Is the Promoting Business Embarrassed To Promote?

A new book by Steve Harrison accuses the advertising industry of being so obsessed with intent that it has forgotten its core role: selling things. Patrick Burgoyne investigates his claims

The advertising industry is so left-wing dominant, so "woke up", so obsessed with progressive causes, and "saving the world" that it has given up its primary purpose – driving business growth. That way, it has more and more contact with the mainstream, which shares neither the industry's liberal agenda nor the newfound concern for the environment.

That is the central claim of Can’t Sell, Won’t Sell, a plea for advertising to "rediscover its commercial purpose" by former OgilvyOne and Wunderman chief creators Steve Harrison. In this entertaining polemic, Harrison targets an industry that is increasingly embarrassing to him to be associated with the "engine of capitalism".

Instead, the advertising decided that it was a "mission to save the planet and alert its inhabitants to the evils of climate change, privilege, racism". That's advertising now. “And it is increasingly intolerant of anyone who disagrees with it. Advertising seems to have become a new front in the culture wars.