I like knowing the motives of people that provide information to me.
When I am looking for a used car and the salesperson tells me that a car is in great demand, I know that he is selling on commission and hence his information may be biased. When I watch television newscaster Dan Rather, and he announces that 1990 Ford Mustangs are rare, I would tend to believe him more readily than I would believe the used car salesman.
When I see my favorite actor consuming a can of Pepsi in a movie scene, I don’t know what to think. If he genuinely likes Pepsi, then I may tend to like it also. But if the advertising agency for the Pepsi-Cola Company paid a product-placement fee to have that drink consumed, I resent the fact that I am being manipulated.
I am greatly disappointed when a TV commercial’s music track employs a Top 40 song from my teenage years. I understand that it can be very lucrative and the temptation is great, but for some of us, the use of classic rock songs for commercial purposes has become almost indecent. We long for the days of something I’ll call "separation integrity," when artists pursued their art form and commercial interests did not corrupt that art form.
I am also disappointed in Yahoo. They were the first, original search engine. When I wanted to buy something, I’d use Yahoo to find an online retailer. But nowadays, if you type in "tennis shoes," at the top of the list of search results you get, "Yahoo! Shopping: Tennis – one-stop Internet shopping," which is simply a pointer to Yahoo’s online store.
We are also rightfully offended after we’ve read editorials in our local newspaper about how the tobacco industry is being wrongfully overregulated, only to learn that the local tobacco dealer is, in fact, fishing buddies with the editor of the newspaper.
So, you ask, why am I writing about these things in a magazine about making video? I want to encourage all of you to be frank about your motives. If you are making a sales video, please don’t disguise it as a documentary. When media producers try to hide ulterior motives, it serves as an injustice to our collective craft.
You may be surprised to learn that at one time used car salesmen had a reputation for honesty. To many people today, the occupation represents the epitome of anti-integrity. This is due to a small number of used car salesmen that were not forthcoming with the truth. Let’s not follow that precedent.
In life, we have a reasonable expectation of objectivity or the disclosure of bias (no ulterior motives). I almost feel that this is an essential part of the American institution.