Saturday, March 31, 2007
Sorry stories in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• In Richmond, Virginia, a slavery memorial was unveiled on Friday. A bronze sculpture of hugging figures is encircled by three benches resembling wooden ship planks, while a nearby deck spans a fountain designed to symbolize the Atlantic crossing made by Africans. “Virginia was not an innocent bystander in the matter of slavery,” said Gov. Timothy Kaine. “Some expression of apology or regret is natural.” So please accept this memorial in lieu of reparations.
• Circuit City is offering no apologies about firing its slaves, um, workers. On Wednesday, the retailer proceeded to cut 3,600 employees, announcing the company was dumping higher-paid folks and replacing them with cheaper laborers. The higher-paid employees were even being told they could be rehired at lower wages. So now customers can look to find cheap products and cheap sales help too.
• A study by the Washington-based National Community Reinvestment Coalition revealed most U.S. cities have a lot less bank branches in working-class and minority areas than in upper-class and White neighborhoods. “Home loans that originate at bank branches, rather than through brokers or other channels, tend to have a lower likelihood of being high-cost,” said the coalition, citing a Federal Reserve study. “If banks increase their branches in minority and working-class neighborhoods, it is likely that community residents will have more access to affordable and market-rate home loans.” So you can take that to the bank. Unless you live in working-class or minority communities.
• The University of Illinois alerted retailers that Chief Illiniwek merchandise will no longer be available after April 16; plus, all remaining stock must be sold by June 15. Guess you could call it a “Going Out of Bigotry Sale.”
Friday, March 30, 2007
Runaway news with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Jennifer Wilbanks, the infamous “Runaway Bride,” inspired a recruitment campaign for New Mexico police (see above). “We’re hoping to get 1,100 officers, and this is a unique way to recruit,” said a police official. “I’m sure I’m going to get some harassment [for producing the ad].” What’s next, celebrity endorsements from the cast of Reno 911?
• The Game looks like a runaway rapper, as the recording artist failed to appear for court in Manhattan yesterday. The rapper is facing charges of impersonating a cop so he could convince a taxicab driver to run through red lights (see Essay 1574). Maybe he should apply for a job with the police in New Mexico.
From The New York Times…
Uncle Ben, Board Chairman
By STUART ELLIOTT
A racially charged advertising character, who for decades has been relegated to a minor role in the marketing of the products that still carry his name, is taking center stage in a campaign that gives him a makeover — Madison Avenue style — by promoting him to chairman of the company.
The character is Uncle Ben, the symbol for more than 60 years of the Uncle Ben’s line of rices and side dishes now sold by the food giant Mars. The challenges confronting Mars in reviving a character as racially fraught as Uncle Ben were evidenced in the reactions of experts to a redesigned Web site (unclebens.com), which went live this week.
“This is an interesting idea, but for me it still has a very high cringe factor,” said Luke Visconti, partner at Diversity Inc. Media in Newark, which publishes a magazine and Web site devoted to diversity in the workplace.
“There’s a lot of baggage associated with the image,” Mr. Visconti said, which the makeover “is glossing over.”
Uncle Ben, who first appeared in ads in 1946, is being reborn as Ben, an accomplished businessman with an opulent office, a busy schedule, an extensive travel itinerary and a penchant for sharing what the company calls his “grains of wisdom” about rice and life. A crucial aspect of his biography remains the same, though: He has no last name.
Vincent Howell, president for the food division of the Masterfoods USA unit of Mars, said that because consumers described Uncle Ben as having “a timeless element to him, we didn’t want to significantly change him.”
“What’s powerful to me is to show an African-American icon in a position of prominence and authority,” Mr. Howell said. “As an African-American, he makes me feel so proud.”
[Click on the essay title above to read the full story.]
Damn, if the 4As can’t even retain its Diversity Guru, how can the organization hope to reform the industry? Check out this story from Target Market News…
Don Richards joins JobPlex as executive vice president and diversity leader
JobPlex has announced the addition of Don Richards, Executive Vice President and Diversity Practice Leader to the Chicago, IL office. Don has thirty-five years experience in the advertising agency industry, working both in Account Management and in Diversity Management.
Prior to joining JobPlex, Don spent two years as Senior Vice President, Agency Diversity Programs at the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA), where he worked closely with member advertising agencies on both workforce and supplier diversity initiatives. He also spent two years at the Screen Actors Guild as Associate National Director of Diversity.
