Can’t Sell, Don’t Care

Advertising does not show us the benefits of a product anymore. In fact, it’s not even interested in selling anymore. Instead, it preaches. It tells us that we must hold some progressive and widely-held but not necessarily true belief about society, inclusion, the environment, immigration, gender or cosmopolitanism.

It’s London-centric and it lives in its own bubble. Steve Harrison, the Jonathan Pie of advertising, tells the story of how advertising turned its back to the job it was supposed to do and decided to focus on chiding the “deplorables” instead.

In politics, this led to or at least contributed to Brexit, Trump and Northern England voting for the Tories (!). In advertising, it led to companies chasing the next miracle-like formula, like with the infamous ice-bucket challenge, and totally losing contact with the “somewheres”, the people who belong to where they were born and live.

This type of advertising worked nicely for some companies, but only when the desired behaviour was linked to the product being advertised and the preaching was kept in check. In most cases, instead, it’s just empty virtue-signalling that doesn’t resonate and often antagonises a large chunk of consumers. It doesn’t sell, and it doesn’t care.

This is my review of Can’t Sell Won’t Sell: Advertising, politics and culture wars. Why adland has stopped selling and started saving the world on Amazon.