for consumers, or incredulousness that he would even be compared to Ralph Nader. Taken at face value, maybe those things are accurate, but that doesn’t make the effort any less well-meaning.

At the risk of incurring the wrath of haters, and not that he needed my help, but I’d dropped him a note shortly after he quit to say I’d join him in whatever this new consumer direction was going to look like. You get to a point where you question just what it is you’re doing in this industry beyond making money. Creatives should think about these things earlier in their careers rather than later.

But doing the right thing often takes a backseat to making bank when you’re first starting out, let alone later in life when it becomes real hard to turn down. I won’t speak for anyone though because y’all need to make those decisions for yourself.

One comment though touched on a crucial element of consumer advocacy that I’ve always thought could have some impact, but is definitely heresy for anyone in the industry to consider let alone advocate:

“Applause! Finally, an inspiring shift in mind-set in the advertising industry!”

The author may not realize the irony of the statement and why it’s spot on for what the industry needs to do. Nowhere did I read that he is out to change the actual ad industry itself, rather, how consumers define themselves through their purchases and consumerism at large. This isn’t about helping consumers find the best deal either.

Whether it was Ralph Nader or Alex now, using past industry experience to help consumers is cool, but consumer advocacy also has to include going after the advertising industry and the agencies who craft the messages.

Yes it’s easy to target Big Pharma for having its lobbyists pressure the FDA to rush drugs to trial that end up killing a higher number of people than the brand projected, but someone had to help them get the message out.

Or, take things with less life and death consequences, like the two pages of mouse type on your credit card statement that glosses over the rate increase, which in turn costs you thousands more on your balance. What agency faced with losing a multi-million dollar account will speak up and tell the client they might want to simplify things?

I realize that there are a host of new socially-conscious agencies and brands out there focused on doing the right thing. Good on them. I also release the irony here too, in that FearLess has a bunch of talented people who know how to craft messages that interrupt and get attention. And if the role the industry needs to have established sounds the equivalent of internal affairs to use those skills for good, well then, maybe that’s what it takes. (Something too beyond an FDA slap on the wrist.)

Since the industry only seems concerned with dwindling budgets, maybe a rat squad would make them a little more accountable for the really important stuff.

1 comment:

Dan Goldgeier said...

Yessir. Me agree.

I don't think Alex will be successful unless he makes a shit-ton of people in advertising, business, and politics mighty angry.