When we reflect on the social and environmental impact of advertising, we probably think about the objectification of women and promotion of particular body-types, or perhaps about the social impact of specific goods and services (e.g. tobacco or high-carbon products). But this report marshalls the evidence that there is another critically important impact of advertising – one that it frequently overlooked. Advertising models and embeds materialistic values – the misperception that “consumers” (i.e. people) can pursue fulfilment, wellbeing and meaningful relationships through the things that they buy. This report shows how this is socially and environmentally damaging.
The report takes its title from an opening quote by Rory Sutherland (formerly President of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising), who says that in his role as an marketer he’d rather be thought of as evil than as useless.