TED Talk pitch

The Dungeon of Our Dreams

This is the synopsis of our TED talk we are pitching to enlightened organisers. Get in touch with us if you’re interested.

The Fantasy

  • It is possible to have a world of permanent exponential economic growth and endless extraction of natural resources?
  • In that world, the fantasy goes, if we consume excessively, we will be happier and the economy will grow eternally.
  • This story is told by an industry that works like a propaganda machine, similar to many we have known in our history, e.g. stalinist social-realism, ‘a romanticised version of a potential reality’ (M. Schudson), the perennially sunny uplands of consumerist life; it’s never gloomy in the land of advertising.
  • [Cue in Covid compilation of bad brand ads and fantasies]
  • This industry claims it’s a creative business – almost uniquely – it’s fun and sexy and desirable.
  • This industry claims it enables freedom of choice and speech.
  • This industry claims it contributes to the economy and is the 3rd largest creative industry in the UK; it generates £10.5m of Gross Added Value per hour!

The Truth

  • Advertising is the Goebels of the capitalism that promises eternal aggressive economic growth.
  • It is an industrial system of scientifically ‘organised seduction’ that has weaponised social sciences to keep us in a state of permanent want.
  • It preys on our cognitive biases, evolutionary and social structures and impulses for the purpose of extracting profit.
  • It is generating, perpetuating and exploiting various kinds of anxieties and it trains us to be impulsive, trivial, unreflective and selfish.
  • It has created a caste of specialist Mythocrats (ad people) who are ethically blind and, even worse, cynical towards any notion of responsibility. They are the ‘dogs of more’, willing to serve anyone with a bag of cash.
  • As such, it has serious environmental, social and individual consequences.
  • It facilitates the flow of biosphere into waste; it is the sound of that monstrous destructive machine that is endangering us all.
  • It stimulates planetary polution with plastic and other materials, unsustainlable exploitation of finite resources and destruction of our common bio-habitats.
  • It creates cognitive pollution leading to distractions from the important things in our life and replacing the meaning of life with unsustainable consumption.
  • It encourages, normalises and stimulates ways of life that are damaging to our individual and collective well-being: unhealthy diets, addictions, debt, darwinian status obsession and hyper-individualism…

The Solution

  • What do we want to do? What CAN we do?
  • We don’t want to kill the marketing and advertising industry, we want to make it more responsible.
  • We drive cars, but want less polluting and status-driven ones; we buy things, but not as much anymore and want them to last longer; we want to eat well, not more.
  • In order to achieve that, we want to call on the magic that ad industry can create and use it for the good of the world – and to make the industry start acknowledging it.
  • We want to dump TINA (There Is No Alternative) and fall in love with TIA (There IS an Alternative).
  • This is what we can all do:
  • Talk about it
    • Engage your colleagues, gently and personally, in conversations about the ad industry’s ethical stance: in a cafe, at lunch, before the pitch… create even a small wave of moral awareness, turn at least a few stones, if nothing else. Just break the silence.
    • Initiate a meaningful debate about ethics in your agency/marketing department (for clients); talk about the NCS (Net Civilisational Score) not just NPS.
    • Rock the boat with questions in webinars, conferences and other public fora.
    • Write/talk about it, even the basic questions that the industry needs to start grappling with, in your blogs, podcasts etc.
    • Contribute with comments on this topic in other people’s blogs, webinars, Linked In pieces etc.
    • Organise a forum about it.
  • Act
    • Evaluate sustainability initiatives in your company and which part marcomms plays in making them less effective (above and beyond CSR).
    • Ask your agency/ies or clients to show you their ethical/social responsibility policy; how much of it is beyond their work diversity and usual empty platitudes?
    • What would you do if advertising didn’t exist? How would you make people choose you on the shelf?
    • Start your own platform/initiative challenging a certain negative societal issue.
  • Give
    • Give your creative talents and magic pro bono to organisations fighting for climate action, protection of biodiversity, equality and other socially beneficial topics or fighting against social pollution in all forms: from plastics, obesity and gambling to excessive and mindless consumerism (here you can take your pick, from gas-guzzling 4X4s to disposable fashion etc).