22 Feb Is it creative to sell a destructive product?

 Posted in Latest

You can be thankful that cigarette advertising is banned in so many parts of the world.  Bans remove any temptation to ply your creative skills on these lung busters.

Cigarette advertising was the first large-scale ethical dilemma for the advertising business and the first declared ‘no go’ zone.  Many of the dangers of cigarettes were not understood when the ad wars began but the weight of science and public opinion was eventually too much for anyone of good conscience to stomach.

In fairness, most of us would give the thumbs down to pushing heroin, hand grenades or nuclear waste even if it were legal.  Some things are just so obviously damaging or dangerous that we draw a line hard and fast.

creative and destructive

On the flip side, however, are seemingly harmless products and services that are considered fair game… snack foods, fast foods, soft drinks, confectionary and pharmaceuticals to single out a few.

They’re legal products and they’re legal to advertise so there’s no real issue and no dilemma for creative people. Or is there?

As Brene Brown points out in her now legendary TED talk, we are the most overweight, debt laden and medicated generation ever.  Obesity, diabetes, stress related illnesses and chemical addictions are running at epidemic levels.

Does advertising have any responsibility for the role it plays in stimulating demand and desire for products that contribute to these kinds of issues?

Naturally industry bodies and lobby groups talk about working within the law, responsible advertising, codes of conduct and the ridiculousness of nanny states.

But my question is a more intimate one.  Are you really being creative when, by exercising your talents brilliantly, you may be amplifying negative, damaging and sometimes deadly outcomes?

Are you actually being creative, or destructive?

A version on this post will appear in the next issue of Campaign Asia-Pacific

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