As I have said before, I am not anti-advertising. I worked in it for most of my life. I still help companies and individuals with marketing strategies and advertising concepts through my one-man company CommonGround.
But I hate it when I see advertising that is clearly taking advantage of uninformed viewers.
The three most offensive marketers right now are:
There is absolutely nothing more deceitful than this company running ads talking about America's "energy security". They tell us that America has some of the greatest oil reserves in the world. They slip in the fact that this claim is based largely on the exsitence of oil sands - the mining of which is extrmemely controversial. But that's not the big lie. The big lie is that this oil does nothing to guarantee America's energy independence (or the fearmongering phrase "energy security" that they prefer) because the oil, if extracted, will belong to Exxon Mobil and will be sold on global markets in the same way as almost all the world's oil. In our global economy it is misleading, even dangerous, for an oil company to perpetuate the goal - some would say the myth - of energy independence. These ads are simply aimed at making the American people favor drilling for oil in places where it should not happen, based on the lie that the country will be indepedent of that "other" oil - the stuff those Arab countries produce. Exxon Mobil should be told to clean up its act. Even its advertising is dirty.
This deceptive collection of half-truths was created by my old employer - Grey. ANGA? I think ANGER would be more appropriate. ANGA stands for America's Natural Gas Association. It's financed by a group of companies all directly involved in the extraction of natural gas. Much of it is obtained using the controversial fracking method. This is where rock, deep beneath the surface, is deliberately fractured to release the gas trapped inside it. The ads go on at length about how the rock strata containing the gas are so far below the water table, in "self-contained" well systems (whatever that means) that there is absolutely no risk of this kind of drilling contaminating our water supply.
That may or may not be true (personally I think it's a whopping lie) but it's almost made irrelevent by the mounting evidence that fracking triggers earthquakes. Yes, fucking earthquakes...or should that be fracking earthquakes!
I think the only smart thing Grey probably did was tell this association not be known by its initials. ANGA indeed.
Bank of America
So, now we get the nice, friendly, smiling employee bullshit. After BofA has conspired against the country it is named after. Too little too late guys. So where is their lie, apart from their entire way of business being built from them? They brag about the amount of money they are lending to small businesses. But there is no context. It sounds like a large amount of money to the average person but when you dig a little deeper you discover, no surprise, that it's a fragment of what they used to give out in loans. Without a comparison of any kind these numbers are meaningless and should not form part of a bank's advertising.
In my opinion it's about time the advertising business in this country was held accountable to tougher standards. Lies are lies. And sometimes the lie is one of ommission - what they choose NOT to tell us. For decades the motto of McCann-Erickson (where I worked for 15 years) has been Truth Well Told.
I suggest it's time for the whole industry to return to that purpose.
Grey and the agencies working for BofA and Exxon Mobil should stop counting the money for a moment and ask themselves why they have stooped so low as to lie for living.
Saturday is Bank Transfer Day. I may not be able to do it tomorrow but my money (what little there is) will be moving out of Wells Fargo and into a local bank or credit union as soon as possible. According to latest figures the big banks may lose 5 out of 10 customers. They screwed up and needed a bail-out, now we're bailing out! If we're lucky, BofA will not have enough money to inflict insulting advertising on us any more.