|Restoring the American Dream is Crucial for Advertising
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
Americans right now are facing one of the toughest times in the country's history. Unemployment abounds, consumer confidence is low, and everybody is worried that their job will be the next one to go. Times are tough for the consumer, the business executive, the entrepreneur, the banker, and, of course, the advertiser. The corporate ladder looks too high and too risky to climb, and people are disillusioned about rising through the "social classes" of America, while it seems that the middle class is evaporating. Is the American Dream still relevant? Do people still daydream about the white picket fences, the yard, two kids, and a yapping dog? It's hard to say.
Leo Burnett was quoted as saying that advertising's purpose is to help businesses tell people what they have, what the goods/services can do for them, and where to get them. Advertising, as Coolidge once said, is the "life of trade." Will the industry fill the airwaves and networks with the reality mentioned above? Of course not. But will advertising succumb to the apathetic and adopt the "Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die" mantra? Let's hope that both options are looked at as equally grotesque.
If advertising has done anything for a society, it has helped people think and dream about what they can do, what they can own, and who they could become. If Ogilvy was right and advertising truly reflects the norms of society, where is the cry for restoring America back to a bustling economy, where people can be whoever they want to be? Advertising, through the language of business, has a duty to appeal to the dreams and hopes of its public. Why should people invest? Because they should have money available to go on a vacation with their loved ones. Why go to a fast-food place? Because you are having a blast being out with your friends, and you need to get some fuel to go throughout the night and make a story.
The bulls**t in viral videos with scantily clad women, senseless humor, and sales-dominated creative is missing the point of advertising. Create the experience. Spark the inner workings of people.
Advertising has to make Americans dream again. It's missing the reason capitalism exists in this country. It is meant for people to provide a need to other people, and make a profit in return. The profit then benefits the community as a whole. There's the dream; advertising is to help people learn more about how their needs can be met, and worry less.
Or the advertising industry can stay in its shell and produce work that is stupid, absurd, misses the mark, and adds pointless "pieces of wisdom" while refusing to see what is going on around it. As the political and financial world around them crumbles, the American people need to know that they are not working solely to pay bills or save for disasters; they're not living every day to make ends meet. Advertising is the way people can learn that there are ways to make themselves feel better, ways that they can escape for a little while, or ways they can improve their lives. Let's not fail them.
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