Don’t look a gift-horse in the mouth. Unless…

Can an advertising agency create alluring ads for cigarettes knowing fully well the dangers of tobacco consumption? Can a public relations agency spin positive stuff about a big brand company that uses sweatshops with terrible working conditions? Can an image consultant sing hosannas in praise of a petroleum bossman presiding over the destruction of the environment in some far corner of the globe?

Simply put, can the media be choosy and sanctimonious about what they pick up and put out, or does anything go for a few dollars more?

Indra Sinha, the Bombay-born copywriter, whose book Animal’s People has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize this year, suggests that those in the creative business cannot completely divorce themselves from the moral compunctions of the stuff they are trying to sell.

“I think people who write ads on behalf of Dow and other such corporations can’t morally dissociate themselves from what they are promoting.

“I am no saint. Before my own road-to-Damascus moment, I had worked on cigarette ads and for corporations like Shell. When I quit advertising I burned my portfolio. I have since used advertising to raise money to found and fund a free clinic in Bhopal for the benefit of the survivors (of the 1984 gas leak).”

Read the full interview: ‘I feel strong contempt for Indian politicians’

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