Tuesday, February 28, 2006
A MultiCultClassics Monologue coffee break…
• Mickey D’s is introducing a new line of “premium roast” coffee to compete with Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks and others. Maybe they could create a campaign starring Stella Liebeck, who sued the fast food giant after being scalded by its piping hot coffee. Or maybe sign up Pam Grier.
• Aaron McGruder, creator of The Boondocks, is taking a six-month break from producing his daily comic strip. No details regarding what McGruder plans to do. Maybe he’ll go to Africa with Dave Chappelle.
• A task force is proposing to create a memorial honoring the slaves who built the U.S. Capitol. Maybe they should hire undocumented workers to erect the monument.
• A Chicago ordinance is proposing to name a city street in honor of Fred Hampton, the slain leader of the Black Panthers party. Police officials are not pleased, as Hampton encouraged members to “off the pigs.” Maybe the designated street should be an off-ramp.
Black History Month Advertising
Let’s close out the month with the advertiser featured at the beginning — Toyota. The automaker reruns last year’s concept, which was also reworked to salute Martin Luther King, Jr. in January (see Essay 313). But now the rear-view mirror presents Dr. Philip Emeagwali, a man cited with theorizing the Internet. Hey, didn’t Al Gore claim credit for the Internet? Also, shouldn’t the chalkboard equations appear backwards if reflected in a mirror? Moving forward has never been more contradictory.
Monday, February 27, 2006
The Sony Playstation Portables graffiti campaign was harshly criticized by community activist groups, politicians and hard-core tagging enthusiasts. From San Francisco to Chicago to Philadelphia to New York, the work was cited for violating city ordinances and assorted legal and moral codes.
So maybe that’s why Adweek named OMD as Global Media Agency of the Year.
And hey, the OMD executives sure appear to be in touch with the youth market. Gotta believe any one of the OMD Boomers depicted would have vehemently complained to their elected officials if the Sony ads appeared in their neighborhoods.
An award-winning MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Despite lackluster reviews, Tyler Perry’s “Madea’s Family Reunion” sold $30.3 million worth of tickets to grab the Number 1 film spot. Holding steady at Number 3 despite even worse reviews was Steve Martin’s “The Pink Panther.” Seems like the perfect time for Cuba Gooding Jr. to introduce a new flick.
• The NAACP Image Awards honored Jamie Foxx as best male musical artist, Bernie Mac as best comedy series actor, co-star Camille Winbush as best supporting actress, Chris Rock for best television series, Mariah Carey for best album and many other superstars. Who hosted the gala? Cuba Gooding Jr.
• The Episcopal Diocese of Washington proposed the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall for sainthood. “We’re not like Catholics with a formal canonization process, but we honor people who have lived good lives,” said a church official. “Marshall risked his life for racial justice… The people we honor are worthy of this tribute.” Hey, what about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas? Or Cuba Gooding Jr.?
Sunday, February 26, 2006
The promotional advertising for the upcoming FX series “Black. White.” is pretty intense. The spots run endlessly, along with the Ice Cube track and video. There are two print ads in the latest issue of Jet. Nearly every major newspaper has published a review. And the damned show isn’t scheduled to air until March 8. Hope it lives up to the hype.
In the meantime, click on the essay title above to visit the official site, where you can view videos, post comments and even download a ringtone.
A MultiCultClassics Monologue Get-Together…
• New Century Foundation held a conference in Virginia on Saturday, with organization president Jared Taylor leading the festivities (pictured above left). A dress code required participants to don jackets and ties. Taylor remarked, “I don’t want an event I sponsor to be characterized by slovenliness.” The discussion topics included the key problem of “anti-racists” in the country. New Century Foundation is considered by many to be a hate group. The organization publishes a journal that the Anti-Defamation League says “promotes ‘genteel’ racism: pseudoscientific, questionably researched and argued articles that validate the genetic and moral inferiority of nonwhites.” A protestor at Saturday’s shindig said, “They are attempting to be respectable and appear to be intelligent. The truth is, they are nothing but lowdown Nazis,” Hey, let’s not insult Nazis like that.
• The Minuteman Project has migrated to Maryland. The anti-immigration group has been working in the area for the past few weeks. “The objective here is to send a clear message to the business community that it’s illegal to hire undocumented workers and it’s illegal not to pay appropriate taxes,” said the director of the group’s new chapter. Hey, these guys should hook up with the partying New Century Foundation members.
• A neo-Nazi rally in Florida turned violent on Saturday, as the hate group marched through a predominately Black neighborhood. Fights broke out between the group and protestors, and police made about a dozen arrests. “These are a bunch of criminal animals out there,” said National Socialist Movement spokesman Bill White. Hey, perfect last name for a neo-Nazi spokesman.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
Schooling the masses with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Three kids at a school in suburban Illinois were charged with hate crimes for allegedly tagging anti-Semitic phrases and swastikas on school property. It was the second time this month that swastika-loving students were nabbed in the area. Police said they didn’t think the incidents were related. Guess hate is an individual and isolated thing.
• Three kids at a school in Long Island were arrested for harassing Black students by lynching a Black doll on the day Coretta Scott King died. Start spreading the hate — New York, New York.
