Friday, June 30, 2006
New York Public Radio conducted a discussion on our segregated industry. Below is a brief overview. Click on the essay title above to hear it all. (Thanks to Hadji Williams for bringing this stuff to our attention.)
Segregated Ad Industry
Joining us are
Richard Wayner: President/CEO of the True Agency and Chairman and CEO of Alliance TRACE Media.
Lisa Sanders: Reporter at Advertising Age.
Don Richards: Senior Vice President of Agency Diversity Programs at the 4As.
The Human Rights Commission is investigating why the number of African Americans working in mid- and upper-level jobs in general market agencies is so low. They’re comparing numbers of African Americans currently employed to those taken from the last time the Commission undertook a broad look at the industry, which was from 1968 to 1978. The Commission began this probe in Nov. 2004. The Commission’s chief, Pat Gatling, earlier this month announced that her agency will hold hearings on this topic Sept. 24-29, and has sent subpoenas to 16 chiefs of New York City agencies, requesting that they testify.
In response to the Commission’s efforts since the probe began, back in Nov. 2004, the industry has hired several lobbyists (as well as lawyers). Most recently, the industry trade group, the Four As has hired a firm, Bolton St. John’s, to lobby members of the New York City City Council, and specifically members of the Committee on Civil Rights, and its chairman, city councilman Larry Seabrook. That’s because several months ago, Councilman Seabrook said his committee is going to hold public hearings of its own on this issue. These hearings would be separate from the Commission’s.
Richard Wayner, CEO of The True Agency, did make allegations that there tend to be “silos” in the industry of agencies that handle multi-cultural and ethnic accounts versus agencies that handle general market business. Some in the industry believe that the doling out of accounts along target-market agency lines leads to minorities being segregated, largely working in ethnic agencies.
MultiCultClassics presents hard-core Hip Hop hype…
No hard-core Hip Hop hype collection would be complete without ads for rappers’ favorite sustenance: blunts and cognac. Yet these messages are surprisingly straightforward and attitude-free, almost out of place in the typical urban ‘zine.
No money and no-shows in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The New York Post reported that Michael Jackson was broke just before his latest sex scandal, owing hundreds of millions of dollars. Jacko’s lawyer said the superstar was just forgetful and explained, “Genius comes with eccentricity and quirkiness in other areas.” You think?
• Rapper-actor DMX failed to show up for his court date, prompting the judge to issue a warrant for his arrest. You would think a guy routinely caught exceeding speed limits would be able to drive to court on time.
• Currently incarcerated Lil’ Kim will be celebrating Independence Day one day early, as she’s scheduled to be released on July 3. Let’s hope she doesn’t ask DMX for a ride home from prison.
• Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen — who recently was slapped with a fine and ordered to attend sensitivity training after referring to a sports columnist as a fag (see Essay 723) — now plans to attend the Gay Games in Chicago. Friends and organizers invited Guillen to the event to be held next month. “Yeah, I’m going. … But I had plans to go even before I was asked,” Guillen said. “I’ve had plans to go there for a long time.” He probably intends to heckle the participants from the stands.
• Less than half of the National Guard troops slated to patrol the Mexican border have actually shown up. Many Guardsmen have been busy dealing with natural disasters like floods in the East, wildfires out West and potential storms in the South. The rest have probably been joyriding with DMX.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
From The New York Post…
NEW ‘JUAN’ AIMS TO PERK UP COFFEE EXPORTS
By PAUL THARP
Meet the new, improved “Juan Valdez.”
Colombia’s new coffee ambassador to the world — an icon of advertising for nearly a half-century — in no longer just an actor for hire but a real coffee grower working the lush slopes of Colombia's coffee country.
Carlos Castañeda, 39, a father of three, was picked after a two-year search by the industry’s trade group to tour the globe from Tokyo to Amsterdam promoting Colombian coffee. At stake is $1.4 billion in exports.
Sales slumped last year by $100 million from a glut of coffee beans but it wasn’t the fault of the previous Juan Valdez — professional actor Carlos Sanchez, 71, who hung up his poncho a month ago after 37 years on the job.
The new pitchman inherits the trademark white straw hat and faithful mule Conchita, who’ll remain in the same role.
“Half of his time will be spent working on his own coffee farm and for the rest he’ll be traveling the world for the other growers,” Juan Esteban Orduz, president of the Colombia Coffee Federation, told The Post.
The new Juan Valdez is a third-generation coffee grower from a rural village fittingly named Andes.
He became an overnight celebrity in South America in recent days after his identity was disclosed.
The federation had sent teams across the countryside for two years to interview hundreds of young men with bushy mustaches from among the country’s nearly 400,000 coffee growers.
A reality TV show was created about the hunt.
The Juan Valdez trademark — one of the most recognizable in the world — is to be inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame in the fall.
The fictional figure even made it to Hollywood, sharing a scene with comic Jim Carrey in the film “Bruce Almighty.”
The first Juan Valdez was created by Madison Avenue in 1959, and was played for a decade by actor José Duval, a Cuban.
Click on the essay title above to visit The National Federation Of Coffee Growers Of Colombia website and meet the new Juan Valdez.
MultiCultClassics presents hard-core Hip Hop hype…
Oprah declared, “I’m not opposed to rap. I’m opposed to being marginalized as a woman.” Think of these ads as a few more reasons why folks like Ludacris, Ice Cube and Fiddy won’t receive invitations to Winfrey’s gab fest anytime soon.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
U.S. Hispanic Agencies Win Two Cannes Lions
Grupo Gallegos Scores in Film, La Comunidad in Cyber
By Laurel Wentz
CANNES, France (AdAge.com) -- Grupo Gallegos, an independent U.S. Hispanic ad agency based in Los Angeles, won a Bronze Lion for an Energizer spot called “Beard” at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, one of two prizes the U.S. Hispanic market won at this year’s festival.
Grupo Gallegos won a Bronze Lion for its Energizer TV spot.
Hopes had been raised because two other Hispanic agencies, Omnicom Group’s Dieste Harmel & Partners and independent La Comunidad, Miami, had spots on the film shortlist. Dieste Harmel had two Anheuser-Busch commercials for Budweiser, “Mini Mouth” and “Pinky,” on the shortlist, and La Comunidad had two shortlisted Virgin Mobile ads, “Convertible Car” and “Office.” A third La Comunidad spot, an international ad for MTV Worldwide called “Give Me an M,” was also on the list.
A Puerto Rican ad agency, Badillo Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi, San Juan, had a shortlisted spot called “Journey” for the Toyota 4Runner.
The winning Grupo Gallegos ad is about a man whose beard grows so ridiculously fast that his razor, using Energizer batteries, is constantly on. The “Beard” ad has won gold awards at three ad shows: FIAP, a leading Latin American ad festival based in Buenos Aires; El Sol, an ad festival in Spain that Latin American agencies also compete in; and the Addy awards in the U.S.
Cyber Lion winner
Although there was only one U.S. Hispanic film winner this year, the U.S. Hispanic market got its first cyber winner. The internet portion of La Comunidad’s Virgin Mobile campaign “I’m Not Normal” won a Cyber Lion.
Last year the U.S. Hispanic market had its best-ever performance at Cannes, winning three Silver Lions, including one to Grupo Gallegos for an earlier Energizer spot called “Japanese Hand.” The other two winners were Lapiz, Chicago, for a Kellogg's Special K spot called “Fiber Cycle” and La Comunidad for a spot for VH1 called “Parents’ Day.”
At Cannes, Hispanic creatives gathered at La Chunga restaurant for the second annual dinner for creatives from U.S. Hispanic agencies June 20. Earlier that day, Team USA played in the festival’s Beach Soccer Tournament.
Pimp your MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Senator Charles Grassley wants the IRS to go after pimps, slamming them with fines and prison time for not filing employment forms and withholding taxes for their employees. “The thugs who run these trafficking rings are exploiting society’s poorest girls and women for personal gain,” Grassley said. “The IRS goes after drug traffickers. It can go after sex traffickers.” It’s hard out in the Senate for a pimp.
• Michael Jackson fired his business managers, hired new financial advisors and plans to move to Europe. A spokeswoman for Jacko called the changes “the first of a sweeping restructuring of his personal and business affairs.” Sounds like the same approach he’s taken with his face.
