BefuddledIs advertising teaching or entertainment? If it is only entertainment, it is a shallow practice. I think that advertising is most honorable when its practitioners see it as a form of teaching.

Of course, great teachers are entertaining enough to hold the attention of the students. But entertainment is the method, not the goal, in the classroom, when the content is important.

Ideally, teachers instruct students in the most important decisions in life.
Similarly, advertising can teach people how to make the biggest decisions of their lives, in a way that benefits the individual, the family, and the community. Getting people to make small decisions — which potato chips to buy — might need only entertainment. (Unless health consciousness has made even that difficult.)

Have you seen the new potato chips with caffeine on them? Can you imagine smart people spending the days of their lives on the development of such a disappointing product? I see a product like this and can only wonder, "How do you keep them lit?" For surely they must be smoked.

That’s not for me. I prefer to work on bet-your-life and bet-your-company decisions. That’s when we are risking our lives, our children’s lives, our livelihoods. These decisions are often on healthcare, education and financial services. Because the bet is big (and in many ways irreversible), we are beFUDdled. We are swamped with FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt), delegating or deferring life’s biggest decisions. That’s when advertising that teaches can come to the aid of the beFUDdled.

Teachers Make Great Ad Folk
This is why I like to work with advertising people who are former or current teachers. Teachers understand that a target audience can be like a student roster; curriculum, a campaign; learning objectives, marketing goals. And, of course, the teacher is the message. (Teachers know that students of any age stare at the teacher to determine: "Should I care about this subject? Does this teacher care so much and so well that I also should care?"

At Young Isaac, we have current adjunct professors of creativity, business, advertising and design; and current and former teachers of everything from aerobics to Sunday School to gun safety.

Advertising is teaching. Otherwise, it’s just entertainment. Or, worse, coercion.

Like great teaching, advertising substantially improves lives.