Previously, during his twenty-one year tenure at Leo Burnett USA in Chicago, he worked his way up through the Account Management Department to become Vice President, Account Supervisor. Don was the company’s first African-American Vice President. He continued on as Senior Vice President, Director of Resource Development, developing and implementing strategies to identify, hire and retain minority professionals as well as developing strategies to increase the agency’s utilization of minority suppliers.
Additional advertising agency experience includes six years as Senior Vice President, Management Supervisor and member of the Board of Directors at Marschalk Advertising in New York City, supervising a number of client businesses including brands from the Coca-Cola Company, Heublein, Inc. and Stroh’s and six years at DDB Needham in Chicago as Senior Vice President, Management Representative on several Anheuser-Busch brands.
Don earned both his Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees at the University of Chicago.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
“Mi blog es tu blog: Notas y netas de este planeta” is the title of a terrific blog by Laura Martinez. A bilingual journalist and editor, Martinez originally served as the founder and editor in chief of Marketing y Medios, the premier trade magazine on the Hispanic market from the publishers of Adweek. Media conglomerate VNU made the asinine decision to drop Marketing y Medios in 2006. But Martinez continues to bring fresh, spirited and insightful perspectives via her blog. Click on the essay title above to check it out — and visit often for enlightenment and entertainment.
Oxymorons and regular morons in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• A new Kaiser Family Foundation study showed kids between the ages of 8 to 12 are hit with about 21 TV advertisements for food every day. Also, half of the ads on children’s programs hawk food items. “The vast majority of the foods that kids see advertised on television today are for products that nutritionists would tell us they need to be eating less of, not more of,” said a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. Some advertisers protested the findings. “If you look across our portfolio in our marketing, less than 1 percent of our total marketing dollars are toward children’s marketing,” said the vice president for health and wellness at PepsiCo. “If you look at us companywide, that’s not a huge effort that we spend toward marketing to children. We focus more of our ads on adults.” Not sure about the credibility of anyone with the oxymoron title of vice president for health and wellness at PepsiCo.
• Mark April 17 as the day that the rights to O.J. Simpson’s “If I Did It” book will be auctioned off. Auction proceeds and subsequent profits will go to the Goldman family. If the Goldmans want to really cash in, they’ll turn the event into a realty TV show. The working title could be: “If I Bid It.”
• Delta Zeta, the sorority charged with dumping unattractive and unpopular members, is now suing DePauw University for the school’s decision to cut the organization from campus (see Essay 1834). The ladies allege the university broke promises and contracts, defamed them and interfered with their business. What a bunch of high-maintenance divas.
From The Associated Press…
Black Aviators to Be Honored by Congress
By DARLENE SUPERVILLE
WASHINGTON — Six decades after completing their World War II mission and coming home to a country that discriminated against them because they were black, the Tuskegee Airmen are getting high honors from Congress.
That gratitude will be expressed Thursday when the legendary black aviators will receive a Congressional Gold Medal during a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda. The award is the most prestigious Congress can offer.
“It’s never too late for your country to say that you’ve done a great job for us,” Ret. Col. Elmer D. Jones, 89, of Arlington, Va., said in an interview. Jones was a maintenance officer during the war.
President Bush, members of Congress and other dignitaries are expected to join some 300 airmen, widows and relatives.
Ret. Lt. Col. Walter L. McCreary, who was shot from the sky during a mission in October 1994 and held prisoner for nine months in Germany, said it hurt that the group had not been honored for its accomplishments.
“We took it in stride. It’s a recognition long overdue,” said McCreary, also 89, of Burke, Va.
The Tuskegee Airmen were recruited into an Army Air Corps program that trained blacks to fly and maintain combat aircraft. President Roosevelt had overruled his top generals and ordered that such a program be created.
But even after they were admitted, many commanders continued to believe the Tuskegee Airmen didn’t have the smarts, courage and patriotism to do what was being asked of them.
Nearly 1,000 fighter pilots trained as a segregated unit at a Tuskegee, Ala., air base. Not allowed to practice or fight with their white counterparts, the Tuskegee Airmen distinguished themselves from the rest by painting the tails of their airplanes red, which led to them becoming known as the “Red Tails.”
Hundreds saw combat throughout Europe, the Mediterranean and North Africa, escorting bomber aircraft on missions and protecting them from the enemy. Dozens died in the fighting; others were held prisoners of war.
It long had been thought that the Tuskegee Airmen had amassed a perfect record of losing no bombers to the enemy during World War II. But new research has cast doubt on that theory.
