The Ad Agencies Do It
Good question and this is the right time to ask it. But I would look for an answer from the creative teams at the ad agencies for those sponsors. They are the ones creating the ad concepts and selling violence in advertising to the sponsors.
It’s the copywriters, the designers and the creative directors who are churning out this stuff. I can just picture the conference room in which the creative team and the account manager convince the client that their concepts are ‘edgy” or “hip” or “pushing the envelope.” (I’ve sat in that conference room many times and I’ve heard similar pitches.) Sure, the clients are the ones buying ads filled with mayhem, but they would probably buy something less offensive if the option was presented to them.
We won’t stop seeing these ads until the sponsors recoil from hip and edgy creative concepts that show mayhem, blood and death and reject them. When the advertising department of a consumer product says, “That’s sick and disgusting. I don’t want it associated with my product,” it will be a victory not just for those companies but for all of us.
The truth is that these ads may be edgy but it’s a cheap thrill and one that does not serve the product well. Edgy topics are where creative teams stop when they don’t want to push harder or go to the next step so they can really get creative. Corporate ad managers who pay for these ads, who convince themselves the ads are good, and who stay with the agency that produces them, do not do any favors for themselves or their products.
It’s not just the ads, or course—programming has fallen into the same abbatoir. Some of the ads Ms. Wickersham objects to are the promos for TV shows. But that’s an even bigger topic and it will be another post on another day.