“Advertising industry is based on a lie”

That’s what I was told by a CEO of an advertising company in January.

He also continued that that’s why the industry is so interesting. He referred to the claim that advertisements are lies. That all the industry really does is lie, exaggerate, or beautify the facts to people to get them to buy the product. And because of that it’s interesting as it then becomes a competition who can lie the best.

advertising is lying
I couldn’t disagree more. I find facts to be incredibly interesting.

Did you know there are more lifeforms living on your skin than there are people on the planet? Or that the average person walks the equivalent of three times around the world in a lifetime? Or that 1 in 10 European babies are conceived in an Ikea bed?

A juxtaposition is probably the most used technique to get a point across and it doesn’t fall short in advertising either. In fact, most, if not all, famous advertisements have a strong juxtaposition in one form or another.

Think of DDB’s Volkswagen and Avis ads, BBH’s Levi’s 501s, or TBWA’s Mac vs PC. They all employ a strong contrast in order to make the facts interesting.

levi's 501
But is a contrast a lie? Is a metaphor a fabrication? If so, similes are just fairy tales. In that case all of our lives are based on lies. But that’s not how it is. I’m alive, I breath and I tell stories. I’m as real as they come.

I see that the advertising industry is based on facts. The creative ideas are based on these facts. And based on that groundwork, the ability to tell stories is what makes an advertisement.

The only task of a product is to provide value. That could be solving a problem or just making you feel good. And our task is to help you recognize the value. So, as advertisers we come up with ideas to tell you about that value in an interesting way.

Now, is that a fantasy? If so, please hand me the red pill.