Two historians recently said Air Force records and other documents show that at least a few bombers escorted by the Tuskegee pilots were downed by enemy planes. A former World War II bomber pilot said last year that his plane was shot down while escorted by the unit.
Congress has awarded gold medals to more than 300 individuals and groups since giving the first one to George Washington in 1776. Originally, they went only to military leaders, but Congress broadened the scope to include authors, entertainers, notables in science and medicine, athletes, humanitarians, public servants and foreign officials.
Other black recipients include singer Marian Anderson, athletes Joe Louis, Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson, civil rights activists Roy Wilkins, Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, the Little Rock Nine, Rosa Parks and Dorothy Height, and statesmen Nelson Mandela of South Africa and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
The actual medal for the airmen, made possible through legislation by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., will go to the Smithsonian Institution for display. Individual airmen will receive bronze replicas.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Luis Clemens is a freelance writer whose work often focuses on Hispanic marketing and media. His stuff has appeared in numerous news sources, including Marketing y Medios and Multichannel.com. After a long absence, Clemens has restarted his blog, Clemenseando: A Hack’s Observations on Hispanic Marketing and Media. Click on the essay title above to check it out.
Unlocking the restraints in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Walt Disney Company is debating unlocking its 1946 film “Song of the South.” The movie has never been released on video in the U.S., as critics contend it features racist stereotypes of Southern plantation Blacks. But Disney President and CEO Bob Iger said folks are reconsidering releasing the picture. “The question of ‘Song of the South’ comes up periodically, in fact it was raised at last year’s annual meeting,” said Iger. “And since that time, we’ve decided to take a look at it again because we’ve had numerous requests about bringing it out. Our concern was that a film that was made so many decades ago being brought out today perhaps could be either misinterpreted or that it would be somewhat challenging in terms of providing the appropriate context.” Ain’t nobodys gonna fuss ‘bout it no mo, boss.
• The King unlocked the cages at Burger King. The company announced it will only deal with suppliers who do not keep animals caged or crated. Ironically, the typical BK employee continues to feel like they’re working in a cage.
From The New York Daily News…
Hil’s awkward closeup
YouTube ad touched a chord because, unlike Obama, she’s cursed to be cold on camera
By Stanley Crouch
We appear to be entering a vastly new and significantly dangerous world of Internet politics. We are all aware of the old cliché of never believing anything you read, but that suspicion must now be extended to high-tech media communication.
Last week, Paul de Vellis was found to be the creator of an unofficial Web advertisement for Barack Obama that, parodying Apple Computer’s famous “1984” ad, depicted Hillary Clinton as a kind of totalitarian monster in the mold of George Orwell’s “Big Brother.” Almost 2 million people saw the spot, which ended by asking viewers to visit BarackObama.com.
The culprit proudly confessed his act of electronic mischief to Arianna Huffington and posted a note on her blog. His point, he said, was that politics was changing and that the average citizen will have a bigger influence on things in the future.
Given the uncountable number of loons who can operate personal computers, that fact creates an inarguable contemporary truth: Like everything else, this can be as bad as good. DeVellis, the citizen-consultant, reminded us of something that focus-group-tested TV commercials never could: For some unexplainable reason, the electronic mass media invariably serve up Clinton as an ice queen but project and perhaps enhance Obama’s warmth.
Hollywood’s liberal and limousine brigade understands this — just as it noticed the fact that Bill Clinton removed the redneck stigma of a Southern accent and made it no more than a regional sound.
Anyone who has had the revealing experience of first seeing a speech of Sen. Clinton’s in person and then watching it on the evening news or C-SPAN knows this much: The junior senator from New York has a problem as great as the shadow of her husband. That problem is not her hairdo or whether she will get an eye job. It is monumental: Television cameras seem to hate her and rob her of what is, in person, considerable charisma.
In other words, everyone knows Clinton has trouble connecting through mass media. But it took a crafty commercial on YouTube to write that problem in capital letters.
That said, for all the power of imagery, there is one very great danger in charisma — one that is enhanced by electronic media. It is this: We all need to pay much, much closer attention to details and the ideas behind the screen to make sure that we are not caught holding the bag for someone we, when informed, would love much less than the camera does. In the search for “authenticity” — no more than a fast-food cliché this election cycle — we must not fall prey to yet another form of slickness.
If we are careful, we can learn how to live with this latest development in our culture, just as we learned how to live with all of those things that entered our lives before this moment. The world will be changed quite surely — but we need not be taken in by the superficial.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
From the Letters To The Editor section in the latest issue of Advertising Age…
We set the trends, but we’re underrepresented
RE: “Being Black on Mad Ave.: Tales From Young and Old” (AA, March 19).
