The Week: Best of the blogs - Cut the crap

Sturgeon's Law states that 90 per cent of advertising is crap, because it states that 90 per cent of everything is crap.

But although that may be true, it doesn't feel true. It feels like advertising is disproportionately crap. It feels like there are more bad ads than bad movies, bad design, bad novels, bad magazines.

This may be one of the reasons why "design" is so popular at the moment, and advertising so unpopular. Say "design", and people think Rams, Ives, Eames. Say advertising, and they think Cillit Bang.

This isn't so fair. And there's also a floating feeling of moral hierarchy in there: advertising is immoral and exploitative, but design is somehow not - as though designing something to be bought owes less to capitalism than persuading people to buy it.

Why we all feel this finally dawned on me the other day. It's because advertising can be made to "work" even if it's aesthetically/culturally/whateverly unsuccessful.

If a movie's unpopular or a product design is obviously bad, it quickly disappears, but if an ad's unpopular, you'll probably see more of it. Just because something's dumb, insulting, patronising, glib, doesn't mean it can't be made to work - spend enough money, beat people over the head with it enough and you can make it productive.

This is a reason to be optimistic, because it feels like this business model is going away. Beating people over the head with crap is less and less viable. That will make for a smaller industry, but hopefully a better one.


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