03 May 2012

Taking Responsibility conference to expose the dark side of marketing

Professor Gerard Hastings, Director of the Institute for Social Marketing, Stirling and the Open University, will be calling for urgent social change at a one-day Taking Responsibility conference at The Open University on Wednesday 9th May. He believes marketing is paving the way for us to destroy ourselves and our environment.

Hosted by ISM-Open: The Institute for Social Marketing, a collaboration between The OU and the University of Stirling, the conference will reflect calls from government and policy makers for communities and organisations to take responsibility for responding to global social and economic challenges. More than 30 research papers will be presented around the themes of social marketing and socially responsible management.

Key note speaker Professor Hastings, Director of the Institute for Social Marketing and the Centre for Tobacco Control Research University of Stirling and The OU, will talk about what he calls ‘the dark side of marketing’. He said: “I think we are destroying ourselves, our communities, our society and our planet - and we marketers are the cheerleaders and overseers of this insanity.

“Marketing provides corporate capitalism with both its motive force and acceptable face. There is much talk about the unsustainability of an economic model based on assumptions of perpetual growth; less about the fact that this depends on us all perpetually consuming more – which we obligingly do. Marketing drives this increasingly unnecessary consumption and encourages our inurement to its catastrophic consequences.”

Professor Hastings says he has chosen the topic as a result of ‘the blindness with which we continue to shop’. He said: “We have no regard for the obvious downsides: materialism, wage-slavery, physical health damage (such as obesity), perpetual disappointment (why would we go on shopping otherwise?), appalling inequalities, fatuous choice (such as £40k of products in large UK supermarkets) - and, of course, global warming.”

In his speech he will be calling for individuals and academics to help bring about change. He said: “We bring about social change through individuals shopping less and more fairly, through collective education and through regulating the corporate marketer. Business academics have to research, write and teach more, leading the debate about how to correct these wrongs. We need to do this energetically and fast.”

Professor Hastings will be joined by fellow key note speakers Agnes Nairn and Frank den Hond. The social marketing sessions address the following topics: reaching target groups, communities, sustainability, critical social marketing, and the big picture. The socially responsible management sessions address the topics of: social movements, consumers and voluntary organisations; working towards sustainability, conceptualising and measuring socially responsible management, and managing socially responsible management in different contexts. The settings for these studies range from fashion, schools and the charity sector, to professional sport, oil and gas, and the water industry.

Notes to editors

The Open University
The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 1.7 million students and has more than 264,000 current students, including 18,000 overseas.

The OU has been one of the top three UK universities for student satisfaction in the National Student Survey every year since the survey began in 2005. In 2010/11 it had a 93 per cent satisfaction rating. Over 70% of students are in full-time or part-time employment, and four out of five FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses.
In the UK’s latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008) the Open University was ranked in the top third of UK higher education institutions. More than 50% of OU research was assessed in the RAE as internationally excellent, with 14% as world leading.

Regarded as Britain’s major e-learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ‘open content portfolio’ includes free study units on OpenLearn, which has had more than 17.7 million visits, and materials on iTunes U, which has recorded over 50 million downloads. The OU has a 41 year partnership with the BBC which has moved from late-night lectures in the 1970s to prime-time programmes such as Life, Coast, James May’s Big Ideas and The Money Programme.

Taking Responsibility Conference
Venue: Michael Young Building, The Open University, Milton Keynes
Time: 09.00 – 17.00
If you would like to attend, please contact
To see the full programme, please visit:

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