• Oglala Sioux tribal leaders in South Dakota plan to create roadblocks to prohibit members from bringing beer into their community. While booze has already been banned on their reservation, four nearby stores still sell beer to folks. The leaders intend to confiscate any beer bought in the area. One storeowner said, “I just don’t know how it’s going to work or how they have any legal grounds to confiscate any beer. I just don’t think they’ll get anyone to stop for them.” Sounds like a job for The Lone Ranger and Tonto.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
The following letter appeared in the July 2006 issue of Communication Arts…
Lack of Diversity
The reason I am sending this letter is to voice my displeasure with the design industry. Employers are dishonest. They say they want highly creative professionals, all the while producing substandard products with very little creative value. The terminology of so-called creative firms (as stated on many Web sites) has started to sound more like investment banking or corporate rhetoric than a creative mission. If this is the true climate of the industry, schools should stop teaching design theory and start teaching business theory instead. We’ve become what other industries have become, dull, boring and stagnant.
Part of what is making the industry stale is lack of diversity. I’m always hard pressed to find other minorities at design events. In fact, finding a minority in design magazines or books is also rare. In this day and age everyone wants to tap into the urban demographic. Yet this demographic is rarely employed in most forms; interesting. How can you design for an urban market with no urban creatives? I know how, you make assumptions.
Now I know you have published issues in the past highlighting the history of minority creatives, but I guess the industry doesn’t get it. I hope in the future the design community can come to grips with these issues and move forward. Maybe someday we’ll grow to be as creative, diverse and interesting as we should be.
The following appeared on AdAge.com…
Rap Mogul’s Boycott of Cristal Champagne Unlikely to Hurt Brand
Def Jam President Jay-Z Angered by Liquor Marketer’s Comments
By Jeremy Mullman
CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Rapper and Def Jam Records President Jay-Z’s much-hyped boycott of Cristal isn’t likely to cost the vintage champagne brand any dead presidents, according to beverage industry experts. But it could give Cristal’s competitors a reason to pop a few corks of their own.
The tempest in a champagne flute kicked off when Frederic Rouzaud, managing director of Cristal parent Louis Roederer, told The Economist that he viewed his brand’s ubiquity in hip-hop lyrics and videos -- such as Jay-Z’s own line “let’s sip the Cris and get pissy-pissy” -- with a combination of “curiosity and serenity.”
“[Whether it hurts the brand] is a good question, but what can we do?” Mr. Rouzard told the magazine. “I’m sure Dom Perignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business.”
But the rapper, who once popped bottles of Cristal onstage, took that as a dis, saying, “I view his comments as racist and will no longer support any of his products.”
High-profile hip-hop association
The split raises the question of whether losing its high-profile hip-hop association will hurt Cristal.
Alcohol-industry experts say the spat is unlikely to affect Cristal sales.
“You’re talking about a small-production brand with a luxury audience that was selling everything it produced long before [rappers began embracing it],” said beverage-marketing consultant Arthur Shapiro.
But it may cost the brand its already-threatened standing as the hip-hop world’s champagne of choice. According to San Francisco-based Agenda, which tracks brand mentions on the pop charts, Cristal slipped to eighth place from seventh in its 2005 “American Brandstand” survey, while rival vintage bubbly Dom Perignon rose to 12 from 17.
Dom’s parent, Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy, also owns the No. 6 brand, Hennessy cognac.
“Hip-hop is very important to us,” said Noel Hankin, Moet Hennessy’s senior VP-multicultural initiatives.
Cognac producers, in particular, have found hip-hop to be fertile ground. Hennessy rival Courvoisier saw sales rise 30% in 2002 -- reportedly the brand’s biggest sales boost since Napoleon named it the official supplier to the Imperial Court of France -- after Busta Rhymes released the single “Pass the Courvoisier.”
Courvoisier has embraced its hip-hop following with a series of targeted sponsorships. A spokeswoman said the brand is “is very pleased that consumers of different cultural heritages ... select Courvoisier as their spirit of choice.”
But the sales of distilled spirits such as Hennessy and Courvoisier -- which total about 5 million cases a year -- are far more volatile than those of a brand such as Cristal, which typically only produces a caseload in the mid- to upper-five figures and none at all during poor vintages.
‘Not have an impact’
“[The Jay-Z flap] will not have any impact on our global sales because Cristal is largely sold out anyway,” said Xavier Barlier, VP-marketing for Roederer's U.S. distributor, Maisons Marques & Domaines.
Still, Mr. Rouzard did release a statement clarifying Cristal’s position on its place within the universe of bling: “The House of Louis Roederer could not have been in existence since 1776 without having the utmost regard for, and interest in, all forms of art and culture.”
But of course.
MultiCultClassics presents hard-core Hip Hop hype…
The Original King of Bling displays the latest watches. Don’t let the ad’s tacky design fool you. The retailer’s website features timepieces going for up to $26,000. So why can’t the King afford an art director?
Hollywood trash in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Boy George arrived in New York to begin the five-day community service sentence for his October cocaine-related conviction. George will act as a garbage man. Who decided that being a garbage man should be considered punishment?
• Rush Limbaugh was questioned at Palm Beach International Airport for carrying drugs without a prescription. This time, it wasn’t painkillers, but Viagra. Guess Limbaugh’s personality isn’t the only thing that’s dysfunctional.
• Michael Jackson is facing his latest court battle, this time with a pornographer and business associate charging the King of Pop owes him $3.8 million. The former associate said he loaned Jacko money for stuff including the production of two TV specials intended to improve the artist’s reputation. Um, Jackson ought to demand a refund for those efforts.
• Naomi Campbell is being sued by another maid who claims the supermodel beat her. Campbell’s current legal problems could land her in jail for seven years, along with deportation. Or it will probably lead to a new and highly profitable reality TV series.
• A new study now says teens are having fewer babies and dropping out of school less. However, there’s an increase in the number of kids living in poverty. Maybe they should try to land jobs as Naomi Campbell’s housekeepers.
From The New York Times…
The Deal That Let Atlanta Retain Dr. King’s Papers
By SHAILA DEWAN
ATLANTA— It was in a short conversation over dinner, devoid of bargaining, that Mayor Shirley Franklin took the first step toward ensuring that a significant chunk of this city’s patrimony would be returned here for good.
“She said, ‘How much?’ I told her the price, and she said, ‘O.K.,’” recalled Phillip Jones, a King family representative who met with the mayor that day, June 18, to discuss the impending auction of the bulk of the papers belonging to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Late last Friday, a week before the auction was to be held at Sotheby’s in New York, where the papers are on exhibit, officials announced a deal. With no collateral, Ms. Franklin had secured a privately financed loan of $32 million allowing a nonprofit organization created by the city to stop the auction and buy the collection from the King family. The papers are to go to Morehouse College here, Dr. King’s alma mater.
Dexter King, the younger of Dr. King’s two sons, said he thought his father and mother, Coretta Scott King, who died this year, would have been happy with the arrangement.
“I actually felt that if Atlanta really could step up and do this, it would be so wonderful, and I’m personally grateful to the mayor as well as to Ambassador Young,” Mr. King said of Andrew Young, who had been encouraging Ms. Franklin’s efforts. “It really was a community effort, and that’s what I appreciated most about it.”
As with many of the King family’s decisions, the prospect of the auction had brought grumbling among Dr. King’s former associates, persistent critics of the family and city boosters who said Atlanta, his hometown, was the collection’s rightful home.
Some had said the millions that the collection would fetch at auction was nothing but ransom that would go to the four King children, who have frequently provoked scorn for their handling of their father’s legacy and the nonprofit center here that bears his name. Others had fretted that the collection — 10,000 items, most of which bear Dr. King’s handwriting — would be sold to a private owner and lost to scholars, or to Atlanta, forever.
But none of Atlanta’s institutions was prepared to muster the asking price for the papers, and it was rumored that New York City, among other parties, was prepared to compete for them. It was left to Ms. Franklin to take action. To ensure an advantage, she agreed to pay $2 million more than the $30 million for which the papers were appraised in the late 1990’s.
“I didn’t want to risk losing the papers over a million dollars,” the mayor said in a telephone interview Monday. “To Atlanta they are priceless.”
Mr. Jones, the King family representative, defended the price, saying, “Those in the know said to us over and over again: this auction, these papers are going to go way above the appraised value.”
Still, some people whom Ms. Franklin approached for help thought the family should simply donate the papers. Dr. King’s two sons had already been criticized for taking six-figure salaries from the King Center while it fell into disrepair and for aggressively defending their right to control their father’s intellectual property. And in insisting on retaining the copyright, some scholars had complained, the family had made it hard for the papers to find an institutional home.
