This is a book about the dilemma of advertising: If advertising does not influence the consumer, it won't work. If, on the other hand, it does have an influence, then it may be dangerous, for it creates needs, prompting people to buy what they do not require and thus leading to price hikes. Consumers are hypnotized into adopting forms of behavior which they themselves would normally shun, and so help promote monopolies of brands and products.
I've lost count of the number of times I was confronted with this sort of argument during my speeches all over Brazil and Latin America. On occasion, this kind of questioning even came from teachers of journalism and communication. There are books in Spanish advancing grand theories on the subject of the influence of advertising, to the point where even Donald Duck is charged with subliminal intentions. The very concept of attributing subliminal powers to advertising reflects, indeed, nothing but an attempt to demonize it.
I read Dr. Kirkpatrick's book during my time as ABAP's [the Brazilian Association of Advertising Agencies] president, and I thought it would be highly beneficial to have it published in Portuguese, since we are so poorly served of literature on our own profession here in Brazil. Every advertising professional is required, at some point, to come out in defense of his or her activity—even within each one's confines of family or circle of friends—and this book In Defense of Advertising provides us with all the thoughts we need. In fact, it is well worth reading even for purposes other than mustering defensive arguments, for this is a book which gives us a better understanding of what we do. We were blessed, moreover, with a faithful and knowledgeable translation.
Jerry Kirkpatrick has tackled and solved the dilemma of advertising with the help of powerful defensive weapons, such as Ayn Rand's crushing arguments and the ideas of the Austrian school of economy, which are increasingly and rightfully credited with obvious common sense. As the only contemporary thinker to address the philosophy of capitalism in her controversial books, Ayn Rand supplies the author with live ammunition to present advertising as a generator of opportunities. The Austrian school, whose prime representative is Hayek, offers the economic foundation to support his view that advertising is the best stimulant for competition and economic balance.
The solution of our dilemma, which becomes clearer with every paragraph, undeniably shows that advertising induces, in fact, one thing alone: freedom.
This is perhaps why our profession is held to be so dangerous by the critics of advertising.
Advertising—as the author of this book tells us—is not a drooling monster, ready to pounce upon the defenseless consumer to strip him of every possession by pushing down his throat things he absolutely doesn't want. Advertising is, in fact, an honest, lawful and respectable way of selling something, be it a product or an idea. It's a rational, moral and productive institution. It is also the most evident signpost of a free society made up of free human beings.
Jerry Kirkpatrick, liberal teacher from California, has written this extraordinary book to dismantle systematically all the misleading arguments by those who criticize and try to destroy advertising. Based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand and the economic rationale of Ludwig von Mises, he maintains that the proper foundations of advertising are reasoning, ingrained ethics, and laissez-faire capitalism. He further contends that the criticisms made by Marxists, socialists (and other-ists) against advertising are unfounded because their arguments are based on a flawed philosophical view of the world.
Kirkpatrick has no misgiving about being a liberal. Indeed, he is proud of liberalism, which in his opinion as a humanist constitutes a view of the world that is not only accurate and legitimate, but is the only one, at this point, capable of producing happiness, insofar as it allows people to reap the benefits of social and human progress.
Advertising, he explains, is the means that provides the common man with opportunities to live far beyond the wildest fantasies of the rich nobility of ancient times. It is also a tool that allows man to refine his tastes and improve his standard of living above that of the ordinary and monotonous existence of his ancestors. In short, it is a path available to everyone in his quest for a better life.
I am repeating phrases and concepts which you are about to find throughout this provocative and intelligent book. It is intended for advertising professionals, students, academics, economists, and politicians, as well as for every citizen who values freedom—the freedom to choose and the freedom to be whatever he or she wants, within the limits of solidarity, kindness and respect for others—as the basis for our life in society.
Those who criticize advertising, says Kirkpatrick, have an authoritarian view of the world, a view that is anti-reason, anti-mankind and anti-life. They hate free choice. This book will show—and convince you—that advertising is one of the mainstays of the free world. You will also begin to see, as did our author, that both advertising and capitalism are enlivening and beneficial institutions, because capitalism—this can never be overstressed—is the only social system that can lead to progress. By guiding man to harvest the fruits of progress, advertising constitutes society's best sign that its citizens are free.