The power to unsell.

There’s a picture on my iPhone I can’t stand to look at. So whenever I know I’m about to see it, I scroll past it as fast as I can. Like a man walking through a graveyard late at night, this is no time or place to linger.

It’s a photo of my dad during one of his many admissions to the hospital. One of the doctors tells me my dad has “Withering Away Disease.” I can clearly see why. A year later both my dad and my mom will die within a month of each other from COPD.

When I think about my parents and COPD, I think about a fish flopping around in the bottom of a boat, gasping for oxygen. Only it takes the fish 89 years to die.

One of my not-so-fond memories of my mom is her sitting on her front porch. She is sucking on a cigarette and her oxygen tank at the same time. She was that addicted.

My mom and dad started smoking when they were teenagers. Everybody makes their own choices in life. But I would argue that smoking was not entirely my parents’ choice.

When they grew up, advertising portrayed smoking as cool, glamorous, even healthy. That was their generation.

Then, a generation later when I was a teenager, everybody smoked everywhere. In restaurants. On airplanes. In cars. In bed. Before breakfast. After dinner. At the office. At Disneyland. In their baby’s nursery.

The purpose of advertising is obviously to sell. But advertising also has the power to unsell. It has the power to unsell a product, an idea, an injustice. If you have the opportunity to unsell something that causes harm, something that you’re passionately against, please take that opportunity.

Two footnotes.

One, if you think I’m exploiting some very private and painful moments with my parents to make a point, you’re 100% correct.

Two, if you think I don’t see the irony of me choosing a profession that helped kill my mom and dad, you’re 100% wrong. I see the irony all too clearly. I just keep trying to scroll past it as fast as I can.

Published by bassetts49

50 years in advertising, 20 years as the creative lead on Geico. A life in creative thinking.

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