Hang on a second.
I just realized after many, many re-writes, that I'm about to challenge you, perhaps to the very core of your self-image as an advertising, marketing or businessperson.
And as an advertising professional, perhaps I should professionally sugar-coat this challenge a bit, make it sound exciting, sexy, cool, or at least describe the "what's in it for you" benefit.
But I can't. Because my topic is not tantamount to merely re-painting the prison cell bars of your own career a wild, new purple. Instead, it is intended to blow a huge hole in the outside wall and to encourage you to run for it.
In case nobody noticed, ever since September 11, 2001, this country has been on a wild ride of non-stop messages coming from both our industry and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that tout the concept of "freedom." In fact, remember all those "Keep America Rolling" TV ads with the flag flying behind them all?
Let's look at that word, "freedom," shall we?
Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary (sorry, but that's the edition I have nearest to me) defines freedom as "a: the quality or state of being free: as the absence of necessity, coercion or constraint in choice or action; b: liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another."
Read that again, please.
In fact, check out the dictionary definition of "free," "slave" and so on, and the deeper you go into the definitions and meanings, the deeper you'll be able to go into the questions I have to bring forth here.
First, how "free" are we in America, in this world?
I'd say very, but not completely. For instance, does the idea of being tangibly American and freedom-seeking also require us to fit into our world of desire, brands and consumption?
Where would we all be if people felt truly free and suddenly stopped imitating the ideas and trends we seek to create?
"Not very likely," you say.
And why not?
I believe it's because of our deep need to imitate.
For imitation, as a basic tool of learning from infancy, surely starts us on the road of fitting into this world, rather than revolting against it. And though we worship the rebels who move the human race forward, imitation is a much-desired result of much of this industry's efforts, no? We want to see people wearing our brands, driving, eating and showing off the logos and products we feel we have created. Feels good to see someone repeat your funny commercial, yes? Feels good to see people wear your shirt slogan, stop to gawk at your billboard, sing your song and eat the sandwich you just wrote a TV spot to promote, yes? It is an enormous ego lift, to validate us, to make us feel successful and important, yes?
Freedom then, is it not truly self-defining?
Do we want to be free? Do we want our clients' target customers to be free? To experience the "absence of necessity" or to "feel no powers of another?" Or do we want those clients' target customers to imitate and fall in line?
You might want to look up all the dictionary meanings of "brand" right about now.
So as marketing, advertising, and sales professionals, why do we seem to prefer creating illusions of prestige, sex appeal and social status on the lowest rungs of consciousness? Why do we peddle fear? Is advertising doomed to be, at best, elegant, insidious ensnarement, or can what we do ever be open, transparent, respectful debate?
I'm asking you to go deeper into the question of what we do and why we do it with every assignment and opportunity. I look back on my own work with a newfound vision every day and see the shards of thoughtless intentions here and there. I then resolve to do something better, more healing, more educational, more serious, more enlightening, more gentle, more intelligent. Something truly different.
Of course, all of this does not mean you can't write ads and marketing plans anymore. It does mean you could certainly do it with a different mind, a different intent, a different voice.
And yes, for the record I think you are free.
Free to say "no" to me, to argue, debate and reject these ideas. Free to stay enslaved and to keep doing what you've always done.
Free to think about and maybe implement these ideas.
Free to set millions of others free with your work.