Video: We’re All in Marketing: What Evolution Tells Us About Advertising | Ethan Decker | TEDxSMU




We’re All in Marketing: What Evolution Tells Us About Advertising | Ethan Decker | TEDxSMU

Advertising is the Dirty Profession, famous for snake oil salesmen and shysters, shilling things that nobody needs, creating this bankrupt consumerist culture. But what if I told you that you were unknowingly in advertising too? My own journey from human evolution and ecology into marketing has taught me that we are all in advertising—and that’s actually a good thing.

Ethan Decker is an ecologist who took a left turn and ended up in advertising. He’s now VP of Insight & Strategy at The Integer Group, one of the largest retail, promotion & shopper marketing agencies in the world. He is a marketer, a researcher, a scientist, a manager, an editor, a storyteller, a performer, and an ecologist. He’s done ethnographies in Tokyo and statistics in Matlab. He’s helped sell cereal and women’s clothes. He’s created Olympic advertising campaigns and new product lines. He’s worked with some of the biggest marketers in the world (including P&G, Kellogg, and PepsiCo).
Ethan has a BA in sociology and a PhD in urban ecology and human evolution, and he studied complex systems theory at the Santa Fe Institute. He’s been published in PloS ONE, Ann Rev Energy & Environment and other places. He’s competed in the Swing Dance US Open and the UPA Ultimate Frisbee Championships. And he’s got quite the collection of graphic novels.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

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27 Comments on "Video: We’re All in Marketing: What Evolution Tells Us About Advertising | Ethan Decker | TEDxSMU"


  1. Ethan makes marketing sound fun innovative and gives you a different perspective. He gives great examples and visuals that allow us to comprehend marketing at its roots. Using real life examples like spiders and even flowers. Using the rattle snake example was creative.

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  2. argument that there is unethical advertising vs. necessary advertising doesn't make sense. must absolve advertising of ethics to get closer to that which we can't grasp. students interested in these topics should look into rhetorical theory

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  3. He's an impressive talker, and confident, and funny. But rattle snakes and peacocks advertise themselves, cuz they need to survive. No matter how natural self-promotion is, his industry is complicit with a consumer culture that is massively outa whack with the ecology that he came from.

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  4. Consider what you hear when a car company makes a vehicle? High performance! Sleek design! Comfortable interior! A product of art and engineering! The advertising glorifies the marvels of a new car to a target audience. What are the qualities? Luxury! Sport! What about the people who made the car? It’s hard to ignore the fact that people make cars. The engineers use precise measuring instruments and the artists have various materials, paintbrushes and a sculpture and together they produce a car.

    The universe is no different.
    “Lift up your eyes to heaven and see. Who has created these things? It is the One who brings out their army by number; He calls them all by name. Because of his vast dynamic energy and his awe-inspiring power, not one of them is missing.”
    Isaiah 40:26 reads like an advertisement.

    What you don't see?
    “For his invisible qualities are clearly perceived by the things made even his eternal power and Godship so that they are inexcusable.” Romans 1:20

    Evolution advertises unaccountability.

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