Seinfeld thinks Marketing screws with people’s lives. Kinda.

12th October 2014

Jerry Seinfeld recently delivered a blistering, amusing takedown of advertising. It was an uninvited ‘Marketing Roast’.

The scene was dissonant: he was accepting an honorary Clio (the ad industry’s highest accolades), and was making an ‘acceptance speech’ in front of thousands of advertising’s luminaries in NYC.

‘I love advertising because I love lying’, he said, before addressing his audience directly. ‘Spending your lives trying to dupe innocent people out of hard-won earnings to buy useless, low quality, misrepresented items and services is an excellent use of your energy’.

It is interesting to hear the fourth wall being broken; to mark the reaction of an audience which both understands the point, yet is determined to believe it is being made with irony and is therefore effervescent. Waves of nervous applause and on-edge hollering greet Seinfeld’s remarks.

This charming, meta moment prompts a question that many of us may ask ourselves: is it ethical to do what we do?

I have no easy answer to this question, but I do have a clear one.

Yes. It is.

But it is also, perhaps, time to change how we do what we do.

I work in marketing, and I still sleep at night. Indeed, I am very often very proud of my work. But this does not deny the complexity of the role we embrace.

Just because Marketing is fair game does not mean that it is always fair.

Our profession seems constantly to be on a first date. It is continually placing its best foot forward. It does not draw attention to its dysfunctional family, its ailing bank account or its private moments of winter SAD syndrome.

It does not do those things because….well, because Marketing seeks a goodnight kiss.

How equal and fair are the tactics I employ? How aware is my target of my advances? Has that first kiss been won through trickery?


I believe we are entering a new tonality in how Marketing is practiced. The new conversation is less about puffery and first-date braggadocio. It acknowledges the flaws, hints at the failings, even suggests the intent. It connects through the layered veils of both vulnerability and confidence.

Indeed, this new conversation’s allure is positively Seinfeldian.

Jerry knows, after all, that he has spent decades endorsing products and services which embody the very system he, for a brief moment, chastens.

Marketing is complex and contradictory.

As is comedy. As is dating. As is life.


Brian McIntyre © 2014

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