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Paul Simons: adland may face dire consequences if the current nastiness in politics prevails

An observation from Bill Bernbach; “If you stand for something, you will always find some people for you and some against you. If you stand for nothing, you will find nobody against you and nobody for you”. He goes on to assert that whatever position one takes it must be based in a truth – my words not his.

I recall he also suggested that great advertising for an inferior product will hasten the inevitable decline of the product.

All of this strikes a loud chord for me as I try to follow the unfolding drama of the chaos in Westminster. Advertising gets a bad name from time to time but the antics of the political class makes adland look likea kindergarden.

The ASA say their remit is ‘taking action against misleading, harmful and offensive advertisements’ and that advertising should be ‘legal, decent and honest.’ They do act and they do regulate the output of material appearing on a wide variety of media channels. However our law makers seem to please themselves about being legal, decent and honest.

The referendum was riddled with misleading, harmful and offensive advertisements, statements, intentions but I doubt if anyone will be held to account for any of this deliberate manipulation of the general public. I have watched leading political figures squirming their way out of claims made in the heat of battle, some people doing 180 degree turns on stratospheric policy, and people being stabbed in the front and the back.

One game-play going on is Jeremy Corbyn’s stubbornness over his leadership; my guess is the chess game has several further moves to go yet before we fully understand what is going on. Ed Milliband changed the rules of leadership election in the Labour party and somebody spotted the opportunity. In the past the militant left wing activists never had a chance of gaining power in the Labour party because too many MPs are more liberal, as are their constituents, and the world has moved on from the deep divisions in society that were a legacy of 19th century – the ruling classes, working conditions, disease, etc. Ed’s re-structure provided the unlocked door for the angry, frustrated, and determined group to have a voice centre stage.
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Jeremy Corbyn probably represents the most acceptable face of the hard left! However his inner anger comes to the surface on a regular basis. He has a habit of calling anything he disagrees with as being ‘vile.’ It is such a powerfully emotive word.

If this prognosis is anything close to the reality then look out the advertising industry. Based on a relative small sample of Labour MPs over the years – maybe no more than ten – I have been quite shocked at the anti-advertising feelings held by many of them, the hard left being the most vociferous. If they managed to play the chess game and get in to a position of influence my guess is the advertising industry in the UK would come under attack on several levels.

I would have thought Sir Martin Sorrell could be top of the list of enemies of the state given his modest annual pay packet, which would probable feed the population of unemployed in Doncaster for several years. As Mr Bernbach said, if you stand for something you have people for you and against you. We might see the worm turn in the coming weeks and months, just as Boris Johnson found his close supporters becoming knife wielding zealots.

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About Paul Simons

Paul joined Cadbury-Schweppes in brand management and then moved to United Biscuits. He switched to advertising in his late 20s, at Cogent Elliott and then Gold Greenlees Trott. He founded Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson in the late 80s, one of the leading creative agencies of the 90s. Simons Palmer then merged with TBWA to create a top ten agency. Paul then joined O&M as chairman & CEO of the UK group. After three years he left to create a new AIM-quoted advertising group Cagney Plc. He is now a consultant to a number of client companies. Paul also shares his thoughts on his blog. Visit Paul Simons Blog.

One comment

  1. David Blackwell

    Adland is facing down the biggest crisis since 2008 and we get this ‘reds under the bed’ rubbish? Please!

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