• The Elmwood Park school district in Illinois reversed its stance on dealing with immigrant students, caving in from the pressure of possibly losing state funds (see Essay 432). The school district will no longer reject immigrants with valid visas or even interrogate kids about their immigration status. School officials confessed violating state law and U.S. Supreme Court precedent by turning away an immigrant student last year. Hey, students aren’t the only ones breaking the law in our nation’s schools.
• The mayor of London received a month-long suspension for comparing a Jewish journalist to a Nazi concentration camp guard. He’ll probably spend his penalty time visiting the students in suburban Illinois.
• If you’re an illegal immigrant heading to Tennessee to take advantage of the state’s lenient policies for granting driver’s certificates, turn around and drive away. The state suspended its program after investigators found groups were bringing immigrants from all over the country — from as far away as New Jersey. Hey, maybe folks were just attracted to the Nashville music scene.
• A Massachusetts retailer offered apologies for its advertising that promoted “wife beater” t-shirts. The store’s co-founder took responsibility, insisting he “was either too dumb or too lazy or too distracted” to catch the offensive ad. The guy sounds like a drunken wife beater.
• Seven army paratroopers were charged for engaging in sex acts for a video on a gay porn site. News sources report three of the soldiers “will face courts-martial on charges of sodomy, pandering and engaging in sex acts for money.” They’ll probably be assigned to guard duty at Iraqi prisoner camps.
• Poor people weren’t the only folks seriously affected by Hurricane Katrina. The area’s Black middle class was hit hard too. “The impression is that just poor people were displaced, but Katrina has had a devastating effect on the Black middle class, too,” said Willard Dumas, a dentist now living in Baton Rouge. “You spend 45 years building a life and then it’s gone. Your home was flooded; your business was flooded. And this happened not only to you but to practically everyone you know, so your patients or clients are gone, your friends are scattered, and your relatives are somewhere else.” The Washington Post reported on the issue — click on the essay title above to read the full story.
Black History Month Advertising — Doubleheader
HSBC salutes Blacks with a solemn tribute. Then follows through by bragging about its worldwide services.
Washington Mutual inspires us all with people inspired to go even further by the inspiring spirits of inspirational figures. It’s a pretty uninspired effort.
Friday, February 24, 2006
MultiCultClassics Monologue in the house…
• A fair housing organization in Chicago is suing Craigslist.org for allegedly violating the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The organization claims Craigslist.org publishes discriminatory ads. Offending messages included “African-Americans and Arabians tend to clash with me” and “no minorities.” Let’s see what happens when the group checks out the erotic services section.
• The State Board of Education in Illinois slammed a suburban school district for illegally asking two potential students about their immigration status. Elmwood Park School District 401 was stripped of all state funding, which could total $3.5 million. The questioned students — who are from Ecuador and the Czech Republic — witnessed a lesson in American politics.
• An exhibit on Hip Hop culture will be featured at The Smithsonian. The stuff on show will include vinyl records, boom boxes and handwritten lyrics. No word if any firearms will be displayed.
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Why do Mexicans call white people gringos?
Mexicans do not call gringos gringos. Only gringos call gringos gringos. Mexicans call gringos gabachos.
Why do Mexican women dress up to go to the swap meet? …. Why do Mexicans put on their Sunday best to shop at Wal-Mart, Kmart, Target, etc.?
… You gotta love our moms and aunts, ¿qué no? Despite living in abject conditions, never having enough money to purchase vaccines for the kids — let alone save up for a Prada this or Manolo that — Mexican women always primp themselves for something as simple as buying tortillas.
And so it goes. The Los Angeles Times spotlighted “Ask A Mexican” — the work of a politically incorrect OC Weekly columnist who tackles folks’ frank questions about culture and more. Click on the essay title above to read the complete story. Or visit “Ask A Mexican” online at the link below.
Black History Month Advertising
OK, this is technically not a Black History Month ad — but it ran during February. Look very closely. Tucked in the middle of a standard Bridgestone tires message is a tribute to the late Coretta Scott King. File this ad under “Good Intentions, Bad Execution.”
Wardrobe malfunctions and other screw-ups in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Federal regulators are standing firm in their decision to strip Janet Jackson of $500,000 for her “wardrobe malfunction” at the 2004 Super Bowl. You’d think Justin Timberlake would at least slip a C-Note into Janet’s garter for his role in the mess.
• Michael Jackson’s lawyer decided to strip away from the King of Pop. Tom Mesereau, who worked in Jackson’s child-sex trial last year, withdrew himself from two civil lawsuits currently facing the recording artist. An attorney for one person suing Jacko said, “[Jackson] doesn’t talk to his lawyers, he doesn’t cooperate with them and he doesn’t pay them… Other than that, he’s a fantastic client.” Plus, Jackson’s probably willing to baby-sit his lawyers’ kids.
• Two adult kids of the Ohio couple that allegedly kept their adopted children in cages testified against their parents. One daughter claimed the father touched her inappropriately. She said, “I was miserable… I felt like a prisoner.” Hey, being locked in a cage will do that to you.
