Ads, Fads, etc.

Thu, 6 Oct 1994 18:00:15 EWT

I'm somewhat torn on the issue of anthropology and advertising, or sociology
and advertising . . . in part because I began my career in the 1960's in
the research department of a major international advertising agency:
Young and Rubicam in Manhattan. Since that time, I have worked both as
a consultant using my advertising skills . . . an applied anthropologist
and an academic anthropologist and sociologist.

I have to agree that the notes of tension and disdain between those in
each of the categories, academic versus applied . . . is not healthy for
the discipline itself. Many including Rick Wilk have found themselves
in one or the other . . . and then found that it was literally a job of
pulling teeth to get back into the area that they wanted to work in.
Personally, I see no sense in the status distinctions between academic and
applied. Both areas call on the special knowledge of anthropologists or
sociologists . . . and both provide individuals with a perspective that the
other does not. Frankly, I believe that it would be the best of all
possible worlds if every anthropologist were `required' so to speak to
work in applied, academic and advertising areas. We would then have a
view of the world that was theoretical, hands on and pragmatic. That
might well be of great benefit.

I would like to cause some of you - however - to take caution about venting
on this list. I have had a personal experience in which my own venting
was interpretted as so politically incorrect that the memorandum was
distributed nationally among a very `progressive' network . . . and was
used as a basis to attempt vindictive and punitive actions.

Thus be very caution minded . . . not all who read this list share our
values of freedom of speech.

John O'Brien