Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Adolf Eichmann in advertising: Following orders and the banality of theft

This is what the client wants - artwork by Tarek Chemaly
Let me start this blog post with a clarification, I am not one who compares anything to the holocaust. No matter where you stand politically today in Lebanon, not admitting that the holocaust was an atrocious act is morally irresponsible. Sadly, my moral standpoint for comparison stands ground.
First let me explain the rationale and background of this post: Adolf Eichmann was the man engineered and executed the holocaust, after fleeing to Argentina, he was caught in what could amount to suspicious circumstances and tried and later hanged by the Israeli judicial system. Eichmann's defense was simple, "I was following orders". In his mind he was an innocent bureaucrat on whom the moral responsibility of the killings did not reside. Covering the Eichmann trial, Hannah Arendt wrote the book "the banality of evil" and Stanley Miligram later came up with his chilling but oh so revealing experiments based on the Eichmann defense.
All of this is so atrocious, but daring to apply to apply this to advertising is not out of bounds. I have often heard the excuse for stealing as "l'client heik baddo" (this is what the client wants). How far removed is this from "I was following orders"? Well, it is not. You are absolving the moral responsibility of your stealing and blaming it on the client when you as a designer, advertiser, communicator, are an accessory to the act but refuse to admit it. The easiest justification is "if I don't do it, someone else will (and I would have lost the client in the process)", perhaps this is right, but two wrongs do not make right. You are still stealing other people's mental, creative and hard-earned efforts and simply duplicating them for your own clients.
This has happened repeatedly in Lebanon, and there's always an "easy" way out - blame the client, take the moral weight off your back. Really? And we dare call the war that happened in Lebanon "other people's war on our land", same rationale. Just blame it on someone, anyone, you might have pulled the trigger but there's always a justifier to blame it on "the client" (your political, religious, militia leader).
You have contributed to stealing other people's work, blaming in on the client does not take you off the hook, you are still a thief - no matter what the client wants. Well, maybe the client does want a thief like you. You'd be the perfect match to the client in that case.

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