Is it hypocritical for a professional copywriter to hate the commercialism of Christmas?

The holidays are over. And I have to admit that I’m glad.

That sounds so incredibly cynical. But there it is.

I’m a professional copywriter. I’ve helped over 200 businesses sell all manner of products and services: books, magazine subscriptions, insurance, credit cards, software, sex education videos, corporate training materials, Internet services, computers, newsletters, high-end fashion, mailing lists, nutritional supplements, sports equipment, and on and on.

In other words I sell stuff. Lots of stuff. Yet, I dislike buying stuff. I loath shopping. And when Christmas rolls around, I feel oppressed by the incessant push to buy, buy, buy.

There are things I love about Christmas, though, particularly doing good things for others. At my wife’s workplace, the corporation has a “giving tree” where tags are hung bearing the names and wishes of poor local children.

Employees take the tags and buy gifts for the children. Most people take one tag. My wife waits a few days, then strips the tree of all remaining tags.

We then choose a store or two and begin filling shopping carts with clothing, toys, and games. And I enjoy it. Why? Because I know I’m doing something worthwhile. Because I know the gifts will make the kids happy. Mostly, because it’s my choice to buy the gifts.

Now if someone told me I “must” buy those gifts, I wouldn’t enjoy it at all. And I think that’s my problem with all the other Christmas gifts I buy. I feel I “must” buy them. The season demands it. It’s the culmination of a year of holidays and birthdays where cards and gifts seem mandatory.

But is a gift you are forced to buy really a gift? What would my family think if I took all the money I spent on gifts for them and bought more gifts for needy children? Could I convince my wife to try it? I floated the idea to her, but it didn’t go over very well.

My wife is incredibly generous. But she loves to shop for family, even if none of them really need anything.

So am I a hypocrite for loathing holiday commercialism? Do you feel this way sometimes?

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6 Responses to “Is it hypocritical for a professional copywriter to hate the commercialism of Christmas?”

  1. James Chartrand - Web Content Writer Tips on January 11th, 2008 9:32 am

    These are some of the reasons I can’t stand sales copy, period. I can write it (rather well) and I can pitch a sale… but I can’t stand it. It feels like force feeding people and manipulating them to make purchases on impulse, without thinking.

    *sigh* Such is life.

  2. Tom Reeves on January 11th, 2008 9:42 am

    Barry Schwartz makes a presentation at TED on the cost of too much choice. I think his point applies both to your comments and to holiday shopping. With too much choice it’s easy to judge yourself harshly and easy to fear that others will judge you harshly. “Why did you buy THAT?! That other thing is better, cheaper, more attractive, more popular, makes me younger, sexier, and well, sexier, too.”

    Pardon me for posting a link the the presentation:

    The presentation is the 3rd in my modest catalog of recently posted TED presentations.

  3. Dean Rieck on January 11th, 2008 9:58 am


    Sales copy can’t force people to do anything they don’t want to. All you can do is open up a door. It’s up to your prospects to walk through.

  4. James Chartrand - Web Content Writer Tips on January 11th, 2008 10:09 am

    Ahh, but the guilt, the guilt! I built the door! I painted it, I put in etched glass and installed a silver handle… *sigh*

  5. Janice C Cartier on January 11th, 2008 1:53 pm

    Hey! Is this whining I hear? Hmm? Hypocritical, yeah, a bit. So Luke, use your force for good….business isn’t always pretty, but you all helped provide jobs for a lot of those shoppers out there…did you consider that? But then what do I know, I make most of my gifts. And all that noise…isn’t food for fodder on what works and what doesn’t or is it so much bad art?
    So what gets a highly talented copywriter to walk through that door any time of the year, but especially in “high door building season”?
    All best, Jan

  6. Chad on January 12th, 2008 8:08 pm

    I don’t believe that the shopping malls or advertising has anything to do with the commercialism of Christmas – it’s all about the people. If people didn’t want the holiday season to be such a commercial thing, it wouldn’t…

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