In the advertising film Art & Copy, there’s the following comment from an advertising great: “I always thought advertising was the most whore-ish business a person could get into”.
And in some ways that’s true. After all, an ad agency will help shape an argument/story/perception around almost any organisation’s offering. And to create that perception they tell the story from a particular perspective – a bit like a lawyer defending her client. Or put another way, we act in a similar fashion to mercenaries.
As advertisers, we take the time to understand our clients’ background and see things from a certain point of view. We’re able to step outside of ourselves, adapt and walk in the shoes of the prospective target market in order to find a way to appeal to them.
Throughout my career I’ve seen vegetarians create great ads for the meat and livestock industry. I’ve seen people create successful campaigns for a political party they didn’t vote for. And I’ve witnessed people make particular banks into powerful brands even though, personally, they’d never do business with them.
However, on a personal (and sometimes agency) level, most of us have our limits on the types of businesses, products and organisations we’ll help represent.
Many years ago, I knew a junior copywriter who resigned when asked to work on a tobacco account. And more recently, I read an article about one MD who declared his agency would never work on a gambling client.
For me, I’d be really uncomfortable working for an online gambling business. Not sure why, as I haven’t had firsthand experience of somebody with a serious gambling problem. Maybe online gambling just feels a little too accessible and therefore easy to escalate out of control?
So what about you? Which client would you refuse to work on? A fast-food? A company with a bad environmental record? Alcohol?