But archivists say such an arrangement is not unusual.
“It’s a double standard,” Dexter King said from his home in Malibu, Calif. If the family makes a point of retaining copyright, he said, “then all of a sudden we see in the media, ‘The King family is greedy’; no, we’re just following the historical standard.”
Ms. Franklin said she had three points in response to people who thought the family should have given the papers away. “Dr. King copyrighted his own work,” she said, “so he expected that it would have value and expected it would be part of the legacy. Mrs. King very much supported the sale of the papers to the appropriate institution. And the third thing that I say is that Dr. King left the rest of us a tremendous legacy, but he was not a wealthy man,” and the bulk of his family’s inheritance lies in his intellectual property.
In coming up with the necessary money, Ms. Franklin began to call in favors from a long list of Atlanta’s major corporations and prominent citizens, including Delta Air Lines, Coca-Cola and Tyler Perry, author and star of “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.” Ultimately, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, the developer Herman Russell, Turner Broadcasting and Cox Enterprises, the owner of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, also agreed to help.
Meanwhile, Mr. Jones told Sotheby’s that he thought the family had a buyer.
The deal still requires some work, though: Ms. Franklin has secured only $8.8 million in pledges; the rest of the money is in loan guarantees. Last Wednesday, David Redden, a vice president of Sotheby’s, spoke to the mayor for the first time and asked whether, before the auction was canceled, she would be able to come up with the money. In reply, she cited one of her major accomplishments: raising $3 billion to bail out the city’s water system, which had been ailing for years.
During a week of intense negotiations, Ms. Franklin decided that the papers would go to historically black Morehouse College, which was attended not only by Dr. King but also by his father, grandfather and two sons. Morehouse, where Dr. King’s funeral was held after his assassination in 1968, does not have its own archives, however, and so the collection will initially be housed at a library serving that college and several others.
The deal was hailed as a victory for Ms. Franklin. It was, The Journal-Constitution reported, a “classic Atlanta story — like winning the 1996 Olympics — of taking a near impossible challenge and galvanizing city support to make it happen.”
Monday, June 26, 2006
The following appeared in The Chicago Tribune…
R. Kelly judge should rethink sex tape ruling
By Dawn Turner Trice
Earlier this month Vincent Gaughan, the Cook County Criminal Court judge presiding over R&B superstar R. Kelly’s child pornography trial, ruled that a videotape that appears to show Kelly engaging in sex acts with a 14-year-old girl could be shown in open court during the trial.
Does this ruling bother you?
I think it should because showing the tape would mean everybody in the courtroom would see a child in her most embarrassing, degrading and humiliating moment. For justice to be served, only the judge and jury needs to see this tape.
While I find the ruling enraging, what ticks me off more is that I haven’t heard much of a stir about this from victims rights advocates or others who profess to believe that it’s important to protect the identity and the rights of victims of child pornography and rape.
I haven’t seen the video. Don’t want to see it. But, like many of you, I’m well aware that it depicts a child engaging in sex acts so explicit and lewd that apparently it's difficult to think of her as a victim or a sympathetic figure.
Without a doubt she’s both. By law, no matter how minors behave, they cannot legally consent to sex. (It’s still mind-boggling to me that Kelly has not been charged with rape. He says he’s not guilty of the child porn charges.)
Perhaps I’ve missed the furor over Gaughan’s ruling.
I certainly didn’t miss the one that erupted earlier this year after Cook County Circuit Judge Kerry Kennedy threatened to jail a young Naperville woman during a rape trial. She had refused to watch herself in a 2002 video that showed the then-16-year-old semiconscious and having sex with the defendant and another young man in a Burr Ridge home.
Before Kennedy figured out that jailing this young woman was a nutty move, victims rights groups and the media pounced. And rightfully so.
Victims rights advocates said it wasn’t fair to jail her for not wanting to relive one of the most traumatic moments of her life.
They said it could have a chilling effect on rape victims contemplating whether to bring their abusers to justice. The defendant in this case eventually was found not guilty of sexual assault and child pornography charges.
Although no two cases are exactly alike, what links these cases is the casual, if not reckless, disregard on the parts of the judges.
Legal experts say Gaughan’s ruling was highly unusual because he ruled over the objections of both the prosecution and the defense.
“The reason to file the motion to allow only the judge, jury and the press to view the tape was to protect [the victim],” Assistant Cook County State’s Atty. Shauna Boliker told me.
Gaughan apparently doesn't believe the victim--now 21--deserves such protection. He said that he understands that allowing the video to be viewed in open court might mean people would be watching child pornography. But, he said, the tape is the cornerstone of the prosecution’s case against Kelly and making it secret might undermine the public’s confidence in the jury’s verdict.
Nevermind what the prosecution itself wants. Nevermind that we’ve seen countless rape cases in which only the jury and judge have been allowed to view evidence and these cases weren’t compromised.
I asked Sean Black, spokesman for the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, why his organization hasn’t been rallying against this ruling as it did in the Burr Ridge case. He said the coalition simply didn’t know about it.
He called the ruling disappointing and disturbing and said the group now plans to keep an eye on the case and do more research. I sincerely hope so. I also hope the prosecution fights harder to get this ruling reversed.
You may believe that because the video has been floating around the Internet, Gaughan’s ruling isn’t such a big deal. I wholeheartedly disagree. It’s one thing to view child porn on some trashy Internet site (and in doing so, subject yourself to possible prosecution). It’s quite another to have it sanctioned in a court of law.
The postponed R. Kelly trial is going to be a circus when it gets under way. This ruling will make it even more so.
I find no legitimate reason for allowing everyone in the courtroom to view this video. It sets a bad precedent. It re-victimizes the victim in a way that may not be illegal but feels just as criminal.
Getting testy in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• A new study shows young males in school are doing better with tests and academic success than earlier reported, arguing against the notion that there is a “Boy Crisis.” The report stated, “The real story is not bad news about boys doing worse… it’s good news about girls doing better.” Education Sector senior policy analyst Sara Mead said, “There’s no doubt that some groups of boys — particularly Hispanic and black boys and boys from low-income homes — are in real trouble… But the predominant issues for them are race and class, not gender.” Hey, now that’s great news. Let’s celebrate!
• Busta Rhymes has been dealing with ugly custody battles with his former girlfriend/mother of his children. The ugliness also involves the fact that the woman ultimately dumped Rhymes for another woman. “His ego is definitely hurt,” said Rhymes’ ex. “If he’s being emotional, then let him just be emotional — that’s like the bitch in him. If you want to be emotional, I don’t have a problem with that,” but “he’s wearing his emotions on his sleeve.” Plus, he’s probably struggling to find words that rhyme with lesbian.
From The New York Times…
Hey, Gay Spender, Marketers Spending Time With You
By STUART ELLIOTT
FOR years, advertisers seeking to reach gay and lesbian consumers concentrated their spending in the print media. There were few effective or efficient alternatives among the media that offered the appealing attributes of sight, sound and motion.
To be sure, those advertisers could have bought commercial time on television. But spots during TV series that would seem appropriate — “Will & Grace,” for example — cost too much; the shows ran on mainstream networks and the audiences included so many heterosexuals.
That limited media menu is starting to be broadened. TV, the Internet, radio and even movies are joining magazines and newspapers as places to pitch products to gay men and lesbians.
For instance, the proliferation of film festivals intended for gay and lesbian moviegoers has helped turn such events into marketing venues. The Stolichnaya brand of vodka sold by Pernod Ricard USA is underwriting a documentary, “Be Real,” and a complementary Web site (stoli.com/bereal), presenting what are called “stories from queer America” in the form of profiles of six lesbians and gay men.
“The film festivals have become an increasingly important gathering place, offering a way for the community to see itself,” said Stephanie Blackwood, partner and account director at Double Platinum in New York, which conceived the project as part of its duties as the Stolichnaya agency for the gay and lesbian market.
• ”Be Real,” which runs 53 minutes, was produced by two documentary filmmakers, Beverly Kopf and Bobbie Birleffi, and directed by Ms. Birleffi. The film has been screened in cities that frequently play host to gay and lesbian movie festivals, like Miami, New York and San Francisco, along with some that do not, like Birmingham, Ala.
“We didn’t just want to sponsor film festivals. We wanted to be way involved on a grass-roots level,” said Adam Rosen, senior brand manager for Stolichnaya at the Pernod Ricard USA division in New York, part of Pernod Ricard.
