Why Ad agencies shouldn´t do political advertising

Advertising changed since I started more than a decade ago. In my early times as Junior Account advertising was a mix of knowledge, personal sense, and market research. When we created a campaign we usually started by researching on the web, combined with analyzing former campaigns. Then we started. Years later now it´s more or less based on big data, customer analysis, and other data we take, mix them and then we start the creative stuff.
Sounds nearly the same? Yes and no, because the amount of data and the quality of data that is provided today is denser, User profiles are way more exact as they were in the past. The reason? The customer himself provides that information via Social Media. Ok, we can start a moral discussion about this, but users can´t complain on one hand side that they become more and more transparent, but on the other hand side they use Facebook and services of Google. It´s a choice. On the other hand side, it´s up to advertisers to handle those data in a responsible way. And they should know when and how they use it. When I tell you in a smart way to buy a chocolate bar…that s ok. You like it, it´s tasty…win for me…win for you. It becomes critical and in my understanding unethical to manipulate consumers in a way where they don´t even recognize that it´s manipulation. You don´t think this exists? I can tell you it exists and it´s used…in a way where I hardly can comply with.

As an advertiser, I have some sort of moral compass. That includes that I don´t do advertising for:

  • Atomic Power (I don´t like this kind of power…I already lived when the powerplant in Tschernobyl exploded)
  • Guns (Sorry US ppl. I have no sympathy for your crush on this and your 2nd amendment)
  • Companies with a critical attitude in regards of environment and that working conditions.

And I´m critical against something that is called Neuro-Marketing.

Neuro-Marketing is a way to use scientific know-how to analyze human behaviors and stimulate certain reactions based on the knowledge we have about the brain. I give you an example: When see something positive, there´s some reaction within the brain going on in a certain area in your brain. Science can pretty well identify what causes a positive or negative reaction. Now imagine I can cause a positive reaction in your brain when it comes to buying something…maybe something you don´t think of. And you ask yourself “Why did that make me happy spending money on this?” Using brain science for marketing is something I have mixed feelings about…for me feels more like the “dark side of advertising”. But well, if it helps to sell chocolate bars…ok…questionable but ok.

A completely different thing is when it comes to political advertising. Especially this year with the presidential election I have this strong concern that using such knowledge both sides (Democrats and Republicans) using EVERY kind of advertising knowledge ethical or unethical. Remember Cambridge Analytica? A company that was founded to collect, analyze, and target certain types of Facebook users with certain messages to change their way of thinking. Don´t think this is some science-fiction or fairy tale. We know so much abt the human brain that “smart” people are able to identify and stimulate reactions of you by repeating a certain message. 

I don´t think that this a kind of ethical advertising for such an important thing like the election of the President of the United States of America. You don´t have to be a genius to estimate that this kind of “advertising” is already in use. But from my point of view, it should be stopped. Stopped by agencies, not supported by Social Media platforms and not supported by classic media in the way it´s used today. Let people vote based on the programs the contestants. What is currently going on on Social Media is nothing more than people manipulation in a very dangerous way. Because in the end, this election is about the most important “Job” the United States has to offer. And it should be taken by the person that can do the job the best, and NOT why PR and advertising agencies communicate to the people. We as advertising specialists have a responsibility to society to get out of this dirty rally-stuff that is currently going on in the United States. Those who do that should be aware that what they do is like pledging themselves to the “dark side” of advertising. And I can not wish you luck for such a project.

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