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  • Bob Hoffman


I don’t want to be a salesman. I want to be an artist. I want to change things. I’ve seen the damage that crass consumerism can do. I don’t want to be a peddler. I am nobler than that. You know what I mean, right? You agree, right?

Well, here’s the thing. If you’re in marketing or advertising you’re a salesman. It doesn’t matter what you think you are or what you want to be. You’re a salesman. I don’t like it either.

One of the problems advertising has always faced is that there are a lot of people in the business who don’t want to be salespeople. They have a vested interest — a personal, self-image interest — in not thinking of themselves as salespeople. And today they have more opportunity than ever to act on this delusion.

They have convinced themselves, and many others in the marketing industry, that selling is not the purpose of advertising. They go to conferences and write books and make presentations that tell us that the nature of consumer behavior has changed. That selling is no longer our goal. That "brand purpose" is our true raison d'etre.

They don’t want to make ads. Ads are too graceless, too direct, and too transparently commercial. Everyone knows the motives behind ads. They’d rather do their work behind an opaque curtain. They’d rather make believe that what they’re doing is a contribution to social justice. It makes them feel better. They’re not here to sell you something. They want to have a conversation and build a win-win relationship.


They can cling to their timid, anemic illusions all they want but in the end they will be judged on how good they are at selling.  Sorry, amigo, that’s business.

In my hometown of Oakland, California, there’s a restaurant I hate. It’s very chic and popular with a certain type of person – a person who likes restaurants but doesn’t like food.

Everything about it is unappetizing. It has a cheerless austerity that appeals to the guilty wealthy. The food is very artfully arranged twigs and pebbles. It’s as if the chef learned his craft working with Tinker Toys. They are afraid to use any ingredient that might add flavor to one of their precious concoctions, as it might also taint its virtue.

Today we have agencies like this. They are agencies for people who don’t like marketing or advertising. They are post-advertising agencies. They have no interest in the art, no passion for the craft. They have no zeal for selling. They tell us that today’s human does not want to be sold to. As if any human ever did.

They want to co-create, and have conversations, and share values. Everything about these agencies is unappetizing. They, too, have a cheerless austerity. They believe that persuasion is an insult to their relationship with the consumer. They believe that selling will taint their virtue.They are bloodless, timid, and unenthusiastic.


Not me. I like selling. I like persuasion. I like advertising. I like food.

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