As a free-lance photographer and 18-year veteran of the advertising business, I have clients that include several of the big-name agencies that Warren Berger mentioned, some so-called boutique agencies and even some one-man shops ("Chaos on Madison Avenue," June 5).
While many of Berger's observations cannot be disputed, it is not fair to lay most of advertising's faults on the mega-agencies. The clients mentioned, such as Ikea and Nike, are doing good work not only because they have hired excellent ad agencies like Deutsch and Widen & Kennedy, but also because they are companies that have the smarts to take some chances, as did Volkswagen in the late '60s and early '70s. Decades later, those VW ads are still regarded as industry icons of creativity--some of the most memorable and successful advertising ever.
Some of what I considered my own best work died on the vine, but that had nothing to do with the bigger agencies' lack of response to creativity. It was due to nervous clients over-testing the work in focus groups and blunting its creative edge. Though it is the clients' dime, and they are the controlling factor, the smarters ones hire talented people and allow them to do good work.
The quandary that creators of TV commercials find themselves in appears to be due to a public response that differs from what is expected.
Once there were fewer commercial breaks and we sat in place so as not to miss the show's continuation. Now so many commercials appear in a row that we have time to prepare the next day's lunch, make a telephone call or even take a fast shower.
When a show becomes popular, more and more commercials are inserted, detrimentally shortening the show itself. That encourages us to use the mute button and move our attention to the book in our hand.
And of course, some stations greatly increase the sound level during commercials, forcing us to lower the volume to the point where we can't hear the program when it comes back on.
The public may not want to be manipulated, but it is--and knows it.
It was gratifying to read that those in the advertising business are struggling to find new formulas for the '90s. I hope that they fail.
No other industry is as insidious, manipulative, patronizing and bigoted. Its constant premise--if we buy the product, we will be happy--by its nature implies that if we don't, we must be miserable, underprivileged, denied, impoverished, not respected and worthless. No wonder desperation abounds in society today.
"Chaos on Madison Avenue" documented beautifully why, almost without exception, big has come to equal dumb in business today.
Fortunately, the Self-Defeating Personality Disorder category has been dropped in the DSM-IV. I get the feeling that those who question these diagnostic practices are at risk of earning their own label. Talk about a no-win situation!
It has been my experience as executive director of the Southern California Counseling Center that clients best respond to the counseling relationship when both counselors and clients let go of labels and validate the human qualities and strengths that we all share. The DSM manual is a complicating, yet necessary tool for mental health professionals. Its value is derived from the structure it provides for insurance paperwork, research, etc.
The potentially destructive nature of the manual can be overcome if therapists and family members respond to the individual and not to the label.