Debunking the "profits come first" myth

If you have ever criticized an ad campaign, commercial, or anything that’s even remotely related to marketing for pushing a bigoted viewpoint, you will undoubtedly have come up against the argument that of course the reason the product is being marketed that way is because it’s more profitable. A company would never do anything to compromise its profits!

Which is, of course, bullshit. Many people have demonstrated how such campaigns hurt profit margins, rather than help them. The response is, of course, “but it doesn’t make sense for companies to put bigoted agendas over profits (and therefore they must have some secret knowledge about why it’s more profitable to discriminate against non-privileged groups)”. Before now I had never really had a good response to that argument (I was too busy being shocked at the leap of faith required to continue to believe that marketing is doing the best thing in the face of pretty damning evidence). But, thankfully, BetaCandy has recently blogged about her experiences learning to be a screenwriter, which has given rise to a discussion about how a non-profitable system perpetuates itself among industries that are supposed to be driven by profit.

In her post Why discriminate if it doesn’t profit?, she takes on the mindset that explains why the “profits come first” argument is, in fact, a myth:

The question this brings to mind is: why would they discriminate against a group when there’s more profit to be made by doing the right thing? That’s a good question, and one that deserves an answer.

n comments on the above-linked entry, I explained that I think it boils down to ego. Even greed is fueled by ego – it’s the ego that wants more than enough so it feels safe or better than its neighbors. It’s the ego that wants to feel important, unique, successful. Eliminating entire clumps of humanity from the “race” your ego thinks it’s in is a quick way to get rid of competition. It’s the same question you have to ask about store owners and restaurateurs who refused to serve African-American patrons whose money was as green as everyone else’s. They sacrificed profit, and for what? Ego.

But that’s not necessarily the only answer. Laziness is also a factor.

I would highly recommend reading the full post.

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2 thoughts on “Debunking the "profits come first" myth

  1. Making a film or television show has always been an extremely expensive business. The non creative types running these large corporations have an obligation to reduce risk. They generally interpret this as avoiding anything new or original despite the fact that every huge success in film or TV has broken one mold or another. No one would have built a show around a white woman married to a Cuban male, had Lucille Ball not insisted on working with her husband. No one was spending millions on space operas before Star Wars. Until Tyler Perry, no one was making family films for a church going black audience. So while I am sure BetaCandy received horrible advice from her screenwriting professors, she should realize that they’re professors for a reason, most couldn’t hack it in the business. She should continue to be true to herself as that’s the only way that has ever worked.

  2. Jim, if you’d read a bit more carefully, you might have noticed that I included “film professionals” among those who gave me that advice. I naturally assumed my professors were wrong, but then I went to work in film and got all the same crap from successful producers, directors, agents, etc. Ironically, many of them agreed with me (that women make interesting characters and the audience was more tolerant of them than HW thought), but the reality of the situation was that HW believed certain things, and wasn’t going to be convinced otherwise.

    So, wanna try another rationalization? 😉

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