1 FEBRUARY 1963, Page 13

ENEMIES OF PROMISES Sta,--The article entitled 'The Enemies of Advertis-

ing' once more prompts one to try to expose some of the manoeuvres by which the supporters of adver- tising attempt to blunt criticism by distracting attention from the important facts, in favour of hypothetical speculation.

First of all one notices the curious assumption on which the article purports to rest: viz., that the 'responsible and respected critic brings affection as well as knowledge to his subject.' A remarkable thesis! The hostile critic is quickly branded as an 'enemy' (i.e., not a critic) and a 'pharisee' and perhaps nobody has noticed the sleight-of-hand. The second point to notice (it is connected) is the stress, familiar in emotive, attitudinal 'reasoning' of this kind, that is laid on the 'motivation' of the critic of advertising--who, incidentally, is equated (to his discredit, of course) with the intellectuals. By this means serious attention is skilfully directed away from the content of hostile criticism and its 'apparently rational arguments' in favour of the spicy game of 'hunting the intellectual.' This is not done, however, without a throwaway parenthetical—`of course an obtrusive and public activity like adver- tising is wide open to criticism. of detail, much uf it justified'- cleverly prejudging the issue without explaining assumptions, and at the same time giving an impression of impartiality and fairness. The review makes one or two true observations: e.g., that the critic of advertising is concerned about the problems raised by mass communications. But he draws from these observations quite illegitimate (and incidentally offensive) conclusions about the critic's' motives—implying that a hostility towards advertising arises from insecurity, of status or finan- cial. (If one must fling mud, is a Spectator writer entirely disinterested when he defends advertising?) Once again one can notice the stress placed on speculative psycho-analytics rather than on the solid realities involved in genuine argument about the issues: can one really with any fairness generalise so freely about the motives of the hostile intellectuals even if they do belong to a certain group (artists, teachers, etc.) by lumping them all into the character of the 'pharisee"? This comes strangely from a man who encourages more 'scientifically acceptable study' on the part of the criticised critics.

As for the criticism (it is evidently intended as such) that the enemies of advertising are merely using advertising as a scapegoat for wider economic and social malaise, I fail to see its significance as an argument: the criticisms made against advertising are self-sufficient, and when they form part of a bigger context of social criticism, radical or other- wise, their significance is in no way altered. Some point of orientation (Lord Hailsham's 'personal mythology, political or otherwise') is not incom- patible with a study of `the world in which we live.' The incitement to `scientifically acceptable study' of consumers, collection of analysis of representative adverts, has already been met by several classic studies (e.g., Your Money's Worth by Stuart Chase and F. 1. Schlink; and Advertising and Selling edited by N. T. Pragg).

Pilkington, of course, makes an appearance to be spanked as a silly little boy; and your reviewer is found in the familiar posture of the (pseudo-) demo- cratic intellectual defending the self-sufficiency of the consumer against the very people who really wish to help the latter. Enough evidence can be found in the books mentioned above (and indeed in the atti- tudes, values and social habits of the British public as a whole) to show just how much they (and our- selves) need protection.


Sanderstead, Surrey