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Why work that sells stuff – not just worthy creative – should be called ‘good’ advertising

David Ogilvy never wrote: “We engage or else.”

Why is there so much ‘good’ advertising around? By that I mean, ads that want us to donate money, organs, help of some sort.

Ads that want us to change our behaviours and stop being nasty, homophobic and/or discriminatory sods, and become nicer, more thoughtful people.

Creative Works has a number of them, and there’s some very good work in support of some very deserving causes, like ‘Say hello in elephant’. I was born and brought up in Kenya so went at once to the site.

Then there’s ‘Common Goal’.

In the week that one Tottenham Hotspur player has grumbled publically that he is paid a weekly salary of ‘only’ £65,000, Juan Mata has called on his fellow football professionals to donate 1% of their salaries to help him support grassroots footer around the world.

Duval Guillaume brings topicality to its ad for Reborn to be Alive.

Wim doesn’t think he’ll still be alive to see the final episode of Game of Thrones if he doesn’t find a donor to give him new lungs.

It's all ‘good’ stuff.

Now, I’ve just taken a look at the top 10 campaigns in The Big Won rankings so far for 2017 and only three are actually trying to sell anything.

Why all the goodness? Because it makes creative people feel better about themselves.

Remember the Jacques Seguela story? “Don’t tell my mother I work in advertising. She thinks I play piano in a brothel."

Agencies feel they can do award-winning work for clients who are easier to deal with when they get it cut-price or free. Because, quite often, it allows agencies to be innovative in ways that commercial clients are too risk-averse to try.

Good now gets its own special awards.

McCann India’s ‘Immunity Charm’ won the Grand Prix for Good at Cannes. It was a practical solution to a real-world problem.

The existing tradition in Afghanistan of using beaded bracelets to fend off evil spirits was put to work to keep a record of which inoculations a child had been given. Different coloured beads were created for different vaccines.

Doctors could see at a glance if a sick child had or had not been vaccinated for measles, polio, diphtheria and so on. Brilliant. That makes me proud to work in an industry where people can have such simple but such life-saving ideas.

D&AD has its Impact Awards: “Great, transformative, creative ideas that have had real impact and, ultimately, contribute towards a better, fairer and more sustainable future for all.”

Terrific.

Except ... doesn’t identifying ‘good’ advertising rather suggest that the day-in, day-out work we do is…well, not exactly ‘bad’, but somehow suspect? Or dodgy?

Let me declare my hand – I think advertising itself is ‘good’. By that I mean not just the campaigns for NGOs and charities, but all the ads in Creative Works that sell stuff.

David Ogilvy never wrote: “We engage or else.” He wrote: “We sell or else.”

In the UK, the government reports that advertising adds £120bn each year to GDP by raising the level of economic activity and boosting productivity. On average, £1 of advertising spend generates £6 for the UK economy, according to the Creative Industries Council.

Advertising boosts competition and accelerates the growth of new businesses and ideas. Off the top of my head, Apple, Dyson, Netflix – products and services that make the world a little bit easier, a little bit better.

As the old saying goes, nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising. On the other hand, good – meaning effective – advertising helps build brands.

It creates the means by which those that adapt best to changing conditions can survive, even thrive.

I can’t help thinking the reason there is so much ‘good’ advertising around is because good advertising has helped created the economic conditions that allow it.

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