Although the title “Be Real” refers to a theme of Stolichnaya ads that it is “genuine Russian vodka,” the project is “about more than the brand,” said Mr. Rosen, who is an executive producer of the documentary. "We want to showcase our commitment to the community in a culturally relevant way.
“This film will be the springboard for all our advertising and marketing in the year to come,” Mr. Rosen said, adding that the budget for the “Be Real” project, including production and promotion, is more than $3 million.
A year ago this week, the media giant Viacom introduced Logo, a cable television network and a Web site (logoonline.com) aimed at gay men and lesbians, as well as their friends and families. The Logo cable channel is available in 23 million households, compared with 13 million last June.
To date, more than 60 mainstream marketers have advertised on Logo, including Ameriprise Financial, Anheuser-Busch, Bacardi, Continental Airlines, Dell, Eastman Kodak, eBay, General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, the Orbitz unit of Cendant, Sears Holdings, Sony and Subaru. ”There was pent-up demand for a channel to cater to this consumer,” said John Nash, president at Moon City Productions in New York, the agency that creates campaigns aimed at gays for Subaru, part of Fuji Heavy Industries.
Because “Subaru is a mature brand in this space, in its 11th year of doing gay and lesbian outreach,” Mr. Nash said, he was eager to add television to a media plan that has long been dominated by print outlets.
Subaru was one of three charter advertisers on Logo, along with Orbitz, owned by the Cendant Corporation, and the Paramount Pictures division of Viacom. Initially, Subaru ran ads on Logo that were produced for mainstream consumers and created by the brand's general-market agency, DDB Worldwide in New York, part of the Omnicom Group.
Since October, Subaru has been running three customized commercials on Logo, created by Moon City for the network. “They have exceeded our expectations,” Mr. Nash said. Two more will be introduced next month.
The customized Subaru spots offer subtle cues meant to signal the intended audience. When two people are shown together, for instance, they are both men or both women.
“TV, of course, is one of the most powerful media,” Mr. Nash said. “And you can get people to pay attention by running commercials in a contextual environment like a Logo. But if you goose it that extra amount with custom creative, awareness goes up 15 or 20 percent.”
Along those same lines, Logo is offering advertisers the chance to run nontraditional commercials that avoid overt product peddling.
The commercials, which Logo executives call interstitials because they run between shows, are being sponsored by three marketers: the Sears, Roebuck unit of Sears Holdings; Subaru; and the TomTom brand of global positioning systems sold by TomTom International.
“In the early research we did, testing what our audience was looking for, they said they wanted to see ads on the channel to see who would be reaching out to them,” said Lisa Sherman, senior vice president and general manager at Logo in New York, part of the MTV Networks division of Viacom.
At the same time, “we have to be careful not to overreach,” Ms. Sherman said, “and stay within the boundaries” that separate advertising from programming.
The TomTom interstitials, each lasting 20 seconds, offer travel tips.
The Sears-sponsored segments, each two minutes long, feature Dave Alhadeff, the owner of a design store, offering home décor ideas.
In one, as he discusses energy-efficient appliances, he mentions by name the Kenmore Elite line sold by Sears.
For Subaru, the two-minute interstitials play like condensed versions of “Get Real,” offering glimpses of Subaru owners like Mary Seton Corboy, a pioneer in urban agriculture who runs Greensgrow Farm in Philadelphia, and a couple, Pamela Fletcher and Susan Murphy, who are triathletes and expedition racers.
“In this fragmented media age, everybody’s demanding hypercustomized creative to talk to specialized audiences,” said Brian Graden, president at Logo and at MTV Networks Music Group Entertainment.
“We’re all coming up to speed together on the best way to reach this audience,” he added.
• As marketers show interest in Logo, Mr. Graden’s “we” is expanding to include other media companies.
For example, the Bravo cable network owned by NBC Universal, part of General Electric, teamed up with Planet Out to introduce on June 1 a Web site (outzonetv.com) aimed at lesbians and gay men.
The features on the Web site include television shows, blogs, video clips and social networking.
Among the sponsors are gay.com, operated by Planet Out, and the IFC cable network, part of the Rainbow Media Holdings unit of the Cablevision Systems Corporation.
Rainbow Media? Now there is an example of how to talk to a specialized audience.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
More late news: Here are comments responding to the story regarding New York ad agency chiefs receiving subpoenas for the upcoming diversity hearings (the AdAge.com story appeared in Essay 684 — click on the essay title above to review)…
>As someone who has worked on the agency side as well as in city and state government, I’d suggest the Human Rights Commission carefully consider the following prior to the scheduled hearings; Review hiring practices among all relevant companies involved in advertising services not just the top 16 ad agencies. HRC should be concerned with all related companies not just the "”low hanging” fruit. The contention that blacks comprised only 9% of all ad employees compared to the 25% of NYC's population may be true. But if I remember correctly, approximately 10% of the US population is black. As advertising is a national business, if not global, the current composition is in line with the US population. Moreover, when all advertising related companies are included the proportion of blacks would exceed their incidence in the US population. The HRC is a Mayoral agency. I’d encourage them to carefully review the demographic composition of their own advertising/marketing personnel and roster of advertising service suppliers. They may find issues of their own. Finally, most government accounts, such as the Army and the New York State lottery, require their agencies provide detailed information on their practices and proactive steps to encourage minority employment. I’m sure the ad chiefs have the same hiring motives as the vast majority of business executives...evaluating individuals on their merits. David Ganz New York, NY — New York, NY
>Throw another crutch out there for no-talent people who want to be hired on the basis of skin color. Diversity is a code word, folks. It’s just more high toned sounding. Let’s diversify the NBA. — Raleigh, NC
>This is political flim-flamming. Just like when they investigated minority representation in the entertainment biz. When you send in your portfolio, nobody knows what color you are. — Beverly Hills, CA
>I’m glad the city is finally doing something about diversity in the ad agency business. There is a conspicuous lack of black and Hispanic faces in the business. In addition, there is a lack of hiring women-owned and certified businesses for subcontracting. I’m tired of sitting through “diversity” meetings with large gov’t contractors who say they hire advertising and marketing subcontractors only to be faced with a big Mad Ave firm at the actual meeting who does not, in fact, do that. — NY, NY
This is a little late, but below are comments responding to Earl Graves Jr.’s recent rant on our racist industry (article appeared on AdAge.com and Essay 687 — click on the essay title above to review)…
>Bias Agencies Put Auto Companies At Risk. The Automotive Industry is dying because it has saturated two-thirds of the country and its revival and survival is dependent upon reaching ethnic minority car buyers. The industry is miss-targeting a third of its customers, and cannot reach this important market with White agencies. The auto industry should require companies it does business with to be as diverse as the customers they need to reach, similar to how they require auto suppliers to do business with minority suppliers. General market agencies have refused to provide the necessary research to track African American car buyers, and have virtually ignored them along with Second and Third generation Latinos and Asians. Ford and General Motors are particularly at risk, because they have no way of effectively reaching ethnic minority car buyers. Perhaps if they had the right research, they would market all their models to African Americans, who by the way, already buy all model lines. More “Madison Avenue” campaigns and bright ideas simply cannot revive these companies, because there are over 600 models competing for only 17 million vehicles annually. If these agencies supported media which struggles to serve the growing multicultural market, perhaps there would be more educated car buyers and the annual new vehicle sales volume would be 20 million. Then maybe auto companies would not be laying off employees, shutting down plants and putting suppliers out of business. The auto industry has no one to blame but itself for allowing these agencies to get away with their bigoted practices for so long. Randi Payton, CEO & President of On Wheels, Inc., which publishes African Americans On Wheels, Latinos On Wheels and Asians On Wheels magazines. — UPPER MARLBORO, MD
>Yes the ad industry is racist. We’ve known that for the last 7 decades. Now what are we in the African-American community going to do about it? (Yes, I’m Black.) The real problems is the fact the African-American consumers won’t stop buying product from brands that don’t advertise to them in their own media vehicles. Until that social issue is solved, outside of the ad community, we marketers to the African-American target won’t see any movement in the dollars being spent. It is almost as simple as that. In addition, African-American media outlets must invest in measurement tools. So that marketers will have no reason to deny the impact of the African-American audience. In the last ten years there simply has not been enough growth in the area of African-American marketing measurement and tracking versus the rest of the audiences being targeted. Period. How is it that African-Americans are the longest standing minority yet there is no record of our behavior patterns, purchase traits, etc.? I’m not buying that this can’t be done. No one has invested in it yet; and that is what is sad. I can find out the purchase habits, product ownership, viewing patterns and lifestyle of a pig farmer in rural Iowa (no offense to my Midwestern brethren) and put it in a database so that I know how many other pig farmers share his traits. I can also see this same segment in syndicated research and in white papers. Where are these same sources for African Americans? I challenge my counterparts in the African-American marketing arena to create these sources where they don’t currently exist. How is it that the entire industry has moved toward data driven segmentation, ROI, CRM, and database marketing, except for African-American media and agencies? Why aren’t the agencies that target and the media that serve the one of the most valuable segment in the U.S., if not globally, for trendsetters, tastemakers, and influencers actually investing in building out these services within their companies? Until African-American media and agencies actually take on this effort to build out the more data-driven marketing services and research that quantify the effect of the African-American audience — with projectable numbers and predictive analytics, client side marketers won’t embrace greater investment in targeting the audience. And we all know once client side marketers spend more money against the African-American market the hiring practices changing to add more people of color will change on the client side; which will result in the needed change within agencies for more people of color. Agencies reflect the culture of their clients first and foremost, so the change must start with the client-marketers' cultures, marketing and hiring practices and agencies will follow in lockstep. — New York, NY