• Sprint Nextel recorded a 55% drop in 4Q profits. Plus, the company announced plans to cut 2,400 staffers this year. Sprint’s current tagline is “Yes you can.” It should be preceded by, “Can I expect to get fired soon?”
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Missed this gem that aired February 7 on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. During a rant on why he wouldn’t be watching the Winter Olympics, Gumbel made remarks that folks have deemed derogatory. He said, “So try not to laugh when someone says these are the world’s greatest athletes, despite a paucity of Blacks that makes the Winter Games look like a GOP convention.” Not sure what the controversy is here. First, Gumbel is completely qualified to make the comment, as he no doubt has been the lone Black cheering at many GOP conventions. Actually, one would think Gumbel might have a keen interest in these particular games, as he clearly shares the same surly arrogance as U.S. speedskater Shani Davis. Finally, if Gumbel wants to critique a sports telecast for being dull, he might consider his own show.
Dig this MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Sen. Dianne Feinstein wants to make it a federal crime to dig tunnels between the U.S. and Mexico. Feinstein introduced a bill that would impose 20-year jail sentences for tunnel makers. Many tunnels have appeared in recent years, mostly used to smuggle drugs. Wonder if PETA will protest on behalf of groundhogs.
• The Minuteman Project has abandoned its attempts to participate in a Laguna Beach parade (see Essay 363). The group had sued to be included after the event organizers had rejected them. But a judge ruled against the anti-immigration group, so they’ve now set their sights on a San Juan Capistrano event. San Juan Capistrano residents are probably digging a tunnel to get out of town.
• A security guard at the United Nations was scolded for doodling swastikas on a log sheet that was ultimately seen by an Israeli guard. Additionally, officials recommended the offending guard attend sensitivity training. The guy could also probably benefit from being informed that he works at the United Nations.
• The Supreme Court unanimously overturned an appeals court decision regarding whether the term “boy” could be used as evidence of workplace discrimination. The appeals court said the word could not be evidence, but the higher court ordered them to rethink the ruling. Wonder what Justice Clarence Thomas really believed in this case.
• Taser International, Inc., producer of stun guns, saw its 4Q earnings plunge 98%. The company has been zapped with lawsuits that charge its products caused a number of accidental deaths. Plus, Vice President Dick Cheney has demonstrated that it’s much more effective to use a shotgun.
Black History Month Advertising
Power company ComEd celebrates a local student. The sentiment is nice, but what special achievement has the student accomplished and what role did ComEd play in it all? In the end, this ad is about as clear as the charges on your monthly utilities bill.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Bad ice served with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Back in the day, there was controversy surrounding subliminal advertising, with lurid imagery allegedly appearing in ice cubes. Now it seems there’s much worse stuff in ice, particularly ice served at fast food restaurants. A 12-year-old kid’s science project discovered that 70% of the time, ice from fast food joints is dirtier than toilet water. Wonder if the same figure applies to the food at fast food joints.
• U.S. President George W. Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox spent Presidents’ Day brainstorming about border security. Bush probably later sent Fox a shipment of fast food ice.
• The New York Times published a story about the impact of multiculturalism on marketing. Multicultural marketing manager for Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands David Rodriguez said, “In many cases, we will very much acknowledge that what is multicultural today very much will be general market tomorrow.” Click on the essay title above to read the full story.
Monday, February 20, 2006
Ex-Presidents’ Day Newsflash!
RadioShack President and CEO David Edmondson resigned on Monday, probably under pressure from the controversy surrounding questionable details on his resume (see Essay 412). Edmondson had recorded receiving two degrees from a college in California. The college showed Edmondson completed two semesters. Degrees, semesters... hey, sounds like a simple matter of semantics. Edmondson listed earning his degrees in theology and psychology. The college doesn’t even offer degrees in psychology. Let’s not bother discussing the goofiness of potentially lying about a theology degree. Edmondson clearly is an MBA — Master Bullshit Artist. Is it a coincidence that RadioShack just experienced a 62% drop in earnings?
It’s a Presidents’ Day MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• News reports show two more lawsuits have been filed against Mickey D’s for its french fries (see Essay 418). Parents in Florida sued because their 5-year-old child has an intolerance to gluten, which now appears to be present in the fries. A woman in Los Angeles is suing because she’s a vegan, and she was shocked to discover the fries contained dairy products. Sorry, but vegans who patronize Mickey D’s should be beaten with all-natural sticks.
• Mars, Inc., producer of Snickers, Milky Way and M&M’s, plans to launch a line of chocolate candy they claim has health benefits. CocoaVia products will contain flavanols, which news reports describe as “an antioxidant found in cocoa beans that is thought to have a blood-thinning effect similar to aspirin and may even lower blood pressure.” CocoaVia treats will also be vitamin-enriched and “injected with cholesterol-lowering plant sterols from soy.” Yeah, that sounds really healthy.
• A few months ago, Jesse Jackson showed support to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Now it looks like Chavez is emulating Jackson, at least in rhyme and rhetoric. The president freestyled folk song lyrics to warn U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — “I sting those who rattle me, don’t mess with me Condoleezza.” Word.
