Revisited: Shouldn't We Punish Agencies And Advertisers For Communication Pollution?

Over recent years, we've all become far more aware of the impact that we are having on our planet. As a result, we're encouraged to behave in a more environmentally friendly way.

But what about our social and cultural environment? By that I mean the things that surround us every day; our streets, our homes, the magazines we read, newspapers, television, film, bars, cafes, the internet. The things that make up the landscape of our lives.

Doesn't that cultural environment deserve some protection too?

It might not be physically damaging in the same way as environmental damage to the planet. But as individuals and as a society, our lives are polluted daily by scores of ugly, stupid, banal and insulting commercial messages.

Not all of them, but many of them. Commercials shout at us. They repeat utter nonsense endlessly. They dress-up dangerous services in friendly clothes. Depict plastic, inane characters who say stupid things. They interrupt our viewing with inexplicably dumb bursts of trash. Adverts flash starbursts and giant type at us, treating us like idiots. Writing talks down to us, or at us, often accompanied by desperate and offensive design.

Messages that could easily be communicated with charm and beauty instead become pollution that blights our everyday lives. So much so that we have learned to block it out, like the unfortunates who live next to the stench of a sewage plant.

I strongly believe that companies and organisations have the right to make commercial messages, and to communicate those messages to people. But surely there is a onus on those responsible to make sure that those messages don't pollute and detract from society?

Well the truth is that currently there is no such responsibility, is there?

Whilst some of us, agencies and clients alike, believe that intelligent, engaging, human, truthful, well-crafted, beautiful, artistic or enjoyable commercial messages are far more beneficial commercially, there are plenty of people and companies out there who appear more than happy to spray the world with commercial effluent if they think that will result in a few extra bucks, or a few fewer hours on the timesheet.

The cultural environment is at the mercy of whether the people producing the advertising are of the former or latter persuasion.

This seems wrong. When it comes to the planet, if it's left to corporations and executives to self-determine whether they be good citizens of the world environmentally, commercial pressures mean that far fewer behave in an environmentally friendly way. We know this. 

So when it comes to the planet, the carrot of public goodwill takes corporations only so far; it is the stick of taxation, legislation and fines that does the really heavy lifting.

Doesn't it follow that our social and cultural environment, our everyday lives, be offered the same protection?

Shouldn't advertisers, and the agencies responsible for the idiotic and the ugly, be fined or heavily taxed for unnecessarily polluting it?

It seems to me that it wouldn't be that difficult to police. A panel made up of ex industry experts, writers, designers, ex-clients, and independents could be easily be paid for by the immediate fines that would be levied against countless infractors. The vast amounts of cash inevitably left over could be channelled into projects that benefit the cultural environment.

Repeat offenders would be hit with increasing fines, and be subject to pre-vetting. Individuals in companies would have to explain to their board that their decisions to run brash, idiotic, shouty or ugly advertising had cost those companies money. Thus there would become a financial imperative to making sure that that all communication and advertising was actually fit to be put out into our environment.

Isn't it about time that, just as corporations have been forced to respect the environment, they were forced to respect our right to have daily lives free from their communication pollution too?

First published on this blog 30.04.2012

1 comment:

  1. seen this?