>You see, it’s the Round Rock, TX comment on this comment page that is exactly the problem. He/she states that the CEO of B.E. runs a “racist organization.” So, because a magazine, TV/cable network, radio network or otherwise that targets and caters to the AA target, speaks their language has an emotional attachment to their community and their audience, THAT MAKES THEM A RACIST??? You know, Round Rock happens to be where Dell Computers resides. I’m hoping this comment is not from one of their employees with media placement responsibilities. A subpoena in Round Rock might be in order... — New York, NY
>Talk about playing the race card. It’s essentially saying, ‘We’re a black magazine and we want your money. If you don’t spend it here, then you're a racist.’ What? That type of attitude is inclined to have me tell my media buyers to buy from anyone but him just for kicking such a bad attitude about it. What a punk. — Suwanee, GA
>If, as Mr. Graves has said, they’ve “proven the net worth of [the black] segment” and clients still don’t want to pay for it, the sales message has been lost. If the black community only spends dollars with advertisers who support diversity the advertisers will listen. It’s all about business and doesn’t have to be regulated by the government. The black community has the power to effect change. Let’s get organized and see it happen. — Anchorage, AK
>Having been on both sides of the fence, in general market and ethnic agencies (as a “white” guy) i think that gm agencies on average are too lily white in their thinking and they do make the mistake that everybody’s white just with darker skin. This makes sense when you consider the privileged background that most ad people come from. Also there is a perception that ethnic agencies aren’t as strong as general market agencies. part of that is true, part of that is living up to diminished expectations. Of course you’re not going to attract as talented people when a large part of the work is adapting general market strategies. Oh put some spanish in it, put a black person in—they’ll love it. Funny thing is that african-american agencies are probably much larger racists than what you encounter in a general market agency. I’m not putting a value statement, it makes sense—why wouldn’t blacks in power feel a little hostile towards the white guy. Payback man. i love it when the numbers are bandied about and no digging behind them takes place. there are 9% AA’s in ad agencies—fewer in upper management, compared to 25% AA’s in New York. This makes sense. Why because if you look at where most of the ad industry gets their people—second tier kids of affluence (bain, goldman was just out of reach)—you would expect that blacks on average have less of an affluent class, and more kids who are trying to become wealthy. if you’re really hungry for success you don’t go into advertising. plus it’s hard to get in if you don’t have money because the internships don’t pay—how do expect to get a more representative slice of the population if you don’t pay your interns. i grew up lower middle-class, i never had an internship—i stumbled in because i knew someone who knew someone because i was at a top-notch school where people tend to be of a higher social class. i know that i’m different than most who grow up in my environment, but we can attract people from different social classes if the industry chose to change it’s pay structure. if it doesn’t—we’ll just continue to get second tier rich kids, and we will mover further and further away from the c-level suite planner — Chicago, IL
>I have been in this industry since 1974. There are still no African Americans hired in any creative, or management positions at any agency within the entire Knoxville and East Tennessee region. That is exactly why I had to start my own firm in 1979. It is criminal how these agencies across the country get away with this blatant discrimination and it is just now being called into check. Now they are running to the Hispanic market for cover! What really needs to be investigated is the amount of discrimination occurring now that young people especially are being required to apply for jobs only online! How smart! Now we don’t even get the opportunity to address racism face to face. — KNOXVILLE, TN
>Amen to Earl, Jr. who is echoing the sentiments of his dad and a host of black publishers going back to John Russworm and Samuel Cornish, publishers of America’s first black-owned newspaper, Freedom’s Journal, in 1827. Black Enterprise, Ebony, Jet and the more than 200 black-owned newspapers have survived, for the most part, in spite of this insidious institutional racism that repeats itself with each generation. I wonder if it begins in the university classroom where so many of the young hires are trained. Even among the African American execs, unless they are mentored by someone who knows the history, role and purpose of black-owned media, the mind-set remains the same. Just yesterday, our ad manager was told by a BET exec that black newspapers cannot fulfill there advertising needs. Yet, we are flooded with press releases and phone inquiries to cover and report on their events for our collective circulation of over 1 million readers. Our community reads Black Enterprise. We understand the importance of its continued existence and appreciate all of the news and information it continues to provide. It is not only an asset to its targeted market, but to every corporation that is truly committed to serving a diverse marketplace. Thanks to folks like Rev. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, members of the NAACP and a few informed local and national politicians, ad agencies have begun to examine themselves and are taking note of their discriminatory practices. The American Advertising Federation established the Mosaic Principles and Practices for Effective Advertising in the American Multicultural Marketplace (www.aaf.org/multi/principles.html, of which only a small number of corporations and advertising agencies have signed on as supporters). This entire effort was the result of Tom Joyner’s use of the airwaves to “call out” a New York ad agency following the release of a memo that contained a racist statement. In closing, I sent a letter to Earl Graves, Sr. congratulating him for naming his son his successor. In it I said, “I have two sons, ages 18 and 20, who represent the next generation of Black Enterprise readers. Black Enterprise lives on through them.” Earl, Jr. represents the next generation. As a representative of the generation that preceded him, I too am angry but have found a way to succeed in spite of the racism. My dad did it, Earl’s dad did it and he will, too. Denise Rolark Barnes, Publisher The Washington Informer www.washingtoninformer.com — Washington, DC
>This seems less like a cry for equality than a ploy to spend money advertising in his magazine. As a white kid growing up, it was drilled into my head that skin color doesn’t matter. Now he says that “they believe African-Americans and Latinos are white people in black skin,” Ummmm, okay, so I guess he’s telling me there’s deeper difference that a dumb-ass white boy will never understand. That’s lame. But that’s besides the point. I agree that the lack of diversity in ad agencies is an abomination. Especially on the creative side. I don’t get it. Blacks and latinos are more than represented in every other creative field. Why not advertising? — San Diego, CA
>Hmmm, the president-CEO of a racist organization states that the ad industry is racist. Go figure. — Round Rock, TX
>I think we really have to identify the African-American culture better. African-Americans in the U.S. are segmented similar to the Hispanic culture. Some are assimilated into the general market and some are acculturated. The only difference is that there isn’t a language to clearly define the segments. African-Americans recognize this, but because of our history have not really embraced it fully. Is racism still alive, of course, but I think there is more to this issue. If African-Americans clearly own and identify the distinction of assimilated vs. acculturated we can then communicate this to the advertising world. Capturing these segments could begin to bring better understanding on how media dollars should be spent to target African-Americans. We all know African-American spending is prevalent, but a deeper study on “who” is spending what among African-Americans is where it should start. For the future I hope we can begin to dissect the problems and educate one another. And for the record, I love Seinfeld one of the best shows ever! The Cosby Show has them beat though. Davaughnu Banks —Detroit, MI
>I have to say that this article definitely is the hard truth that I have come to know since I have been in the media field. I have worked at media agencies and am now at the only LA interconnect and I have to say if the problem isn’t racism then what is it? At present there is only one black woman in sales at my job now and that’s me. At present the powers that be have no intention of making me part of the actual sales team so I am left only one option. — Los Angeles, CA
>I’m a little “fuzzy” on Mr. Graves’ issue. Is it that media dollars are not targeted to blacks or is it that media dollars are not targeted to “black” owned media outlets? — New York, NY
>This is the problem. We worry how much money we spend on each market. If we keep thinking like this agencies are going to remain segregated. Hispanic, black, general market... That’s ridiculous! Tell the military, baseball and southern schools if they’re not better off with diversity. — Chicago, IL
Mistaken identity and more miscues in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The Washington Post continues its series titled, “Being a Black Man.” The latest installment relates the tale of Elias Fishburne, a hairdresser who landed in jail after being mistaken for a fugitive. Click on the essay title above to view the story.