• Speaking of freestyling fools, Britney Spears’ husband is prepping for the release of his hip-hop album. “Sure, there’ll be the initial shock and awe,” Kevin Federline proclaimed. “But they’ve already said so much shit about me, it can’t get worse.” Let’s wait for K-Fed’s album to debut before agreeing with that statement.
• Nielsen Media Research announced plans to begin recording the viewing habits of college students living away from home. Holy shit, it’s amazing to learn Nielsen has been ignoring the segment all these years. After all, MTV has been around since 1981. Guess Nielsen can add college students as another ill-served audience — along with Blacks, Hispanics and other groups the organization has failed to properly represent.
Sunday, February 19, 2006
Reading the Sunday papers with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• U.S. speedskater Shani Davis became the first Black athlete to win an individual gold medal in Winter Olympic history. “Maybe I can be the Michael Jordan of speedskating,” Davis said. Well, Jordan already has two gold medals, plus six NBA championships and other assorted accomplishments. Nonetheless, Davis deserves serious accolades for his breakthrough achievement.
• Michael Jackson is close to releasing the Hurricane Katrina charity tune featuring an all-star lineup including Snoop Dogg, R. Kelly, Ciara, Keyisha Cole, James Ingram, Jermaine Jackson, Shanice, the Rev. Shirley Caesar and the O'Jays — about six months after the disaster. And just in time to help offset Jacko’s disastrous legal bills.
• An Illinois woman has filed a lawsuit against Mickey D’s for its french fries containing wheat and milk ingredients (see Essay 405). The woman suffers from celiac disease, which can be triggered by consuming gluten, a protein in wheat, rye and barley. After eating the fries, the woman allegedly suffered health ailments that included stomach pains. Good luck winning a court case arguing that Mickey D’s food gave you a tummy ache.
• Busta Rhymes refuses to be interviewed by cops seeking information regarding the recent shooting (see Essay 407). But weeks before the incident, Rhymes was interviewed by various hip-hop magazines — and he blasted other New York rappers for their guns-and-drugs lifestyles. Looks like he’s rapping out of both sides of his mouth.
• Two Black firemen in Jacksonville, Florida found hangman’s nooses on their work gear, prompting the closing of the firehouse and an official investigation by the city’s Human Rights Commission and the General Counsel's Office. Don’t look for information from Busta Rhymes.
• The president of a Kentucky coal company sparked controversy when he wrote a memo suggesting the state mining board should relax its English-only policy for workers. The president sought to hire more Hispanic immigrants and stated, “It is common knowledge that the work ethic of the Eastern Kentucky worker has declined from where it once was” — plus, he even cited bad attitudes and drug abuse among the workers led to poor attendance and reduced productivity. The negative response is two-fold: 1) folks are pissed off over being called druggies with attitude; 2) no one wants Hispanics around. However, the critics argued it’s an issue of safety versus immigration, claiming workers who couldn’t speak English would have trouble in emergency situations. Then again, do typical Appalachian citizens really speak English?
• The N.A.A.C.P. requested that the Department of Justice postpone upcoming elections in New Orleans. “We’re worried about the voting rights of our people in New Orleans who are not, for the most part, in New Orleans,” said N.A.A.C.P. president Bruce Gordon. “People should still have a say in what happens in the communities that were ravaged by Katrina.” Then again, did these folks ever really have a say in what happens in their communities?
• The Idaho Black History Museum has quite a challenge generating interest — and not just because the state’s population is less than 1% Black. Most folks are hard-pressed to realize Black history even exists in Idaho. “It’s interesting, when you talk to people, what they know or they think they know,” said the museum’s director. “African-Americans have made a significant contribution to this state… It’s easier when you have a million Black folks in a city to make sure they are represented, that there are programs and there are opportunities in every sector. [Black Idahoans] had to shine a little brighter, work a little harder, just to get an equal place at the table.”
Inspired by the current Busta Rhymes controversy, The New York Times published a story about rappers refusing to snitch. A few highlights:
“We believe there were between 30 and 50 people on the sidewalk at the scene of a [Busta Rhymes-related] homicide, and no one has come forward to volunteer information,” said Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly. “It’s challenging for investigators, and I find it disturbing.”
“It’s the code of the streets: You just don’t talk to the cops,” said Bakari Kitwana, the author of “The Hip-Hop Generation.” “That mistrust has a long history among people of color, but it’s really taken on a life of its own.”
“Everyone is jumping on the stop-snitching bandwagon,” said Minya Oh, better known as Miss Info, who has a show on hip-hop radio station Hot 97. “It’s all the rage. Even if you have a conversation with police, you’ll be called a snitch.”
“In the hip-hop world, there’s nothing worse than being called a snitch,” said Greg Watkins, co-founder of the Web site allhiphop.com. “It can be detrimental to your career, and to your health.”
“There’s a real sense that the federal system is out of whack and that people are being put away for the rest of their lives based on informants,” said Ethan Brown, whose latest book, “Queens Reigns Supreme,” details the rise of hip-hop in Queens in the 1980’s and 90’s. “But I think the industry has perverted a legitimate complaint about the legal system and applied it to all kinds of crime.”
