To advertise, to serve

Yesterday evening one hundred and thirty people biked from our agency to a cinema to view in its unfiltered entirety our reel of work from 2016. An annual tradition.

There was this, for Russia:

And this, for Europe:

And a lot more besides that has yet to be released into the public domain.

The journey home gave me time for some reflection, and prompted this thought and suggestion.

Of course our role as advertisers is to sell our clients’ products and help sustain profitable businesses.

I have no issue with that.

But perhaps we have another, not unconnected agenda too.

Now I personally cringe at the sight of brands exploiting real human suffering and division and indulging in empty virtue-signaling in the name of making themselves cool or salving the guilt-ridden egos of adfolk.

It does nothing in the world other than to demonstrate that there is absolutely no aspect of life and culture that advertising will not exploit. And how utterly detached so many of us are from the real lives of real people.

But that evening’s viewing made me think that along the road to flogging stuff, we are also given (more often than we might think) a precious opportunity.

To illuminate the better side of ourselves.

Amidst the anxiety-inducing 24-7 rolling news cycle, the filter bubbles resounding to the sound of mutually uncomprehending rage, and the techno-info-entertainment-media complex’s unending efforts to steal our attention with mindless pap… that feels like a small (let’s not get carried away with ourselves) but welcome contribution in the world.

A brief but valuable respite.

A vote of confidence in those we really serve – ordinary people.

A reminder that perhaps you, we, me, they, us… don’t suck.

And that we might actually be pretty awesome human beings after all.

The journey home was short.

And so, necessarily, is this thought.


  1. Anton Averyanov (@Ajven)

    I know Eugene who was the author of this ads (we have worked with him in Russia) and so I really wonder how this ads will perceive in Russia. I think that this “problem” is too far from real life and thinking of people today.
    I hope I’m wrong …

    • Martin Weigel

      Hi Anton,

      While you are are of course, entitled not to like the work, it really would have been helpful – and more convincing – if you had provided some actual evidence that it was “too far from real life”.

      Let me offer you some.

      A 2003 study by Amnesty International concluded that 36,000 women were beaten by their husbands each day in Russia, while government figures from 2008 said that 14,000 women died each year at the hands of their spouse or other family member.

      More recently Russia looks likely to enact a law decriminaliziing domestic violence, downgrading first offenses from a criminal act to a misdemeanor punishable by fine. The bill was approved by all but two present members of Russia’s Lower House.

      I would suggest that the dignity and status of women in Russia is very much a REAL issue.

      I was of course trying to make a bigger point, but I hope this addresses the small point you were trying to make.

      • M

        Sorry for break in

        You’re completely right about domestic violence and about this awful law.

        And ad is about self-actualization, about motivation.
        Of course it about courage.
        But not about courage to stand against smth.

        It’s more about courage to achieve the goal.

        Cultural insight about domestic value, message about women role in society, gender inequality.
        But in fact we don’t have this problem in Russia. Women don’t have problems with personal fulfilment.
        For example — this article says that Russia is the leader with women on top-managment positions in the world.

        So in Russia we didn’t see (most of my colleagues and friends) the whole point you put in this ad.

  2. Santos

    I wonder how many “better side of ourselves” ideas would agencies produce if they weren’t allowed to enter to Cannes Festival. probably not many, if any.