This is always a great topic in the midst of America’s denial of racism. I am an advertising creative (black American) and let me tell you, yes, it is tough getting in and even tougher rising to the top. But is it different in any other industry? The answer is probably not.
I feel we are not grooming the next wave of kids properly or doing enough to pique their interest about the ad game until it’s too late—Erika Emeruwa, for instance, didn’t get hip to the game until college.
The most puzzling part of advertising and its exclusion of black people on the agency side—both creative and account (although there are more account people)—is that the trendsetters are black. So to be hip and cool and able to talk to the targeted millennials you’d think there’d be an influx of hip, in-the-know, cool black kids into shops, right? Wrong as calling dreadlocks braids.
Instead I’ve had middle-aged white dudes who don’t get out much tell me I’m not black enough. It’s such a good-ol’-boys club that I’m glad the dinosaurs are dying.
Here’s to letting the ideas flow on the basis of great creative and brilliant strategy and people with kick-ass hair.
The revolution will not be televised; it will be publicized.
Santa Monica, Calif.
Sign of the times in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The city’s teachers union in Newark, New Jersey has sparked controversy with a billboard campaign urging citizens to “Stop the killings” (pictured above). The mayor and local businesses want the signs taken down, arguing that the messages hurt business. Newark has a high homicide rate, and the campaign is intended to bring attention to the issue. “I think we have a serious problem,” said the president of the Newark Teachers Union. “It’s about people dying.” In other words, if you try to take down the signs, you might get killed.
• Citigroup is planning to kill about 15,000 jobs, according to the Wall Street Journal. However, Citigroup officials won’t confirm anything. The company’s chairman and chief executive said, “We are going to announce the results of our strategic structural review on or before our earnings announcement on April 16.” Which means 15,000 may have to amend the employment status on their tax forms.
• Eminem and his ex-wife have agreed to stop publicly dissing each other. During a court hearing on Monday, the two decided their verbal feuding could be harmful to their 11-year-old daughter. Look for the ex-Mrs. Mathers to erect billboards soon.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Here’s an article from Adweek.com. A brief MultiCultClassics response immediately follows…
Diversity Rewrites Prime-time Script
By A.J. Frutkin/Mediaweek
NEW YORK Music snobs may be miffed that 17-year-old Sanjaya Malakar has stayed afloat on Fox’s American Idol. But his continued presence on the program underscores a profound truth about that show and other non-scripted programs this season.
From Idol to CBS’ Survivor to The CW’s America’s Next Top Model, reality offers viewers a level of onscreen diversity that remains unmatched on the scripted side.
Of course, casting scripted and nonscripted shows is vastly different.
Scripted series demand talent from actors, whereas nonscripted programs often hinge more on personality from cast members. And when acting talent is removed from the casting mix, “you have the entire U.S. population to choose from,” said Peter Golden, evp of talent and casting at CBS. White, black or otherwise, Golden said finding the right actor for the right role is a much more challenging process. “You’re looking for people with the skill to deliver certain characters, and very often with the strength to carry an entire series on their backs,” he said.
If a scripted show doesn’t call for diversity, it can be challenging to change the creator’s vision. Nonscripted shows, on the other hand, purposely throw strangers together. They virtually require variety. In the happiest of results, it’s effortless. That is the case of America’s Next Top Model, where The CW doesn’t even have to recruit ethnic contestants.
“Because our audience is so diverse, when we put out a casting call, the people who show up reflect that diversity,” said Jennifer Bresnan, svp of alternative programming at The CW. “And when you have a diverse group of people show up to a casting session, there’s no way you can’t cast a diverse group of girls.”
Not all shows are so lucky. CBS took enormous heat earlier this season for splitting the cast of Survivor: Cook Islands into four ethnic groups: African Americans, Asians, Caucasians and Latinos. But finding contestants to fill each of those teams forced the network’s casting department to aggressively recruit within those ethnic communities.
Whether “grabbing people off the street,” as Golden said, or advertising on ethnic Web sites, CBS helped establish recruitment policies that likely will be used to funnel diverse casts into other reality programs.
And advertisers are looking for those casts. “If you’re marketing to everybody, you want to reach everybody,” said Shari Anne Brill, vp, director of programming at Carat. “The more the cast of a TV show reflects what America looks like, the better the opportunity to draw all types of diverse audiences.”
Adweek almost completely ignores the advertising industry’s diversity issues, yet presents a story on the topic as it pertains to reality TV programs. If Donald Trump were rating the publication’s diversity reporting, he’d probably proclaim, “Adweek, you’re fired.”