“A lot of this stonewalling is posturing they do to sell records,” Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said. “But these hip-hop artists are making a lot of money. You’d like to think that there’s some sort of civil responsibility that goes along with that. But apparently there isn’t.”
Click on the essay title above to read the full story.
Make It Happen: The Hip-Hop Generation Guide To Success
By Kevin Liles with Samantha Marshall
With this book, Kevin Liles makes two things happen:
1. He makes business really, really cool.
2. He makes hip-hop culture really, really cool.
OK, some might argue that hip-hop culture is already — and even inherently — really, really cool. But Liles manages to show the positive stuff often overshadowed and ignored. Through the words and actions in his amazing story, Liles presents the dedication, determination and energizing spirit fueling the culture. In August 2005, Time magazine proclaimed Kanye West as hip-hop’s class act. But Liles may ultimately be the better role model and ambassador.
Kevin Liles climbed from intern to president of Def Jam Records, accomplishing the feat by age 30. Liles inevitably landed as Executive Vice President of Warner Music Group. He set unprecedented standards. He demonstrated extraordinary passion. He invented new roles in the music industry. Webster could revise the definition of “hustle” to include an image of Liles.
Just as hip-hop culture appeals to a global audience, this book speaks with an inclusive voice that transcends race, gender, age, background and everything else. There are insights and relevant advice for anyone hoping to succeed in today’s society. Liles cites leaders from Jack Welch to Jay-Z, combining old school and new school wisdom in a highly engaging, readable style. He stresses discipline, work ethic and creativity — referring to it all as “The hip-hop way.”
Liles blends personal anecdotes with professional attitudes. There is simplicity and honesty at the heart of this book, right down to its straightforward structure. The author forwards ten rules of business success, which can actually be applied to every aspect of your life. The rules are neatly compartmentalized into ten chapters, with graphic summaries for easy reference.
As a business biography, Make It Happen is a compelling and original tale. As a guide for the hip-hop generation — or any other generation — this book is indispensable.
Make It Happen is available at all major bookstores. Plus, click on the essay title above to visit Kevin Liles’ website.
Saturday, February 18, 2006
Black History Month Advertising
The Verizon Black History Month Celebration Tour is an interactive program saluting the 50th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Selected East Coast schools will receive computers and educational software. Additionally, spoken word artists and muralists present student workshops. Click on the essay title to learn more.
Minding others’ business with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Now Verizon has been slapped with a $20 billion lawsuit, accused of helping the federal government spy on American citizens. According to the suit, “Verizon has provided and continues to provide the government with direct access to all or a substantial number of the communications transmitted through its telecommunications facilities.” AT&T has also been allegedly providing similar assistance. Can you hear my private conversations now? Good.
• Procter & Gamble plans to cut 300 jobs in its pharmaceuticals unit. Creating and producing drugs can be a long, complicated process, and P&G would prefer to speed things up by buying and licensing products from other corporations. There’s a drug dealer analogy to be made here — feel free to write your own smart-aleck remarks.
• RadioShack’s 62% earnings plunge has prompted plans to eliminate 400 to 700 stores (see Essay 409). Additionally, Chief Executive Dave Edmondson publicly apologized for fibbing about his academic credentials on his resume. “I clearly misstated my academic record, and the responsibility for these misstatements is mine alone,” Edmondson said. Nothing like a company in turmoil headed by a lying leader. You’ve got questions. We’ve got answers. Of course, the answers may not be honest.
• Speaking of apologizing liars, Rush Limbaugh back-pedaled for his remarks about a political candidate in Ohio. Limbaugh had criticized the New York Times for not reporting the Democrat’s preferred candidate in Ohio’s U.S. Senate race is Black. Turns out the politician, U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown, is actually White. When informed of his mistake, the conservative blowhard replied, “Uh, Sherrod Brown’s a White guy? Then I’m confusing him with somebody. OK, I’m sorry.” When email messages continued to correct Limbaugh during his radio show, he remarked, “We have corrected this, and I, you know, I’m not gonna apologize because I don’t think it’s an insult to be Black.” Tell that to Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.
The article below appeared in The Washington Post last year. But it could easily have been published today…
Black History and Ads Don’t Mix, Activists Say
By Avis Thomas-Lester
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 24, 2005
The green and yellow flier from the Kmart in Aspen Hill proclaimed, “Celebrate Black History” and then advertised “3 for $1 Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix” and “3 for $10 Tone 6-Bar Soap.”
The makers of Metamucil and Pepto-Bismol ran a full-page ad in this month’s Ebony magazine declaring, “Black History Month is a legacy of pride and achievement leading to a healthier tomorrow.” The ad continues, “It’s the same ideals you turn to when it comes to your GI Health -- a history of digestive solutions.”
The advertisements are among dozens that tout laxatives, cars, even yoga classes under the guise of paying homage to African American history. Educators and some civil rights activists say they are bothered by what they consider exploitation of a season meant to honor the contributions of black Americans. But marketing experts say the trend is not surprising in a nation that once considered draping advertising banners across the base of the Statue of Liberty.
“Eventually any piece of history or American culture gets trivialized by advertisers,” said Barbara Lippert, the advertising critic for Adweek magazine. “They just use any opportunity as a platform to sell something. … Everything becomes about buying and selling.”
