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Being Good for Business: Admap Prize 2013

Admap Prize 2013
Earlier this year Admap ran their inaugural essay contest on the Future of Planning [which, as I discussed in the post below, often really means the confusing present]. 

I wrote a paper about the fragmentation of strategy, looking to incorporate modern psychology and behavioral economic insight into our advertising, and the impact of technology and that.

They've asked me to judge to the next one, alongside Gareth Kay, Colin Mitchell, Guy Murphy and other people much smarter than I, which is nice. 

The brief for this one is:

There is a $5000 prize for the winning paper, and the top papers will be published in Admap. You can get more details over on WARC - the deadline is JANUARY 31st.

You should enter

This is a topic close to my heart.

A long time ago, when I got into advertising, I decided that I would prefer it if, and therefore I believe that, and work towards the idea that advertising can be a force for good.

[I mean, who wants to do something that's...um..not good? 

NOTE: This parenthesis got out of control and has turned into An Apologia For Advertising, which should probably be published seperately.

Feel free to jump to the end, where it has a couple of paragraphs that might help if you are entering the ADMAP prize. 

Despite loving both Bill Hicks and George Carlin, I don't think that's their side is the whole story.

Communication, even commercial communication, doesn't seem to me to be inherently bad.

Like, say, technology, or any tool, it's what you do with it, and how you do it, and how you think of people, and what kind of person you end up becoming because of it.

Advertising can make you cyncial, all jobs can, but if you can aspire to: look yourself in the mirror and see the kind of person your 8 or 14 year old self would not hate; not lie or cheat, on clients or your partner[s]; treat people and customers and clients and vendors and the audience with respect; not attack people or people's work; not be petty and cruel; be open to the opinions of others and be wiling to change your mind; not worship money above friendship or honor; not let your heart get hard; stay in love with creativity; spend time working for the good of the industry, especially the young people, as well as for your own career and the agency; treat people as ends in themselves, not simply means; and remain thankful that there are jobs that let you have ideas for a living and wear jeans and T-shirts to work....then advertising is a fine profession and one to be proud of. 

The lubrication of capitalism, the creation of experiential emotional value around product consumption, the ability to deploy and navigate commercial signs in culture and let people use them to understand themselves and each other - these are necessary functions in our culture.

For as long as art and culture has existed, patronage has been required to help support it and, in the absence of kings, in times of economics uncertainty, in almost every arena of culture brand sponsorship is what keeps museums open, writers and artists in work, and your favorite website or app in business. 

Yes we create exhortations to BUY. And yes the world has lots of problems and too much stuff, at least in our parts of it. But advertising is, like law and banking, something that keeps the wheels going around.

Unlike law and banking, however, it's hard to use it really screw up the economy. At least, directly. What we do is done in the public eye, by definition. 

If you don't want to live in a hyper-capitalist culture, that's great, you are lucky enough to be in a free enough society [probably, if you are reading this] where you can choose, and every dollar you spend is a vote for the kind of society you want to live in. 

There's nothing sadder, or more detrimental for the ad industry, than the self hating, advertising despising, ad man. 

As Cindy Gallup has pointed out, we need to stop communicating the idea "that advertising is a very bad thing".

And that starts with us. 

Anyway, I digress, because that's not the same thing as social good.

The brief contains an inherent assumption, that there is a tension between maximising profits and doing social good.

You can track this dialectic back at least to Milton Friedman, and, by a remarkable coincidence, a few months back I published a paper examining this, and providing a squaring of that circle, looking at the business case for doing good

This may be of use, if you choose to enter, since I'm one of the judges and that. 

{Remember, like any piece of communication, when writing your essay, you are writing for an audience.]