Goodvertising: Don’t just toot your own horn

Vintage copper horn, isolated on white background

Something came to mind as I read David Brooks’ ‘Road to Character.’ He makes some very astute points about how most of us approach our lives. We would like to develop moral depth as well as be successful. A dichotomy arises of, as he calls them, our ‘eulogy virtues’ versus our ‘resume virtues.’ That is, we hope that at our funeral, we are remembered as having had such virtues as honesty, compassion or courageousness. Yet in our culture it seems we are taught more about how to build a career, the ‘resume virtues,’ than how to build our character.
Is it possible to apply these same expectations to the advertising messages we create?
I am convinced we are seeing a shift towards content having more integrity in modern advertising. With the plethora of messages the average citizen is inundated with throughout the day, branding has by necessity needed to become more approachable, humble, believable. This is ‘Story Living’ that Jeff Fromm wrote about in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal last February 1st. Presenting our client’s products as authentic, unique and meaningful.
If we can infuse our advertising content with a genuine, even positive point of view, it pays forward. I proudly (?) offer an ad which I art directed last summer for the local Metro as a case in point. Everyone in the spot is happy and infectious as they approach the Metro train from around the nearby neighborhood. Feel good?
Now here is the big old irony. The singular point of an ad is to impress the world, isn’t it? The space has been well paid for. ‘Look at how great this is!’
You want your client to sound superior to others, having better judgement and taste. How is this not prideful, self-congratulatory, hubristic? The tone is expectedly self-assured. But then, in this day and age, doesn’t your audiences b*llsh#t meter go off? Ads often come off as hollow and superficial (Just sayin’).
So I make a pledge to, as much as I can, offer to the world uplifting messages herein. Positive storylines about the human condition at its best.
As Elvis Costello sang, ‘What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?’

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