Activist Jesse L. Jackson said that some of the ads are produced by the same companies that “denied access” to blacks and that they trivialize the historic struggle.
“What pains me is that these ads are feel-good sessions about a black general who did this or someone who sang a song or a political figure who worked on this, and ‘Aren’t there some wonderful black people?’” he said. “Of course that is true, but they don’t deal with issues like … why black people work as hard and make less, why black people are stressed out and don’t live as long.”
Deena Barlev, who teaches a civil rights course at a Montgomery County middle school, was heading into Kmart to buy socks on sale when she saw the flier.
“I was thinking the store was celebrating Black History Month. Then I looked further down the flier and saw that they were advertising Tone bar soap ... and cornbread mix,” Barlev said. “I thought, ‘No, they didn’t!’”
In a statement, Kmart officials said the fliers are a “celebration of the contributions African Americans have made to America’s history.’ The statement said the store is sponsoring a “scholarship sweepstakes” in which entrants can vie for a $20,000 certificate of deposit. The company also “incorporates special sale pricing of popular items.”
In the District, U Street Yoga is advertising a “Black History Month Yoga Class” to “encourage African Americans to embrace their heritage through yoga, which has roots in African culture.”
Black History Month, celebrated in February, got its start in the 1920s as Negro History Week, when D.C. historian Carter G. Woodson sought to encourage teachers to include contributions by African Americans in their history lessons.
Advertisers began linking their marketing efforts to the celebration years ago, Lippert said, recalling an ad that used a digitally altered scene of Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial to sell telecommunications products.
Lippert said advertisers have a long history of “exploiting” history to sell products. A company that manufactured the children’s laxative Fletcher’s Castoria proposed hanging a banner with its name on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in exchange for paying into the statue’s construction, she said.
Some advertisers link their ads to a charitable cause, but Lippert said many are token donations. “They jump on these teeny charitable donations to be able to exploit [the holiday], then turn around and say, ‘Exploit? We don’t exploit.’”
Many ads pay tribute to black history without mentioning a product. Toyota ran an ad this month honoring Philip Emeagwali, who in 1975 “theorized the HyperBall International Network of computers. Today, we call it the Internet.”
Wal-Mart’s ads celebrate the “Buffalo Soldiers.” A McDonald’s newspaper ad spotlighted exceptional students at Friendship Edison Public Charter School in the District.
In ads this month in Ebony and Jet magazines, Ford Motor Co. takes credit for improving the lot of black Americans: “Henry Ford recognized the value of a skilled workforce -- regardless of race. And when Ford … became the first major corporation to pay African American workers equal pay for equal work, it helped give birth to the Black middle class.”
Ford spokesman Mitchell Johnson said the firm was among the first to hire blacks into high-paying jobs, helping to spur the migration of African Americans from the South to the North. “We want to be out there on the forefront because of our heritage of supporting the communities we do business with,” he said.
Other ads -- such as the Procter & Gamble ad for Metamucil, Pepto-Bismol and Prilosec -- refer directly to products.
Vince Hudson, marketing director for the company's “GI brands,” said the ad was intended to show a connection between the progress blacks have made in society and in their health. “We are celebrating all the contributions African Americans have made and the rich history and traditions,” said Hudson, who is black. “This ad is a salute to that from brands that have been there throughout the history, also.”
Lawrence Guyot, a civil rights activist who once led the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, said black history “should not be ground into the economic acquisition machine.”
Researchers Meg Smith and Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.
© 2005 The Washington Post Company
Friday, February 17, 2006
A MultiCultClassics Monologue production…
• There’s a new drama on Broadway. A sexual harassment lawsuit has been filed against a prominent female producer (pictured above). The suit charges she “made sexual overtures to one or more male… cast members” and “gratuitously grabbed the breast” of an actress. The producer can probably also be seen in off-Broadway shows at Scores Gentlemen’s Club.
• RadioShack reported its 4Q earnings dropped 62 percent. Wow, it’s amazing to discover those commercials with quirky folks babbling about their tech needs while sitting on a red chair haven’t sent sales soaring.
• USA Today reported U.S. airlines lost about 10,000 bags per day in 2005. Wow, it’s amazing to discover those airport baggage handlers are not the Rhodes Scholars they appear to be.
• A Florida gym teacher allowed students to ditch his classes in exchange for $1 bribes, allegedly netting thousands of dollars over the years. He was probably preparing himself for a collegiate career where he could expect payoffs from boosters and sports agents.
• Adam Carolla — former co-host of “The Man Show” — managed to piss off Asian advocacy groups. Carolla presented a skit on his radio show that mocked the Asian Excellence Awards in a racially-offensive manner. The gag featured a rant of “ching chong ching chong” playing throughout the segment. New York City Councilman John Liu remarked, “It makes you want to throw up. It is incredible that any radio show host can be so asinine.” This guy clearly doesn’t listen to radio in New York City.
