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In Defence of Advertising

Broadcast date: Saturday April 26, 2008

This week, Terry O'Reilly tugs on Superman's cape, he spits in the wind; more recently he was seen inquiring as to the whereabouts of the Lone Ranger. In this surly frame of mind, Terry makes the case of the defence of advertising in modern culture. By the magic of radio, he'll show you what the world would be like... if advertising had never been born. Then he'll take you on a tour, and show you why an ad-free world might not be the cultural paradise some might imagine.

Listen to this episode as streaming audio (runs 27:30)


Previous Comments (12)

This episode was a really light-hearted approach to the reality that without advertising and marketing, a growth economy wouldn't be possible, and a lot of us would go hungry and then to the grave. You are, Mr. O'Reilly, the first person I've heard state this without sounding like a neo-con jerk. Well done...

CT Moore, April 26, 2008 11:43 AM

I am here to celebrate the end of advertising as we know it not to mourn it. :)

Context based advertising is the future, as gmail uses, is the future.
Common sense tells you that exposing everyone to a message meant for only a tiny fraction of its recipients is a waste and a nuisance. I don't buy light beer. I never will. I don't buy ecocidal overpackaged cleaning products; never will. On the other hand, there has been more than one occasion now where while using gmail, google has suggested a product that i needed very much right at that moment, and had no idea that it existed. I think that non-targeted advertising should be taxed out of existence as the social pollution it is.

IdealPragmatist, April 26, 2008 11:59 AM

Love the show. I have developed a respect for good advertising and a distain for crap, largely thanks to your show. If more people listened to your show I think the level of advertising would have to improve due to a more discerning public.
I think one of my favorite parts of the show are the credits. Not surprising you would make a traditionally boring thing into something to look forward to.
When does the permalink stream become activated. It sems to come on some time on Monday.
Cheers to all
Peter Millican

peter Millican, April 28, 2008 11:05 AM

This is IMHO the best show around!
The time you folks spend researching this stuff very much appreciated. The production is outstanding. This is a class act, and you people do an incredible job!
CBC, could we get a podcast of this series someday? (I've missed many episodes, and this show gets a crappy timespot for me)
With all of the attention that the cbc is paying to podcasting, I'm quite surprised that this show doesn't make the cut.
Cheers to all involved in this terrific production, though.

Colin Woods, April 29, 2008 12:36 AM

First of all, thanks for the great comments. We figured this episode would be somewhat controversial. The majority of people don't value advertising, but it does have a very critical purpose in a free economy. But it still should do everything it can to be creative, and smart and meaningful.

Thanks CT Moore for the kind words. Very appreciated.

And IdealPragmatist, you are aptly named. I think, in many ways, you are correct, and you are describing the advertising of the future. Reaching specific audiences with specific products is finally becoming possible with the net. But don't hold a wake for mass advertising just yet.

And Peter, you have just distilled the essence and core of our show. Mike and I created the show so people could be more discerning and better informed about advertising. And we wanted to celebrate good advertising, and hold our noses at the bad stuff. So it's music to our hears to hear you say that.

And yes, every Saturday episode gets streamed on Monday.

Terry O'Reilly, April 29, 2008 9:57 PM

The Age of Persuasion is a terrific show; the episodes are informative and entertaining and I am looking forward to the podcasts. I have to say also that each week I anticipate the ever changing but always clever credits at the end of the show!

Mel, May 2, 2008 11:41 AM

May I play devil's advocate, even at this late date? I listened to this charming show in defense of advertising - and thought I was listening to a failure of analysis and imagination. Why was that? Well in my case, I did not hear any discussion of the associated ecological costs of advertising.

Nothing we do is free on impact on the rest of nature, in which all human societies are embedded. The most basis cost is in terms of energy.

I'd like to challenge your team to apply robust Ecological Footprint tools to individual advertising campaigns and to the advertising sector in various national economies. What are the trends? What are the implications? How can we do better in terms of reducing the footprints?

Thanks for your attention.


Catherine Beck

Catherine Beck, May 16, 2008 9:30 AM


I have always enjoyed your show, and because of it I am no longer one of those people who say, "They are just trying to sell you something that you neither want or need," or "I wish advertising was never born." Despite this, "In defense of advertising" did not convince me. You seemed to mis-understand why people say, "I wish advertising was never born."

People not only dislike intrusive ads, they also dislike being convinced against their better judgment. It has been shown that millions of people feel an intrinsic satisfaction when being frugal, resourceful, or when they are able to reuse. Hence, there is an essential dissonance when people are convinced, in the age of persuasion, that they a need new thing to that old thing they like to do. Further, I believe there are many people who are confusing marketing and advertising with consumerism, and as such blaming marketing and advertising with the decline of the environment.

Keep defending. Maybe next time I will buy it.

Matt, May 16, 2008 3:18 PM

Dear Mr. O'Reilly

Your analysis of war advertising was okay as far as it went. But you failed to mention the systematic and dunningly effective tools that the Nazi's under Joseph Goebbels and Lenni Riefenstahl brought to this corruption of truth and decency under the aegis of advertising or more broadly, propaganda and public relations, etc. Similarly the branding of Japanese as little 'nips', dehumanizing them. Of course your program is only a half-hour but these broader deeper and equally dehumanizing efforts to gain advantage at the disadvantage and distortion of others, etc. or even the corruption of advertising in general to broaden the discussion, if you will, went unobserved, etc.

Gerard Clarkes

Gerard Clarkes, May 24, 2008 2:43 PM

While the series is fun, this episode shows how hollow the argument is.

Given half an hour and a blank canvas the experienced Ad man sets out to convince the audience that advertising is important and essential. And completely fails to do so.

The world without ads he portrays is without problem. It is a better world, a nicer world and one without the huge waste of resourses that this world has. We are consuming ourselves into oblivion and the adman has his share of the blame.

Peter Kyberd, January 16, 2009 3:17 PM

Does anyone else see the irony that a radio show on the advertising industry is being presented on a commercial-free network?

Marvin, March 16, 2009 1:16 PM

First, I agree with all the kudos above. This is a great show. However, it's strange that your argument is based on the assumption that society would lose actors, overpaid hockey players, and the high-end fashion industry. So I have a question for Mr. O'Reilly or anyone else who cares to respond.

Given that preforming art, creating art, playing sports, and creating personal style are recreational activities of 99% people; would we suffer culturally if these activities were not subsidized by advertising or the government? Basically, people would continue to play music, paint, and play hockey for an audience without monetary gain. With the exception of sports, the quality of art is so subjective that an argument of "better" art, due to media, is not a justified argument.

Tim, April 3, 2009 4:04 AM
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