Check out this bizarre excerpt: “Scripted series demand talent from actors, whereas nonscripted programs often hinge more on personality from cast members. And when acting talent is removed from the casting mix, ‘you have the entire U.S. population to choose from…’”
What’s the implication — that minorities don’t have the talent to compete in scripted series?
Here’s another gem: “‘If you’re marketing to everybody, you want to reach everybody,’ said Shari Anne Brill, vp, director of programming at Carat. ‘The more the cast of a TV show reflects what America looks like, the better the opportunity to draw all types of diverse audiences.’”
Gee, wonder if anyone will apply that theory to Madison Avenue — that is, the more the staff of an advertising agency reflects what America looks like, the better the opportunity to draw all types of diverse audiences.
Soft news in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Soft drinks lead to soft bodies, according to researchers at Yale University. A study showed soft drinkers don’t appear to compensate for their consumption of sugary liquids by reducing calories in other areas of their diets. A scientist connected to the research said, “There is compelling evidence that soft drinks have negative effects, and so actions such as stopping their sale in schools and scaling back marketing to children are justified.” Sprite will probably change its “Sublymonal” campaign to actual subliminal messages.
• Now folks are worried that the scenario involving rapper Tony Yayo beating up a kid for wearing a Czar Entertainment t-shirt may lead to more violence (see Essay 1901). As it turns out, the kid is the son of Czar Entertainment chief Jimmy Rosemond. One source said Rosemond, a former gang member, is plenty pissed off. “If he wanted Yayo dead, he’d be dead already,” said the source. Hey, that line would make for a great t-shirt design.
• Snoop Dogg has been denied a visa by British authorities. The rapper had planned a European concert tour with P. Diddy. A spokesperson for Mr. Dogg said, “Snoop and his team are mystified at the decision and are hoping that the British government will reconsider this decision.” Mystified? Gee, wonder if it had anything to do with the melee staged by Snoop and his posse in London’s Heathrow Airport back in 2006 (see Essay 558).
Sunday, March 25, 2007
The changing times in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The city of Largo in Florida sparked controversy by firing its longtime city manager after he revealed plans to undergo a sex change. The City Commission voted on the action after a six-hour hearing where supporters insisted the city manager would do the job just as well after becoming a woman. A few commissioners argued they chose to fire the man not because of his sex-change decision, but because he violated their trust and caused public disruption. Seems they missed an opportunity to reduce the city’s budget, as Largo probably would have paid the city manager less money as a woman.
• Rapper Tony Yayo was busted for beating up a teen wearing the “wrong” t-shirt. The 14-year-old was sporting a shirt for Czar Entertainment, a rival music company, when the rapper assaulted him. Yayo allegedly displayed a gun, threw the kid against a wall, demanded to know why he was wearing the shirt and slapped him around. The kid’s mom later hollered in a statement, “It’s a shame that 50 Cent & Tony Yayo could feel comfortable slapping and physically attacking an innocent 14-year-old minor that they market and promote their records to. … This is a cowardly act on my son who has done nothing to warrant the verbal and physical abuse he received … This should be looked as a step away from child molestation.” In that case, Yayo better call R. Kelly for legal advice.
From The Chicago Sun-Times…
Ethnic identity isn’t black and white
BY MONROE ANDERSON
For the past two decades, Barack Obama has been a faithful member of the congregation at Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ. Trinity is no run-of-the-mill black church. It’s social activism and political awareness on pure, natural holy water. Trinity’s progressive pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, preaches the black theology of liberation. And he practices what he preaches. Back when apartheid was the law of the land in South Africa, when Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner and when American corporations, institutions and the U.S. government all gave their blessings to those evil doings, the dashiki-wearing minister planted a “Free South Africa” sign on the church’s lawn. Obama’s spiritual mentor has routinely been on the right side of morality, championing liberal causes from gay rights to opposition of the war in Iraq.
Shortly after Sen. Obama launched his run for the presidency last month, Erik Rush, a right-wing Christian blogger who happens to be African American, discovered what had been hiding in plain sight: The motto for Trinity United is “Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian.”
