Most people in advertising have a list of categories they will and will not work on, and it evolves. My list has evolved and probably will continue to. At the beginning of my career, I wouldn't work on any pharma. I probably would have worked on tobacco given the opportunity but, luckily for me, I got the opportunity to work against tobacco and I got one hell of an education in the process.
My time working on TRUTH, the youth anti-tobacco campaign, taught me a lot about early brain development and soon I added to my personal list that I wouldn't do any advertising that targeted kids (defined by most brain scientists as under 12). As we took on the Burger King account, we politely offered that we could not work on that part of its marketing. And in subsequent years declined multiple invitations to work on the kids business.
Once, one of our adult spots for Spongebob Squarepants was repurposed and re-edited by another agency to add toy footage and aired on Nick. I was livid and we got it pulled. The client owns the work, but pulled it out of respect for the relationship.
We all work to bring our personal values in line with our professional life and there are shades of grey to these decisions. But shades of grey don't exist in our society's decision to allow millions to be spent targeting an audience that is literally and physiologically incapable of protecting and defending themselves from a message that probably doesn't have their very best interest at heart.
It's not a matter of the rightness or wrongness of the products advertised. That is a grey area. But there are children and there are adults. And the duty of adults in society is to protect its children. And that is black and white.
INDUSTRY IS TOO QUICK TO REACT
The latest proposal from NICE recommends a 9pm watershed for any food high in saturated fats, salt or sugar. Junk (or highly processed) food to you and me.
Predictably, the advertising establishment is up in arms. The Advertising Association says the ban is a "knee-jerk" reaction and then adds "that most food advertising has a marginal impact on what children eat". Which begs the question, why bother advertising then?
The knee-jerk response from the advertising bodies to the proposal was predictable, but they are in real danger of appearing out of touch. They need a more considered response. Think, before jumping on a proposal that the Mumsnet crowd, the coalition and probably most of the country would consider common sense and very necessary.
DRAWING YOUR OWN CONCLUSIONS
The advertising industry is so intent on pumping up web and mobile video that it can't even see the real world any more.
Nielsen's Three Screen Report (which reports on TV, web and mobile screen usage) for the first quarter of 2010 has astounding data about viewing habits. But you'd never know it from reading its conclusions.
Here are the facts I found compelling:
1. While time spent with TV increased by 1.3 per cent compared with the same quarter last year, time on the internet dropped by ten times that amount.
2. Compared with Q1 last year, TV viewing grew by two hours per month, while watching video on the internet grew by 11 minutes per month.
3. DVR viewers fast-forwarded through 3 per cent fewer spots compared with Q1 a year ago.
4. The number of people watching TV and using a laptop simultaneously dropped by almost 5 per cent compared with last year.
5. Video viewing on the internet continues to be less than 1 per cent of all viewing.
6. Mobile viewing of video is essentially a non-factor, constituting about 2/10 of 1 per cent of total viewing.
And here are Nielsen's "key conclusions":
1. While mobile subscribers watching video on a mobile phone is (sic) still only a small fraction of the audience, the year-on-year growth is a notable 51.2 per cent.
2. Over half (55 per cent) of the mobile video audience is aged 25-49, not teens as some might think.
3. Simultaneous usage of television and PC, while down year-on-year in March, remains fairly constant.
Two of the "key conclusions" revolve around mobile viewing, which is not even a pimple on the ass of total viewing. No "key conclusions" about the amazing, continuing dominance of television. Nothing about the bewildering drop in internet viewing (can you imagine the hysteria and death knells if time spent with TV dropped 13 per cent in one year!).
To me, it is painfully obvious that the marketing and advertising industries have so thoroughly bought into the "narrative" of the power of web and mobile video - and are so eager to find justification for that narrative - that they can't even interpret their own numbers sensibly.