Self-delusion is the name of game.

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A book I'm reading asserts that marketing is a tool for advertisers to allow the consumer to lie to him or herself. It's done tongue-in-cheek, but it caused me to wonder, am I responsible for someone's self-delusion? Or, are people going to delude themselves no matter how I present my client's product? I also wondered how responsible a small agency is for what happens to our industry as a whole? Does the need for business tempt us to rationalize what is responsible marketing?

One of my partners was looking at an ad we had just finished and commented on how amazing the photograph looked and was that really the way it looked when were shooting it. I told her we did have to do some cleaning up with retouching. That's when she wondered out loud where the "line" is for how much retouching you do. She wasn't suggesting the photo had crossed a line. She wanted my opinion about the "line." I have to be honest I've never even thought about whether photo retouching can cross a line into deception. I know that sounds naive, but I don't think I've remember ever retouching anything to point of it being misleading. Of course, that's my point-of-view and maybe, just maybe, I have.

Think about how you send out a resumé. You're obviously going to put your best foot forward. You're going to make everything you've done seem a stellar accomplishment. But where's the line? I once did an ad for a company that did background checks for employers. The ad showed a spoofed a magazine cover, the type of rag you see when you're waiting to check out at Walmart. The cover had headlines of crazy stories about how aliens built the pyramids and that there are vampires living in most people's attics. Below the image of the magazine a headline alluded to those stories being more accurate than most resumés. In fact, something like 85% of resumés have misleading or inaccurate information. I wonder what the percentage is for ads?

I believe it's our job to show products in their best light. But I think my partner had a really good point. It made me realize the ultimate satisfaction that a customer has with a product relies a great deal on the expectation the advertising has set in their mind. It behooves us to make sure our ads are being realistic with their claims for their own good. Ultimately it will help us have more respect from our clients and the general public.

A few years ago, after achieving great fame in our industry, Jelly Helm began talking about how the industry needed to be more responsible and more honest in its work. The silence was deafening. No one including myself joined in the chorus. I agree with much of Jelly said and I was very impressed with his courage. I hope he planted some seeds that will bear some fruit.

I know it's up to me to do my part. I intend on keeping my watering can full.
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