• California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger denied the Bush administration’s request to send an additional 1,500 National Guard troops to the Mexican border. Schwarzenegger believes the action would have depleted the California Guard too drastically. He’s probably investigating sending Terminator units instead.
• Hate-crime convict Nicholas Minucci wants to say he’s sorry to his victim’s mother and even hang out with the victim. “Maybe we can meet one day, maybe one day we’ll play ball or go to a club together,” said Minucci during a recent interview. Minucci also is open to receiving jail visits from his victim. “I’d take him as a visitor. I’d definitely talk to him.” Um, don’t hold your breath.
• Black historian John Hope Franklin went on a rant over the alleged growing acceptance of the N-word. Franklin said, “When the N-word is used, it’s not a sign of sophistication or advancement. It’s a sign from my point of view of degradation. It’s a sign that you don’t have any respect for yourself and don’t have any respect for anybody else. … Treating me right involves respect, and respect involves proper courtesy and proper tribute to me and my ancestors.” Hey, maybe Franklin should visit Nick Minucci.
MultiCultClassics presents hard-core Hip Hop hype…
No, it’s not a parody ad. Crunk!!! Energy Drink is the real deal. Probably soon to be available in 40-ounce servings. It’s all the creation of Hip Hop artist Lil’ Jon, and the website leads to a variety of cool — or crunk — details. Click on the essay title above to check it out.
The following appeared in nationwide news sources…
Tinkering with voting rights
By Clarence Page
WASHINGTON -- A not-too-funny thing happened to the 1965 Voting Rights Act on its way to renewal in the House of Representatives: A real debate broke out.
The act has been protecting the voting rights of minorities for 41 years. Contrary to widespread and Internet-fed rumors, the fundamental right of minorities to vote is not in danger.
Some of the act’s more controversial enforcement provisions, however, must be reviewed and renewed by next year. Advocates are hoping for a 25-year extension.
No problem, thought leaders of the elephant party. After a stunning 33-1 landslide endorsement from the House Judiciary Committee, House Republican leaders expected easy passage for the measure.
House GOP leaders hoped to use the bill’s passage as a big election-year outreach to minority voters. This would have followed the noble tradition of the late Senate Republican Leader Everett M. Dirksen of Illinois, who helped push President Lyndon B. Johnson’s civil rights legislation to passage in the 1960s, despite opposition from Southern segregationist Democrats and Dixiecrats.
But House GOP leaders canceled their scheduled debate and vote Wednesday. A rebellion broke out, mainly over two issues: the law’s special requirements for the states of the old segregated South, and the law's requirements that foreign-language ballots and interpreters be provided in precincts where substantial numbers of voters are struggling with English.
That language issue is an odd spillover from the ongoing debate over illegal immigration and has no rational place in a debate about voting rights. After all, voters are citizens, regardless of their origins. Any assistance, linguistic or otherwise, that helps citizens exercise their right to vote should be applauded, not exploited by demagogues.
Even so, the English-only lawmakers provided new and unexpected allies for the defenders of states’ rights, bringing the House process to a screeching halt and complicating matters in the Senate, where Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) had planned to bring up an identical bill this coming week.
That’s OK. This country needs to have debates such as this every so often, so we can measure how much racial progress we have made as Americans and how we can best make more.
The 1965 Voting Rights Act’s most controversial provision requires nine states that have a documented history of poll taxes, literacy tests, voter intimidation and other discriminatory voting measures against minority voters to receive “pre-clearance” from the Department of Justice before they can make any changes in their election laws or procedures.
U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) became the point man in that argument, saying it was unfair to single out Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia in this day and age.
Yet, one need only peruse some of the approximately 1,000 cases upon which the Justice Department has acted since the Voting Rights Act was last renewed in 1982 to find plenty that has kept the department busy.
In 2001, for example, the all-white board of aldermen in Kilmichael, Miss., just happened to cancel the town’s local elections only three weeks before Election Day, just as it was becoming apparent that the town's first black mayor and council members might be elected. The aldermen, elected at large, wanted the delay so they could remap the town into districts, which would have protected some board seats held by whites. That wasn’t a good enough reason for the Justice Department, which rejected the change.
In 2003, election officials in suburban Harris County, outside Houston, failed to provide bilingual assistance to Vietnamese voters, who had grown to almost 2 percent of the county population. The Justice Department and Asian-American legal-aid organizations worked out an agreement that resulted in bilingual assistance and other reforms. In the wake of those changes, Harris County elected its first Vietnamese candidate, Democratic businessman Hubert Vo, to the Texas state legislature in November 2004.
Outside the South, you have cases such as the South Dakota gerrymander that packed Native Americans into one state legislative district to limit their political influence. Although the state ignored its obligation to submit voting changes for pre-clearance, the Voting Rights Act gave Indian residents the power they needed to sue the state in federal court, and in 2004, they won.
“The right to vote,” Thomas Paine once said, “is the primary right by which other rights are protected.” Indeed, democracy cannot survive if that right is not protected fully for every qualified voter.
The nine states designated by the act certainly are not the only sections of the country with a history for electoral shenanigans. But neither have the states been inconvenienced terribly, especially in comparison with the inconveniences minority voters suffered before the Voting Rights Act became law.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
The following appeared on AlterNet.com…
Rappers Aren’t Feeling Oprah’s Love
By Yvonne Bynoe
Ludacris was the first rapper to complain about Oprah. In the May 2006 issue of GQ, he said that Oprah only grudgingly invited him to her show because of his role in the Oscar-winning film “Crash.” Ludacris called Oprah “unfair” and said that she edited his comments and lectured him about his music.
Then 50 Cent -- the infamous crack dealer turned rap artist -- joined the fray, telling the Associated Press that Oprah rarely invites rap artists on her show. Revealing his disdain for what he characterized as Oprah’s older, female, and primarily white audience, he said, “[I] couldn’t care less about Oprah or her show.”
And now Ice Cube, the former frontman for controversial rap group N.W.A, has expressed his displeasure with Oprah. He told FHM magazine that he’s been involved with three projects that were pitched to Oprah but has yet to receive an invite. “Maybe Oprah’s got a problem with hip hop,” Ice Cube said.
But contrary to what Ludacris, 50 Cent and Ice Cube have implied, Oprah has had rap artists on her show, but her tastes lean more toward John Legend and Alicia Keys than to Lil Wayne and Trina. To promote the film “Barbershop,” Oprah invited rapper-actress Eve and comedian Cederic the Entertainer. Sean “P-Diddy” Combs was on before he ran the New York City marathon to raise money for local public schools. Incendiary rap artist-producer Kanye West, whose religious anthem “Jesus Walks” stirred up controversy among church folks, has also appeared on her show. Queen Latifah and LL Cool J have sat on Oprah’s stage. More importantly, rap artist-producer Missy Elliott and “queen of hip hop” Mary J. Blige were both part of Oprah’s Legends Weekend celebrating accomplished black women.
Earlier this month Oprah responded to her critics, explaining to MTV: “I respect other people’s rights to do whatever they want to do in music and art. ... I don’t want to be marginalized by music or any form of art. ... I feel rap is a form of expression, as is jazz. I’m not opposed to rap. I’m opposed to being marginalized as a woman.”
In case Oprah’s comments need some decoding, what she’s saying is she believes rap artists should be free to record songs that call women “bitches” and “hos,” and she should be equally free not to invite them on her show. Oprah does not have a problem with rap music -- she has a problem with rap that degrades women.
There’s a particular arrogance that permeates Ludacris, 50 Cent and Ice Cube’s statements, as if Oprah owes them a spot on her show. It’s Oprah who has issues by refusing to celebrate black men who’ve made millions by demeaning black women?
If songs such as Ludacris’ “Move Bitch” or NWA’s “A Bitch Iz A Bitch” are not Oprah’s cup of tea, then why should she be obligated to give them a platform? It doesn’t seem to occur to these black men (or their supporters) that Oprah has the right not to use her show -- which is seen by 21 million viewers a week in 105 countries -- to promote performers whose work she feels is misogynistic or offensive. Oprah may not be kicking any black feminist credentials, but rather than blindly using her influence to “help the brothers,” she is choosing not to support black entertainers whose work denies the humanity of black women.
