Rebel With A Cause: Most Advertising in Existence Is, In Itself, A Detriment

Linda Caroll

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Howard Luck Gossage, dubbed The Socrates of San Francisco, believed that “most advertising in existence is, in itself, a detriment to the industry. "

"Trying to explain responsibility to advertising men
is like trying to convince an eight-year-old that ***
intercourse is more fun than a chocolate ice cream cone. "
Howard Luck Gossage; 1917-1969

Howard Luck Gossage, an advertising man who hated advertising, had a vision of what it should be. He believed that too many people who create advertising rely on repetition of an essentially dull message .

"There is only so much fertilizer one ought to use, " Gossage observed, "but people tend to lay it on so thick that it begins to obliterate the crop it was supposed to nurture. . . At which point it starts to attract flies, the neighbours complain and the stench is unbearable!"

"Is advertising worth saving? From an economic point of view, I don't think that most of it is. From an aesthetic point of view, I'm damn sure it's not; it is thoughtless, boring and there is simply too much of it. "

Marketing legend David Ogilvy described Gossage as “the most articulate rebel in the advertising business. "

One year after his death, Gossage was posthumously inducted into the Advertising Copywriters Hall of Fame.

Thirty four years after his death, a landmark study by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) verifies that the fertilizer is, indeed, still obliterating the crop.

  • The average direct marketing campaign response is a mere 2.61%
  • The catalog industry average campaign response is only 2.51%
  • The average response for web only direct marketing is a weak 1.35%

    In the bestseller, “The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR, " co-author Al Ries says;

      “War and marketing have many similarities. Military generals who fight today's war with last war's weapons are no different than marketing generals who fight today's marketing war with advertising when they should be using PR. Yesterday it was armor. Today it's airpower. Yesterday it was advertising. Today it's PR"

    Simply put, advertising has no credibility to the consumer. It's a self serving message paid for by a company eager to make the sale. To grow your business, you need the validity that only a credible third party endorsement can bring.

    While direct marketers get two thumbs down from 97 out of every 100 people that read their messages, companies like Starbucks, The Body Shop,, Yahoo, eBay, Google, Playstation, Red Bull, Microsoft, Intel and Blackberry eschewed advertising and rode the back of the PR pony to fame and fortune.

    Every business has a story to tell.
    Are you telling yours?

    Need a little website magic? Get it, free, at

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