The Anatomy Of Humbug


The Anatomy Of Humbug – How To Think Differently About Advertising
By Paul Feldwick
Matador – £17.99

In the Prologue of The Anatomy Of Humbug – How To Think Differently About Advertising, author Paul Feldwick reiterates the idea that ”’the world has changed and the old rules no longer apply’ has been a popular one for a long time in marketing and advertising circles […]., although most authors of this sort of thing do, usually, have a new discovery or radical new world view, which just happens to fit the brave new world we’re about to enter” (‘The Year Zero Narrative’).

An interesting viewpoint perhaps, but since when has advertising – and those who work within it – ever embraced anything that relates to, let alone fits anything remotely resembling a ”brave new world?”

Either way, this book’s fifteen chapters and 163 pages (excluding a Foreword by Jeremy Bullmore CBE, a Prologue, Epilogue, Appendices & Bibliography), draws from an array of insights, ranging from the nineteenth century showman P.T. Barnum to the twentieth century communications theorist Paul Watzlawick – not to mention such influential admen as Bernbach, Reeves and Oglivy.

Throughout, Feldwick argues that the advertising industry will only be able to deal with increasingly rapid change in the media landscape, if it both understands its past and is able to criticise its most entrenched habits of thought. Quoting Lannon and Baskin in chapter eight’s ‘Camay Is A Bit Catty,’ for instance, he writes: ”People choose their brands as they choose their friends. You choose friends not usually because of specific skills or physical attributes (though of course these come into it) but simply because you like them as people. It is the total person you choose, not a compendium of virtues and vices.”

In and of itself, this is very true; and like much of The Anatomy Of Humbug, accounts for a compliant menagerie of reasons as to why this book is so very readable (and I never ever expected to utter such words that relate to a book on advertising). There again, as Judie Lannon, the Editor of Market Leader has said: ”A genuinely original book, unlike anything ever written about advertising. Feldwick writes with clarity and wit: his book should be required reading for anyone in the business of communication.”

To be sure, Feldwick’s somewhat radical new view of how advertising works sheds a glimmer of hope that not all admen wear horrible, white nylon shirts, and come replete with a personality akin to that of leukemia. He deftly ”picks apart the historical roots of our common (and often contradictory) beliefs about advertising, in order to create space for a more flexible, creative and effective approach to this fascinating and complex field of human communication.”

David Marx


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