The Age of Persuasion cover.

Advertisers make good advocates

The Age of Persuasion is a CBC radio show that I’ve always enjoyed.1 Terry O’Reilly is the host and has worked in advertising for thirty some years. He has recently published a book with Mike Tennant, who co-authored the book and who probably co-writes the radio show.

They’re ad men. So ultimately they’re apologists for the advertising industry.

But they’re also interesting and have some good insights and are, well, almost honest about the impact of the ad industry on our culture.

For ad men, that’s pretty good.

The book is called The Age of Persuasion, How Marketing Ate Our Culture. I’m totally enjoying it. But here’s what I’m talking about. In the preface, he reflects on the radio show he launched in 1995:

In the summer of 1995, I launched a twenty-five radio series, O’Reilly on Advertising, on CBC’s Radio One, eager to fill what I saw as a huge information void. Of the thousands of books, films, courses, and programs about advertising and marketing, few, if any, were created by people within the industry for people outside the industry.

Then turning to his more recent radio show, he adds:

This program has allowed me to fill another curious void: the thousands of works critical of the impact of advertising and marketing on modern life and culture are created, almost without exception, by people who have never worked within the advertising business.

Wow. If true, that is totally significant. it means that people who work in the advertising business don’t criticize themselves, the techniques of their trade or the affects they have on our communities. Ever. Wow. That is a huge criticism that O’Reilly almost, but not quite, made of advertisers. 2

The point I’m trying to angle towards is this. There is no one better suited to sell us on sales, than a salesperson. And advertising is sales. So there is no one better suited to sell us on advertising, than an advertiser. Well… maybe a salesperson. But do you get my point? Advertisers everywhere are advocates for their various clients now and then and once in a while. But advertisers everywhere are advocates for their jobs, their careers, and their industry, all of the time.

The question is, what are we buying?

  1. Here’s a link to a live stream of an episode on the branding and rebranding of sharks and other things.
  2. So while O’Reilly is positioning himself here as a unique kind of advertiser (something I also could be accused of doing) he fails to grapple with the importance of his claim. He almost gets it in the next sentence by acknowledging that “few in the ad business ever seemed to reflect on the many ways their profession is shaping and changing the world.” But this is rather understated and the point is lost as he steam rolls on.

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