Black History Month Advertising
Nationwide Insurance presents the worst photo compositing of the month. The family portraits are carefully arranged to depict home, life and auto insurance opportunities. Brought to you by a company originally caught redlining in Black neighborhoods.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Talking crazy and saying nothing with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Busta Rhymes continues to play Busta Mime, refusing to offer information regarding the recent shooting (see Essay 395). The cops are getting serious, threatening to pursue an investigative grand jury to force Rhymes to rap. “We believe [Rhymes] was present at the scene, and we want to know everything he knows about this homicide,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said. “It is not that difficult to figure out someone who worked for you is murdered in front of you.” Yo, don’t look to Busta to make this bust.
• New Jersey’s Supreme Court deliberated over the issues of gay marriage yesterday. They’ll probably hear a Brokeback Mountain of arguments before it’s all over.
• A Maryland comptroller is turning out to be a troll, with women’s organizations protesting his words and actions. The 84-year-old official allegedly leered at an administrative aide’s backside during a crowded meeting and made an inappropriate remark. Upon hearing that he offended people, the comptroller replied, “That’s so goddamn dumb I can’t believe it… I look at one of the girls as she walked out. Big deal… I look at the girls every time they walk out. The day I don’t look at pretty girls, I die.” Well, let’s mark our calendars.
• Folks at Texas A&M University-Commerce are crying foul over the movie “Glory Road.” Racially-charged scenes in the movie never happened in real life, according to school officials. Of course, apologies are being demanded. “These events — specifically depicted as taking place at ETSU and in the Commerce area — are completely fabricated and go beyond the realms of literary license and decency,” protested a university official. Yeah, the actual events were probably much, much worse.
• Deborah Rowe, Michael Jackson’s ex-wife, saw an appeals court rule in her favor over the child custody case. The court decided her parental rights weren’t properly and legally relinquished. In 2001 Rowe apparently gave Jackson sole custody, giving up her parental rights. But the new ruling makes it a whole new ballgame. “No court has ever really figured out what would be best for [Rowe and Jackson’s children],” an expert said. That’s a monumental understatement, given that Wacko is watching the kids now.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
A MultiCultClassics Monologue with an Extra Value Meal…
• Folks with food allergies — particularly parents with allergic kids — are McPissed to learn that Mickey D’s french fries contain wheat as an ingredient. This would make the fries a no-no for many sensitive kids. Actually, it would be more shocking to learn Mickey D’s fries contained potatoes.
• A North Carolina woman is suing Mickey D’s, claiming she found blood on her bag of french fries. “At first, I felt disbelief,” the woman said. “Then fear.” And that was before she even noticed the blood. Wait till she learns about the wheat.
• A bunch of angry Muslims, protesting the infamous Prophet Mohammed cartoons, set ablaze a Ronald McDonald statue in Pakistan. These folks probably would not be upset to discover blood on their Happy Meals. But don’t even think about including a Prophet Mohammed collectible toy.
• The Ohio parents that kept their adopted kids in cages were indicted along with their social worker. Wonder if child services will let the kids out of their cages to visit their soon-to-be-caged mom and dad.
• Oscar nominee Terrence Howard will not sing “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” during the 78th Academy Awards show. Sounds like the perfect opportunity for Celine Dion.
• Jesse Jackson and Condoleezza Rice topped the list in an AP-AOL Black Voices poll for America’s “most important Black leader.” Colin Powell and Barack Obama also scored high. Then again, maybe Jesse and Condi could perform “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” as a duet during the 78th Academy Awards show.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Just in time for Black History Month!
The American Advertising Federation released the AAF Survey on Recruiting and Multicultural Advertising Trends.
According to the report, “160 executives from agencies, media organizations, advertisers/clients and other related firms responded to the survey; more than 80% have worked in the advertising industry 11 years or more; and nearly one-third for 25 years or more.”
Here are a few highlights:
• Benefits of multicultural marketing seen as substantial; precise targeting rated the most substantial benefit with branding products to wider audiences and showing company sensitivity to diverse consumer groups tied for a close second.
[It’s always amazing that an organization like the AAF will pay money to learn the obvious. Shucks, maybe those minority shops — you know, the ones that have been affiliated with the AAF for decades — are onto something after all.]
• 50% say that their organization has been not at all or not very successful in recruiting and retaining minority talent. Only 15% categorize their organization as successful or very successful.
[Sounds like at least 15% of the executives polled are fucking liars.]
• 37% of industry executives rate their organization not at all or not very successful in obtaining the services of qualified minority vendors, while 24% say they have been successful or very successful.
[Oops, make that at least 24%.]
The executives were also asked, “Why has your organization succeeded (or not) in recruiting minority talent?” Here are a few responses:
“The main problem is that the minority community here is so small, that when qualified minorities visit the city, they worry about being isolated without support of minority friends and family.” –Academic
“We are a small ad agency and have not had multicultural talent even apply for a position.” –Agency Exec.
“We were a founder in the Minority Advertising Training program on the West Coast and are making progress, but it is slow going — faster improvement with Asian and Latino, still far behind with African-American.” –Agency Exec.
[Small minority community. Small ad agency. Small progress. Sounds like small thinking. Or big, fucking liars.]
Click on the essay title above to view the full survey.
Monday, February 13, 2006
Cheap shots with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• OK, this one is too obvious, but what the hell. Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot a fellow hunter during a weekend hunting trip. Cheney was allegedly aiming at a quail. Unfortunately, not former Vice President Dan Quayle. The good news — the accidental-shooting victim was a high-priced lawyer.
