Friday, October 9, 2009

John Stuart Mill on Advertising.

Last night I came upon this quotation from John Stuart Mill. Like most things, this made me think about advertising.

"The amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor and moral courage which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time."

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1869

I think there are two levels on which we can consider this quotation.

First, it has seemed to me that much of our current culture of "PC-ism" is designed to mitigate if not eliminate eccentricity. PC-ism, like nearly every other "ism" certainly does it's best to wring moral courage out of organizations. Voice a different opinion, go against the status quo, and you are a marked man or woman. You are labeled a malcontent or a trouble-maker. If this weren't true, there would be no need for the extant laws which are designed to protect "whistle-blowers." My sense is that agencies as well as most other social organizations like to hire, retain and promote people who sit at the cusp of the bell-curve. That is, they are the apotheosis of mediocrity. Very few organizations know what to do with people at the far right of the curve. Those people upset the dominant complacency and are better off eliminated.

Second, what if we take Mill's words and apply them to an individual piece of creative or a campaign. Those endless changes we endure, from internal dicta, from the critiques of clients, from the input from focus groups are all aimed at smoothing the edges. They are meant to reduce if not eliminate eccentricity. As my ex-Creative Director, Ed Butler, used to say "most work goes through the blanderizer" and therefore, it's "flat as a plate of piss."

Flat as a plate of piss. Now there's something to aspire to.

I know it's Friday. I'll stop now.


Teenie said...

I prefer the old adage:

John Stuart Mill
of his own free will
on a half a pint of Bourbon
was particularly ill..

george tannenbaum said...

Nice, Teenie.

Teenie said...

Good ol' Python...