The per­ils of not keep­ing it real

Campaign Middle East - - NEWS -

I found a spir­i­tual com­pan­ion on stage at the Ad­ver­tis­ing Busi­ness Group’s First Speaker Se­ries last week. OMD’s ex­ec­u­tive cre­ative di­rec­tor Haytham Zoghby said some­thing I’ve been say­ing for a long time: “I hate the word ‘con­sumers’. They are peo­ple.”

Zoghby – along with Na­heel Abe­lall, mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager at Biers­dorf MENA, and Asad Rehman, who heads up me­dia and dig­i­tal at Unilever – was on a panel I was mod­er­at­ing with the grand ti­tle of The Fine Line Be­tween Cre­ative Li­cence and Re­spon­si­ble Ad­ver­tis­ing: How Far Can You Stretch the Truth Ver­sus Dis­tort­ing it?

Mc­Cann, in 1912, copy­righted the phrase “Truth well told” to sum up its ad­ver­tis­ing, and I quoted this line. Rehman replied with its coun­ter­part: “A lie well sold”, which is an­other way of look­ing at ad­ver­tis­ing. But ( to throw in an­other over- cited apho­rism from the old days of ad­ver­tis­ing, al­beit one that’s on my hit- list of overused quotes),“The con­sumer isn’t a mo­ron; she’s your wife.”

The in­dus­try would do well to re­mem­ber that. It’s per­haps even more rel­e­vant to­day than when Ogilvy wrote it. Be­cause now she’s your wife with Twit­ter. Peo­ple won’t stand for false­hood in ad­ver­tis­ing. They will let you and the rest of the world know if they feel cheated.

At the same event, Unilever’s ex­ec­u­tive vi­cepres­i­dent of con­sumer and mar­ket over­sight, Stan Stha­nunathan, spoke about brand pur­pose, and Chris­tine Greaves, the re­gional cor­po­rate af­fairs di­rec­tor at Mars and chair­per­son of the GCC Food & Bev­er­age Al­liance, talked about her sec­tor’s re­spon­si­bil­i­ties when mar­ket­ing to chil­dren.

Th­ese are not is­sues that brands and their agen­cies can bluff their way through. Never have cor­po­ra­tions been so ac­count­able as they are to­day, and never has the pub­lic scru­ti­nised them as closely.

As an in­dus­try we must stop think­ing of peo­ple as mere con­sumers, as fuel for the ad­ver­tis­ing and sales ma­chin­ery that we op­er­ate. If you lie to your pub­lic through your mar­ket­ing, or if you feign pur­pose in search of mere prof­its, or if you tar­get their chil­dren for the same ends, they will see through you and take you to task.

This means that while as an in­dus­try we must tread cau­tiously, we will be forced to do gen­uine good and be­come bet­ter at what we do and bet­ter at mak­ing the world bet­ter too. That can only be a good thing.

But get it wrong and you will not make the con­sumers part with their hard earned cash. They will open fire rather than their wal­lets, and it is the mar­keter who will pay the price.

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