Trinity’s motto, as well as its mission to eradicate what W.E.B. DuBois called “the problem of the color line” and “the strange meaning of being black here,” so incensed Rush that he wrote a blistering blog about it. It was unnerving for him to learn that the South Side church had adopted a “Black Value System” and that its 8,000 black members are committed to the “Black Community,” the “Black Family” and “the Black Work Ethic.” In his blog, Rush ignores -- or is just ignorant about -- the nearly 200-year-long tradition of the black church’s struggle to free and elevate its people while slyly substituting the words white for black and then disingenuously concluding that “like the Nation of Islam, a white separatist church or the Branch Davidians, Trinity United more resembles a cult than a church.”
No doubt that concept came as news to the thousands of well-heeled, professional and middle-class black Chicagoans who are members of the church. And no doubt media mogul Oprah Winfrey and rap star Common, who have both attended Trinity, were surprised to discover they were cultists. But quicker than you could say “holy fit,” the cable conservatives were clucking and complaining to the high heavens. Tucker Carlson, MSNBC’s very own Fox News-type right-wing host, opined that, “This stuff sounds separatist to me.”
Sean Hannity, the conservative half of Fox News’ lightweight talk show, “Hannity and Colmes,” sounded as if this country was going to hypocritical hell. If a white presidential candidate’s church had a similar statement and “you substitute the word white for black, there would be an outrage in this country,” Hannity preached. “There would be cries of racism in this country.”
True and Catch-22. If a white church plainly and proudly pronounced its whiteness, Hannity, Carlson and company would be right. But if it was the Holy Trinity Polish Church on Chicago’s North Side, proclaiming its Polishness, who’d care? This is how African Americans find ourselves in a trick bag. We’re defined racially even when we’re acting like any other of this nation’s ethnic groups. Issues knee-jerkily become black and white when in reality they may be African American and Irish American. Or Serbian American and African American. Remove black and substitute another American ethnic group so that Trinity’s Concept No. 6 reads: “Adherence to the Mexican Work Ethic.” Does that still sound separatist? Or racist? Of course not. But, if you’re insincerely espousing color blindness, while holding the race card up your sleeve, you know you can easily trump African-American ethnic pride every time.
Obama’s political advisers know this as well. That’s why, at the last minute, Obama disinvited Wright to speak last month when he officially announced his presidential candidacy. Wright says that Obama now realizes that his political handlers gave him bad advice and that all is well between him and the senator.
I say this is just one more sad example of how ethnic identity gets color-coded for African Americans. And I believe it’s just one more sign that there are those who would place Obama in political purgatory -- painting him not good enough to be black and not right enough to be white.
From The New York Times…
Will Diners Still Swallow This?
By ANDREW MARTIN
RICHARD SNEAD came up through the restaurant industry when bigger was better.
He earned his managerial stripes in the fast-food industry as Burger King, McDonald’s and Wendy’s waged war over who could offer bigger burgers, more fries and larger cups of soda. Few questioned the strategy, not even after casual dining restaurants embarked on their own supersizing battle in the 1990s.
Now Mr. Snead is breaking ranks. As chief executive of Carlson Restaurants Worldwide he has chopped portion sizes at T.G.I. Friday’s, Carlson’s chain known for calorie-rich items like deep-fried potato skins stuffed with Cheddar cheese, bacon and sour cream. In a closely watched experiment, Friday’s will see whether diners will order what it calls “Right Size” portions that, on average, are about two-thirds the size of the usual serving.
“I firmly believe that the consumer is demanding a change,” said Mr. Snead, who is 55 and has a runner’s trim build. Many consumers are tired of huge portions, especially on weeknights or at lunch when they do not want to indulge, he says. The time has come, he says, to think smaller. But, he added, “I’ll be honest with you, it’s scary.”
Mr. Snead has good reason to be concerned.
The strategy of serving consumers smaller servings has a lamentably unprofitable history. Many restaurateurs remember far too well what happened to the Ruby Tuesday chain in 2004 after it trimmed some portions and started printing nutritional information on the menu of calorie-packed burgers, steaks and ribs. Consumers complained about the changes, and after about five months, Ruby Tuesday plumped the portions and provided nutritional information only when asked.
“Even if they don’t eat everything on the plate,” said Richard Johnson, Ruby Tuesday’s senior vice president, “they like that it’s a generous portion.”
While the success of Friday’s smaller portions is far from certain, its heavily marketed Right Size campaign is among the boldest efforts yet to address problems in the restaurant industry that many had considered insolvable: How do you sell the idea of giving people less food? More important, how do you make money at it?
[Click on the essay title above to consume the full story.]
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Flying solo in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• 23-year-old Barrington Irving (pictured in plane above) is out to become the youngest person and first Black pilot to fly around the world solo. Irving built his own plane from over $300,000 worth of donated parts. Before takeoff, Irving proclaimed, “I want this completed before the year is over so kids can see that someone who started off with nothing set a goal and completed it.” Wonder which advertiser will be the first to tap Irving.
