What’s up with all the advertising leaders who hate advertising?

Check out these three quotes from industry leaders, all from the past two months:

The CMO of a global soft drink company, in a lengthy LinkedIn post, wrote: “I don’t like the word ‘advertisement’.”

The CEO/founder of a major digital agency, during a panel discussion in Cannes, said: “No one on the planet watches TV spots.”

The co-founder/CEO of a canned water company, in an interview with an advertising trade publication, said: “Marketing sucks, and I don’t want to do marketing.”

Excuse me, but what’s going on here?

Imagine if the executives of another industry publicly denigrated their company like this.

Do you think the CEO of Penguin Random House would say on social media, “I don’t like the word ‘publish'”?

Would the president of Universal Studios give a speech at the Oscars and say, “Nobody cares about movies anymore”?

What are the chances that the CEO of McDonald’s will tell the New York Times, “Fast food sucks, and I don’t want to do fast food”?

No, never, nada.

Don’t pick on those three – I see this kind of talk all the time. And what’s a little inexcusable is that a lot of people who talk like that are in the enterprise of persuasion through communication. They must understand the power of messages to shape opinion. And they have powerful microphones to amplify that message, so derogatory advertising is literally costing them money.

I have a theory about what’s behind this self-destructive behavior, but we still have to spend a minute considering just how absurd it is.

Let’s look at some data first, since we are now data driven.

The publishing industry is a $26 billion business in the United States

The film industry is worth $42 billion.

The global fast food market, roughly $650 billion.

What about the industry (we don’t want to say the word advertising because it’s disgusting)?

$766 billionworldwide.

So why all the self-loathing?

This crisis of confidence in advertising stems from the collapse of the print and broadcast media. It was through these two media that advertising shaped culture for most of the 20th century and was therefore seen as ‘cool’.

I recently visited the Smithsonian Institute’s Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. There’s an entire exhibit devoted to advertising (despite the fact that everyone hates it), and the gallery is dominated by artifacts from those two mediums. I took these photos.

Lucas E. Kelly