The main focus of this brouhaha is not hip hop or rap, but the commercially successful subset of these genres that has transformed the public image of black women from flygirls to bitches, tricks, ‘hos and chickenheads. This is the same sector of hip hop that has mainstreamed stripper culture, reduced the value of women to their body parts (remember Nelly’s music video “Tip Drill?”) and mocked the importance of love.
Rap shouldn’t be banned or censored, but if living in an open society means that performers are free to express themselves, then that same freedom of expression must be extended to folks who aren’t feeling it. Unfortunately, among black Americans there is little substantive debate about how popular culture affects our communities; any criticism of rap music, however slight or legitimate, is routinely dismissed as “hating.”
In early 2004, Motivational Education Entertainment (MEE), a Philadelphia communications firm, released a nationwide study of 2,000 “urban” teens. The authors of the study concluded that, overall, the teens in their survey believed “black females are valued by no one.”
The vast majority of the teens received their perceptions about life from the rap they regularly consumed. The study states that one of the most relevant changes in the hip hop generation (from their civil rights and black power movement predecessors) is an open disdain for black women. It makes perfect sense, then, that Oprah would not want to even indirectly advance messages that negatively impact young black women.
In his FHM interview, Ice Cube claims he deserves an invite to Oprah’s show because of his “rags-to-riches story.” Sure, Ice Cube has made millions -- but his success was founded on songs like NWA’s “One Less Bitch,” and the extremely raunchy “Giving Up the Nappy Dugout” (a solo release).
What Ice Cube fails to understand is that Oprah herself is the prototype for the “rags to riches” stories she highlights on her show; her life has been much more dramatic than those of many rap artists. She grew up dirt-poor in rural Mississippi to unwed parents. At age 9 -- and repeatedly thereafter -- she was sexually abused by a relative. She endured years of bad relationships, drug addictions, weight problems, and a career-changing demotion that moved her from her news anchor seat to co-hosting a morning talk show.
Oprah credits her fortune to education and faith; her shows reflect her strong belief in self-transformation. For over 20 years, Oprah has featured “success” stories on her show. Most of these have been women who became influential through perseverance and creativity, as well as people who have overcome adversity, tragedy or abuse to create richer lives for themselves, their families or communities. For Oprah, success is not predicated on amassing large sums of money; it is based on the contribution a person makes to improving his or her world.
Oprah has her detractors, mainly because she uses her show to promote the subjects she cares about. Implicit in all of the criticism from rap artists is the idea that because Oprah is black, she is expected to push every black entertainer’s latest film or album, regardless of her opinion. The underlying sentiment is that if she is unwilling to set aside her values, then she can’t be down for black people.
This position assumes that what is good for black entertainers is good for all black folks -- a highly arguable notion. There are many media outlets that expose U.S. rap artists to the global marketplace. But Oprah is virtually alone in her ability, through her selection of guests, to provide the world with a broader view of black Americans and their achievements. For black women, who are so commonly equated with the stereotypes of half-naked, gyrating women found in rap music videos, an opposing portrayal is welcome.
If the brothers feel they need more media visibility, they should use their millions to finance their own talk shows, instead of jocking Oprah Winfrey.
Yvonne Bynoe is the author of two books: “Stand & Deliver: Political Activism, Leadership and Hip Hop Culture” and the “Encyclopedia of Rap and Hip Hop Culture.” She is also a regular panelist on the National Public Radio program News & Notes with Ed Gordon.
Back to school with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The Sotheby’s auction is off. The Martin Luther King Jr. collection of papers and books (pictured above) will go to Morehouse College, thanks to the efforts of a group led by Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin. The group reportedly bought it all for over $30 million. “I can’t imagine a better home than the home of Dr. King for this collection,” said a Sotheby’s official. “It was there for years, it’s going to be there forever. I think that’s a marvelous conclusion to this extraordinary process. It guarantees that it will be looked after properly and made available to the public.” It might have been interesting to watch the auction proceed. Wonder if Oprah or Diddy would have stepped forward to nab a few pieces.
• PETA is petitioning Webster’s Dictionary to revise the word “circus” to “animal cruelty.” A PETA member explained, “As more people become aware of the cruelty and violence that goes on behind the scenes [at circuses], the definition needs to be updated.” Not sure how kids will respond to Disney’s JoJo’s Animal Cruelty. Or how about Animal Cruelty du Soleil?
• The Border Patrol Academy in New Mexico is the place to be for wannabe agents, where cadets learn to shoot weapons, make vehicle stops and speak Spanish (pictured below). The training is not easy, as only 1 in 30 applicants successfully completes the program. There’s definitely material for a reality TV show or sitcom here.
MultiCultClassics rolls with Cars & Colored Folks…
This looks like an example of what happens when the Black agency must take the general-market ad and create a targeted message. The end result isn’t old school — it’s just old. At least the art director didn’t go with a graffiti-style font.
Friday, June 23, 2006
The following appeared on Datelinehollywood.com…
POLICE FEAR OPRAH-RAPPERS FEUD COULD SPIRAL OUT OF CONTROL
Hollywood — The bad blood between Oprah Winfrey and rappers Ice Cube, Ludacris and 50 Cent has led police to call for a peace summit in a desperate effort to stop the violence.
In the latest incident, Ice Cube was fired on at a house party in South Beach, Florida over the weekend. The rapper was not seriously hurt, but a bullet did graze his right shoulder. Ice Cube told police that he spotted a fat, bald man with a mustache, holding a gun, and running out of the house right after the shooting.
“I didn’t get a long look, but it was enough to convince me that it was Dr. Phil,” said Ice Cube. “Everyone knows Dr. Phil is super tight with Oprah. She wants a war. She’s going to get a war!”
Ice Cube and fellow rappers Ludacris and 50 Cent have recently attacked Oprah for refusing to book hip-hop acts on her influential talkshow. After the public criticism, the violence suddenly erupted.
50 Cent, who prides himself on having been shot nine times and surviving the ordeal, was shot another seven times last month while coming out of a hip-hop radio station in New York City. After the shooting, 50 Cent went to a record-signing party, a late dinner with a few close friends, a nightcap at a local strip club before his bodyguards drove him to a hospital to be treated for the gunshot wounds. Ice Cube is said to be in great condition.
“In that case, witnesses say the shooter was a woman,” said Det. William Markey of the NYPD. “Some say she shouted, ‘How do you like us now, bitch?!’ We have one witness who says she looked like Gayle King, who is Oprah’s closest friend. We’re still looking into that, but we haven’t been able to confirm that.”
Oprah’s longtime boyfriend, Steadman Graham, became a victim of an apparent retaliation two weeks ago when he was attacked outside Lantana, a restaurant on Lake Michigan Drive in Chicago.
“He was on the sidewalk, waiting for the valet guy to bring him his car when the incident happened,” said Courtney Giffin, a spokesperson for Graham. “He was suddenly hit three times by three different cars that drove up onto the sidewalk. We don’t think it’s a coincidence that all three cars were Pontiac G6s , the same cars Oprah gave to her audience a couple of years ago.”
Steadman is still at Chicago Memorial Hospital recovering from serious injuries.
Police agencies in several cities have called on Oprah and the rappers to attend a peace summit next month.
“We’re not going to attend this peace summit,” said Ice Cube and 50 Cent in a written statement. “This isn’t over.”
Oprah has made no comment about the incidents, but Ludacris has backed off his threats and says he plans on attending the peace summit.
“I’ve dealt with a lot of crazy, violent people in my time,” said Ludacris. “These shootings have been happening, but Oprah hasn’t said a word about it yet. Can you imagine what would happen to me if Oprah told her audience to go after me. I’d have 50 million crazy bitches hunting me down. No way!”
According to an insider, Ludacris decided to back off after watching a recent episode of Oprah where she gave away free items to her audience.
“It was one of those special episodes, Oprah’s Favorite Things,” said the insider. “Although she made no reference to her feud, most of the favorite things she gave away were semi-automatic guns, grenades and rifles.”
School daze in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The Washington Post continues its series titled, “Being a Black Man.” The latest installment highlights two star athletes and their lives in Washington’s Ballou Senior High School (pictured above). “My whole thing is to change the stereotype of people in Southeast,” said one of the featured students. “We wanted people to say that good, intelligent, athletic students come out of Ballou.” Click on the essay title above to check it out.
