It hit me last week. Perhaps I'm getting more sensitive as I ripen. But I saw some new work on the telly box and found myself reeling at how impersonal it has all got.
In an effort to justify an expensive science, we’ve made an art of dehumanising people. We’ve been taken over by advertising zombies, incapable of empathy and human emotion.
So this ad campaign is a little talent-led number, targeting the long-suffering Housewife with Kids.
Formulated by an advertising drone; primed with messages; honed to penetrate. There was no respect.
Neither for the people watching nor for the people in it.
So how did it become so soulless? Call the people watching consumers and you get to a clinical solution. It’s agency job done; buying audience bought. But this is "what I want to say to consumers", "what I want to tell them", rather than what we’re all interested in and want to hear. Call them an audience and it will make the work more honest.
Equally, call the people in it "talent" and you diminish them to talking dummies. This contempt has grown over time. A creative team writes a script, which is fired out to an affordable and unaffordable list of talent. Their overpaid talent is merely delivering lines on screen. They deserve our contempt.
In an effort to justify an expensive science, we in advertising have made an art of dehumanising people
But it misses out how much media, particularly social, has changed this relationship. Look at Jamie Oliver: presenter, author, producer and media owner. He’s the biggest UK YouTube brand and the second-biggest UK author after JK Rowling, with major audiences on every social platform. He loves them and they love him. His talent is being the smartest man in media.
Working recently with James Corden, he’s a creative collaborator. He is going to make any script funnier and bigger, aware of what his audience is looking for. He mentioned at Advertising Week Europe that a brand he had worked with recently asked him to Tweet barely concealed corporate propaganda.
The marketing department, having leveraged the Tweets into the talent contract, must have been high-fiving themselves. A unique opportunity to target consumers by stealth. An opportunity to hit elusive Housewives with Kids.
We risk objectifying those who watch our work and those in it. People in advertising refer to it as a people business. We kid ourselves. More often, it’s not.
Mark Boyd is a founder of Gravity Road
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