Pride and Prejudice

Guerrillas are a misunderstood species. Politicians, pundits, activists, consumers—they’re always out gunning for the stealth marketers or the newest medium, proclaiming whatever it is to be an unholy attempt to enslave our limbic systems.

Any clutter-busting ad attempt—in elevators, on lemons, on parking bumpers, on the street or delivered by the seemingly noncommercial person on the bar stool next to you—is considered an affront to civilization. Any thing beyond a 30-second spot and the naysayers start braying (and they don’t much like the 30-second spot either, do they?).

The latest indignant riposte came last week, as Ann Coulter’s favorite national newspaper based in New York that prints all the news that’s fit to print inveighed against Nike and ABC’s sidewalk street decals. OK, that particular tactic is, like, illegal, so maybe the criticism is deserved. But it’s the idea that irks—this perception that advertising, no matter where, when, how or why, is morally wrong.

As John Travolta said about prejudice in Saturday Night Fever, “I’m bored widit.”

Because that’s what this is, a prejudice. Anti-ad-ism. And it’s everywhere, in every stratum of our goofball society.

Like all intolerance, it’s illogically selective. I mean, we hardly heard a peep when a certain pop star’s glove or a certain basketball player’s shoes started showing up on every hand and foot in the ‘hood and the suburbs, did we? We don’t watch the Super Bowl because of the quality of the game, do we? And what about all that word-of-mouth you relied on to choose your last car? Why is that not a target of the anti-ad-ists?

Because it’s not considered advertising. And yet people recoil in horror from those who get paid to slip commercial messages into apparently random bar conversations. How is that different?

Of course, as with any other form of bigotry, there are also the do-gooders: the ones who patronize ad crafters, who think advertising can save the world, who try to justify advertising’s actions like it’s a bright but wayward child. I hate them most of all.

These critics are themselves an advertisement. For hypocrisy. They can’t make up their minds. Is advertising good or bad? Invaluable or merely ubiquitous? They think ad vertising and America are like Felix and Oscar.

Enough already.

If the anti-ad-ists had their way, there wouldn’t be any advertising at all. Steven wouldn’t sell a Dell. Britney’s belly wouldn’t sell a can of soda. Louie the lizard would just be another swamp wannabe.

The truth is, the anti-ad-ists should celebrate the guerrilla marketers because their work doesn’t look, sound or taste like advertising. That would be the best of both worlds, right? Advertising that isn’t advertising. Clients would be happy. Consumers would be happy. Politicians would be happy.

But nothing would make the activists happy. Except rounding up every guerrilla marketer and agency staffer in the country and shipping them off to an ad preserve.