• Mel Gibson got into an argument with a college professor at California State University, Northridge, during a campus screening of “Apocalypto.” The professor was allegedly questioning the historical accuracy of the movie before Gibson told her, “Fuck off.” The woman, who was escorted out of the building, is now demanding an apology, “not only to me but to the Central American program at CSUN, to the university and most importantly to the Mayan people and Mayan community.” Looks like Gibson is out to become the first Hollywood superstar whose career goes down in flames around the world.
“A McKinsey Of Pop Culture?”
Steve Stoute is making hot sellers out of cold brands by turning execs on to “the tanning of America”
Several months into his new job as vice-president of U.S. marketing and advertising for General Motors, Mike Jackson came to the conclusion that the automaker was just not cool enough. Young, urban trendsetters on the East and West Coasts were not paying attention to GM’s cars. The message being sent to consumers, Jackson says, was all wrong. “We worried far too much about the sheet metal, color, etc.,” he explains. “What we really needed to worry about was connecting emotionally with our consumers.” So Jackson picked up the phone last spring and called Steve Stoute.
More executives overseeing brands that have gone stale are turning to the 36-year-old consultant and former music executive for help. Stoute’s agency, Translation Consultation & Brand Imaging, offers to imbue brands with a combination of hip-hop ethos and practicality to help reposition products, from Chevy Impalas to Crest Whitestrips to Reese’s peanut butter cups. The end result is for brands to resonate with a younger, more trendy audience. Other successful entrepreneurs have emerged from the hip-hop scene, such as Russell Simmons and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, to help put urban fashion and lifestyle into the mainstream.
But Stoute is more closely aligned with a new guard of innovation consultants providing strategies that go beyond tricked-out sneakers and jeans. His message: Companies have not embraced the changes in the culture to be able to talk to a new generation of consumers. “So many executives,” says Stoute, “are lost in the confines of their own building.” Besides GM, Stoute has successfully taken his mantra to clients that include McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble, Hershey, Microsoft, and Estée Lauder.
Now Stoute seems to be gaining respect on Madison Avenue. Interpublic Group of Companies Inc., the $6.2 billion-a-year global advertising conglomerate, is in talks with Stoute to buy a majority stake in Translation, say sources close to those talks. If the deal is closed, IPG would get schooled on Stoute’s approach to brands and access to celebrities, while Translation would gain entrée to IPG's large client base and deeper pockets.
As an African American with strong relationships to hip-hop artists (music icon Jay-Z is a good friend and business partner), Stoute knows how easy it is to pigeonhole Translation as a black ad agency. He immodestly characterizes his firm as “a McKinsey of pop culture.” By that he means that Translation is called upon by companies facing strategic challenges. “These are companies who know they have to take advantage of global trends, but at the same time are afraid of jeopardizing core businesses,” says Stoute. “We show them how to walk that thin line. It often comes down to showing them the language and tonality needed to reach consumers.”
But Stoute also says he’s helping executives understand a phenomenon that he refers to as the “tanning of America.” It’s a generation of black, Latino, and white consumers who have the same “mental complexion,” he says, based on “shared experiences and values.” Rap and hip-hop, starting in the late 1980s when white suburban kids began snapping up music by mostly inner-city artists, provided the first glimpse into this shift. “Rap was a litmus test for where the culture was headed,” he says.
[Click on the essay title above to read the full story.]
From The New York Times…
After 5 Days of Mopping and Scrubbing, What Else Would a Model Wear?
By ANTHONY RAMIREZ
First there was a cry, then a murmur, and finally a swoon. Naomi Campbell, the millionaire fashion model, emerged yesterday from a grimy Department of Sanitation garage in a floor-length evening gown, marking the end of her court-ordered community service.
She waved with her right hand, pulled up the shimmering silver gown with her left, smiled for the cameras and then ducked into her Rolls-Royce limousine, a silver Phantom costing at least $340,000. She did not say a word.
The garage’s long driveway made for an effective catwalk. “Is that her?” cried a photographer, squinting at a distant, undulating figure. In unison, other photographers on stepladders swung telephoto lenses into position and began to murmur as she walked closer and into focus.
When the whites of Ms. Campbell’s eyes were in view, what could only be described as a collective swoon emerged from the dozens of reporters and paparazzi. A reporter with a British accent said out loud, “Smashing!” A photographer, not British, screamed: “Oh, what a shot! I love this!”
