Ad man Sutherland brings his roadshow to Kilkenomics

Sutherland holds forth on why advertising – even the bad kind –has its place

“What the hipsters have done is take the same kind of bullshit you get in the fashion industry and apply it to cheese and artisan beer ”

“What the hipsters have done is take the same kind of bullshit you get in the fashion industry and apply it to cheese and artisan beer ”

 

Perhaps only an ad man could extol the virtue of “bullshit”. For Rory Sutherland, advertising encourages us to make increasingly irrelevant and stupid distinctions between products.

Quite an admission from a self-styled advertising guru and Tedtalks favourite. However, he claims it isn’t such a bad thing because changes to the perceived value of things can be just as satisfying as what we consider “real” value.

“What the hipsters have done is take the same kind of bullshit you get in the fashion industry and apply it to cheese and artisan beer,” he says. “Creating bullshit around everyday pleasures like eating cheese and drinking beer is a good way to prevent us from devaluing those pleasures.”

Kilkenomics festival

Confessions of an Ad Man

He likes nothing better than having a cut at economists, who he claims suffer from “physics envy” because their science lacks the mathematical consistency and predictability of physics.

“Standard economic theory is absolutely hopeless on advertising and marketing for the simple reason, once you assume perfect information, you create a fantasy world in which advertising needn’t exist,” Mr Sutherland says.

Food or floor?

Too many decisions in government and business are being taken by what he calls “intrinsicists” – people who indulge in the fallacy that things have an intrinsic value independent of how they’re actually perceived.