• Congratulations to Shaelon Wright of Queens, New York, who was selected to receive a free college education and eight years of mentoring courtesy of “The Boule” — a low-profile fraternity comprised of some of the biggest Black professional men in the country. “I don’t know why I was chosen,” Wright said. “I think it was because I am hard-working and do a lot of extracurricular activities. And I’m lucky, too.” Past members of “The Boule” include Martin Luther King Jr., Arthur Ashe and W.E.B. DuBois. So Wright’s probably being a tad humble in saying he’s lucky.
• USA Today reported a new study reveals dropout rates are up in big-city schools nationwide. The story stated, “Students in a handful of big-city school districts have a less than 50-50 chance of graduating from high school with their peers, and a few cities graduate far fewer than half each spring… Among the nation’s 50 largest districts, the study finds, three graduate fewer than 40%: Detroit (21.7%), Baltimore (38.5%) and New York City (38.9%).” Somebody needs to spend more time promoting the kids at Ballou and Shaelon Wright.
• A new report showed teens are dropping soft drinks in favor of coffee-laced refreshment, sports drinks and water. In fact, about 25 percent of teens are apparently too through with sugary soft drinks, seeking to maintain healthier, buff physiques. The other 75 percent are probably part of the alleged obesity epidemic.
• Western Union has taken heat over the years for charging so much to Mexicans making money transfers. But according to a news report, “Western Union executives will sign a contract with immigrant leaders and the governor of Michoacan in Chicago on Saturday to help bankroll enterprises in that Mexican state organized by immigrant clubs in the U.S.” It’s all part of the company’s goal to give back to its highly profitable customers, who sent about $20 billion to Mexico in 2005. But not everyone is buying it. “It’s a sellout,” said the president of the Hispanic Council in Bensenville, Illinois. “This company is trying to buy us off, but they need to make amends first by changing their fundamental business practices. That’s the only way we are going to be friends again.” Don’t hold your breath waiting for Western Union to wire a reply to that statement.
• Canada is poised to apologize to its Chinese citizens for charging a “head tax” over a century ago. Tens of thousands of Chinese were taxed to stay in the country and bring their kin — even though the people were helping to build Canada’s railroad system. The Chinese community has long sought a formal apology and compensation for survivors and their families. Just don’t ask the Canadian government to wire the cash via Western Union.
The following appeared in The Chicago Tribune…
Singleton: Greenlight people of color
By Patrick Goldstein
Tribune Newspapers: Los Angeles Times
In Hollywood, to paraphrase the old James Brown song, it’s a white, white, very white world. Sometimes, when I sit in on a production meeting or visit a movie set or have lunch at the Grill, I’m struck by the fact that in an industry with an ever-growing roster of African-American and Latino actors and filmmakers, the odds of my seeing a black or Latino executive are about as good as seeing a studio chief pumping gas at a truck stop in Wyoming.
Having made movies about multiethnic subjects his entire career, both as a hit director (“Boyz N the Hood,” “Four Brothers” and “2 Fast 2 Furious”) as well as a producer (“Hustle & Flow”), John Singleton knows exactly what it’s like to pitch an idea that revolves around people of color to a roomful of white executives. “Basically, the American studio structure is the same as it’s been since Louis B. Mayer and Jack Warner ran the business,” he says. “This is not one of these businesses run by affirmative action. In Hollywood, affirmative action is all about -- how much money can you make?”
After his success bankrolling “Hustle & Flow” with his own money, Singleton is rolling the dice again, having earned a rare opportunity to bypass the stodgy studio greenlighting process and make the kind of movies that reflect an increasingly diverse country. Singleton and Universal Pictures are announcing this week that Universal will market and distribute five films financed and produced by Singleton. Each made for less than $15 million, the films will be distributed either by Universal or its Focus and Rogue divisions. The importance of the deal is that the studio has agreed to release the finished pictures; all the creative decisions are made by Singleton.
1st project now filming
The first film in Universal’s agreement with Singleton’s New Deal Productions is “Illegal Tender,” a family drama about a young man and his mother who try to escape the drug-fueled violence of their old neighborhood in the Bronx. Directed by Franc Reyes, it is now filming in New York and Puerto Rico. Singleton is providing the funding for the $8 million picture, while lining up money for future projects.
It’s clear that the new slate of films will reflect Singleton’s interests as a filmmaker, which have evolved from such personal projects as “Rosewood” to more genre-oriented films such as “Four Brothers” and “Shaft.” “If you make a movie for less than $15 million with the right genre elements and a young, multiethnic cast, you can make a nice profit,” he says. “These aren’t movies where people are sitting around talking all the time. Franc’s film is a lot like ‘Scarface,’ but with a Latino mother and son. It’s got a lot of heart, but Franc jokes that whenever he sees me, I’m going, ‘Can’t we have more guns in this shot?’”
Singleton says he approached Paramount Pictures, which released “Hustle & Flow,” but the studio wasn’t interested in a deal. Universal was a perfect fit, not only because the studio has already made a number of multiethnic pictures, but also because Singleton has a close relationship with new Universal Chairman Marc Shmuger.
“I’ve known Marc for 16 years, and I consider him a friend,” Singleton says. In fact, “Boyz N the Hood” was the first picture Shmuger worked on when he came to Sony in 1991 as an advertising executive. When Shmuger later moved to Universal, he worked with Singleton on “2 Fast 2 Furious.”
“From the very beginning of his career, John has crossed over to all kinds of audiences,” Shmuger says. “He’s always stood out as someone who’s not only in touch with the youth culture, but who has a great eye for casting and finding new talent. It’s no secret that our industry is badly in need of discovering fresh actors and filmmakers, and we expect that John will be a bridge to help us connect with them.”
Shmuger is especially excited about reaching the Latino audience, which he says is the fastest-growing demographic in the country. (Latinos were a big force behind “Nacho Libre's” $27.5 million opening this past weekend.) “They way over-index for moviegoing, so they’re going to be an increasingly big force in pop culture. They come to the broad-based movies we make, but we haven’t been successfully focused on creating the movies that speak to them, which is what John’s trying to do.”
The problem, as Singleton sees it, is that Hollywood isn’t always comfortable with new faces from unfamiliar cultures. Reyes’ last film, “Empire,” was a low-budget hit in 2002. But he hasn’t directed a film since. When I asked Singleton why, he answered: “He’s almost 6 feet tall, he’s Puerto Rican and he’s opinionated. Being Puerto Rican has made it tougher for him, no doubt.”
Wouldn’t Hollywood do a better job of creating movies that speak to this multiethnic audience if the studio executive suites weren’t so lily white? It’s an especially embarrassing question for the film industry, which is full of supporters of all sorts of progressive causes, but when it comes to hiring people of color, betrays a huge gap between its ideals and its actions.
“Forget about what’s right, if you’re dealing with a pop culture that’s so driven by Latinos and African-Americans, you’d think it would just be good practice to have people of color in those jobs,” says Spike Lee, who’s been a longtime advocate of improved Hollywood minority hiring practices. “But when they are making the big decisions, about greenlighting movies and TV shows, we’re not participating.
“I’ve been meeting with executives who can make movies for 20 years, and I’ve never sat across the table from someone who looked like me. When I do see a young black face, I think -- did they pull ‘em in from the mailroom? It’s like they have someone in a glass case on the shelf that says, ‘Break the glass in case Spike Lee comes into the room!’”
A survey of African-American or Latino production executives at a vice president level or higher found one executive each at 20th Century Fox, New Line and Paramount, none at Universal, Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures. After three days of trying, I couldn’t get an answer out of Disney’s corporate publicity staff, so I’m guessing they’re at zero, too. Whenever I would ask studio chiefs for an explanation, there was usually a long, awkward silence.
Some executives believe progress is being made, even if it is painfully slow. “I think if you look at our company or at the talent agencies, you’re starting to see more faces of color,” says New Line production chief Toby Emmerich. “This certainly isn’t something that's under the radar with our human resources department.”
In the music business, black artists and producers have successfully made the leap to running record labels, including Diddy, Dr. Dre, L.A. Reid, Jermaine Dupri and Jay-Z. Singleton sees Jay-Z as an intriguing role model.
“I want to do for the movie business what Jay-Z did in the music business,” he says. “He’s the guy everyone goes to for guidance, which is a role I want to embrace, being a godfather to a new generation of filmmakers.”