• Another Los Angeles inmate died Sunday during continuing prison riots between Black and Hispanic gang members. The fights have been taking place regularly since an initial melee on February 4 (see Essay 397). Maybe it’s time to call in sharpshooter Dick Cheney.
• People with epilepsy have voiced outrage over a recent episode of the CBS sitcom “Two and a Half Men.” Apparently, Charlie Sheen’s character faked being epileptic to avoid a wedding. What zany hijinks! Actually, most folks would go into a seizure to realize Sheen was still employed as an actor.
The issues involving race and diversity in the advertising industry are complex, contradictory and confounding. Anyone who has ever experienced things firsthand will readily admit they could write a book on the subject. But in the end, few have the courage and conviction to do it.
Hadji Williams decided to go for it, authoring and self-publishing the controversial “Knock The Hustle: How to Save Your Job and Your Life from Corporate America.”
The back cover describes the book as “a rollercoaster ride of explosive insider info and case studies, breath-taking cautionary tales, outrageous characters and wild office antics.” Mega-hype aside, “Knock The Hustle” delivers the goods — the bad and the ugly too.
At nearly 380 pages, “Knock The Hustle” is literally and figuratively a heavy read. This book cannot be easily categorized. It’s an autobiography. It’s a how-to business guide. It’s an exposé. It’s a revolutionary’s manifesto. It’s Jerry Maguire does Madison Avenue. Williams inspires in one section, then condemns in the next. He’s full of cynicism. He’s full of hope. Some will argue he’s full of shit occasionally. The back cover also proclaims, “More than a book, Knock The Hustle is a movement destined to change how we see business, popular culture, and society for the better.” Complex. Contradictory. Confounding.
“Knock The Hustle” is probably not what you think it is. If you believe it targets an exclusively Black or minority audience, you’re wrong. If you believe it blows the doors off scandals in a Deep Throat whistleblower style, you’re wrong. If you believe it seeks to attack or cast blame on any individual or group, you’re wrong. If you’re in the advertising business and you believe there’s nothing breakthrough to discover here and you’ve heard the tales a million times already, you’re absolutely wrong.
It’s impossible to predict how folks will react to “Knock The Hustle,” mostly because it will ultimately mean different things to different people. Hey, that’s the subjective nature of stuff intertwined with race and diversity. We tend to bring our own filters and funhouse mirrors to the party.
Williams divides the book into Side A and Side B, referring to the contents as Track Lists. Like a music collection, readers may feel free to shuffle through sections and replay their favorite beats. There really isn’t a strong chronology or order to anything, which makes it all easier to digest. Indeed, it might be preferable to sample and consider the work in small portions versus absorbing the entirety in a single sitting.
“Knock The Hustle” is unique on numerous levels. Unlike the majority of advertising and marketing books, Williams forwards perspectives primarily from a grunt level. These are the observations and viewpoints of an adman who spent the bulk of his career in the trenches, actually producing ads instead of pontificating on theories and playing politics. This alone should make “Knock The Hustle” a cult classic among the cubicle denizens. It’s got a distinctive Generation X flavor — or flava, for the Hip Hop enthusiasts.
There are definitely segregated areas in the book. For example, the career tips for minorities clearly speak to a specific audience. And the parallels drawn between Corporate Life and Urban Street Life may polarize readers. But everyone will benefit from wandering through the various literary neighborhoods presented by Williams.
If you only have the opportunity to check out a single section of “Knock The Hustle,” choose the track titled, “Crop Circles and Alarm Clocks: Pride and Prejudice in Corporate America.” This part details the typical and stereotypical scenarios still prevalent in the industry today. Everyone in the business will relate to the stories, regardless of your personal role in the global drama.
It sucks that there appears to be a negative backlash surrounding the book — especially because folks seem to be reacting without reading. Again, “Knock The Hustle” is probably not what you think it is. It deserves to be judged after it’s been legitimately examined, not before. Don’t hate just for hate’s sake. If you temporarily delete your preconceived notions and biases, the book will surprise and reward you.
Can “Knock The Hustle” create measurable progress in the advertising industry — or even prompt contemplation and conversation? It’s hard to say. It will also be interesting to see the long-term effects the book has on the author. We could compare Hadji Williams to Dave Chappelle. Both artists apparently came to professional crossroads that triggered serious personal introspection and radical actions. It’s safe to conclude that Williams and Chappelle won’t simply go away. Regardless of where you stand on these affairs, this is good news for everyone.
Complex. Contradictory. Confounding.
“Knock The Hustle” is available through online sales directly from the author at knockthehustle.com — and a semi-revised edition is scheduled to release in May 2006.
Plus, amazon.com features another book review from Danny G. of AdPulp.
Finally, click on the essay title above to view an online interview with Hadji Williams.
Black History Month Advertising
AARP keeps things solemn and respectful, promoting a traveling exhibit showcasing “the moments that gave birth to the Civil Rights Movement.” Wonder how many AARP members actually participated in the original demonstrations — and how many jeered and threw rocks.