While paint peeled from an overpass directly overhead on South Street in Lower Manhattan, reporters quickly compared notes after Ms. Campbell left. Who designed the dress? What shade of silver was it? Was that a belt or a cummerbund? No one knew. It fell to Albert Durrell, deputy chief of the Sanitation Department, dressed in a drab-green military-style uniform, to answer reporters’ questions about Ms. Campbell’s public penance.
In January, Ms. Campbell, 36, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and admitted that she had thrown a cellphone at her maid, Ana Scolavino, striking her on the head. Ms. Campbell was ordered to pay Ms. Scolavino’s medical expenses, $363, attend a two-day anger management seminar and perform five days of community service.
As in the previous four days, Mr. Durrell told reporters, Ms. Campbell wore a dust mask, gloves and a vest, the usual garb provided by the department to those performing court-ordered sentences. She also wore her own stretch pants and work boots.
Ms. Campbell “completed her service successfully,” Mr. Durrell said. “From what I understand, she was pleasant the entire time.”
From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., she swept, mopped and wiped at the garage, which has garbage and recycling facilities. She received no preferential treatment, Mr. Durrell said. Ms. Campbell ate pizza from Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn, like the others in her work crew.
Yes, Mr. Durrell acknowledged, Ms. Campbell did clean toilets. No, he said, she did not have to be taught how to use a mop or broom.
Ms. Campbell “was on her hands and knees at some point cleaning the walls and floors on the second floor,” he said.
But unlike Boy George, the singer who performed a similar sentence of community service last August, Ms. Campbell completed her sentence indoors. Mr. Durrell said it was a condition of her sentence. Why? “You’ll have to ask the judge,” Mr. Durrell said.
Mr. Durrell did report trouble inside. Someone took a digital photograph of Ms. Campbell as she scrubbed, presumably for sale to the press, but officials noticed and demanded the deletion of the image. The person was not punished, Mr. Durrell said.
Asked what he thought of Ms. Campbell’s attire at the end of her stay, Mr. Durrell replied, with a shrug, “You know, it was a gown.”
Friday, March 23, 2007
Listen up with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• A pair of New Jersey radio personalities known as “The Jersey Guys” sparked controversy with an on-air segment featuring anti-immigration sentiments. “Operation Rat a Rat/La Cucha Gotcha” is a listener-participation bit that encourages people to turn in suspects to immigration authorities. Hispanic leaders are not too happy. “Scapegoating and stereotyping Latinos does nothing but give bigoted individuals a platform to make ethnic slurs and racist comments,” said Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo of Newark. The radio hosts disagree. “If you’re here illegally, you are breaking the law — no better, no worse than the guy who robs the liquor store or the guy who waits to case your house out and robs you of your belongings,” said one announcer. “You are a criminal.” Is it possible to deport The Jersey Guys?
• The cop who carried Naomi Campbell’s bag on Tuesday (see Essay 1879) has apparently been reassigned to Brooklyn. At least he wasn’t shipped off to New Jersey.
• A judge issued an arrest warrant for Foxy Brown after the rapper was a no-show in court. Foxy’s latest troubles come from allegedly fighting with a Florida beauty shop owner. The Jersey Guys will probably introduce a segment that encourages listeners to turn in fugitive rappers.
From The Chicago Tribune…
Flag protesters missing a point
By Steven Lubet
professor of law at Northwestern University
What is the proper way to hang a Confederate flag? According to artist John Sims, it’s from a noose. Not everyone agrees, of course, especially in the South. So it is unsurprising that protests quickly followed when the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science, in Tallahassee, Fla., displayed Sims’ installation of a Confederate flag suspended from 13-foot gallows. According to Robert Hurst, commander of the Tallahassee camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, it is offensive to show disrespect for the Confederate flag, which should be treated as a revered symbol of Southern heritage.
More than 140 years after the Civil War, defenders of the Confederate flag continue to fight a rear-guard action, proudly waving the standard while claiming that it stands for nothing more than pride in their ancestry and nostalgia for a vanished way of life. Denying that the flag has any association with slavery or segregation, they often seek its return to public prominence, notwithstanding the protests of civil rights organizations. For example, the Sons of Confederate Veterans boasts a “Flags Across Florida” project, seeking to “put Confederate flags on Florida’s major roads.”
But is it true that you can separate the Confederate flag from the institution of slavery? Is it possible to long for the antebellum South--and its vanished dream of independence--without recalling that nearly 4 million men and women were held in bondage?
Any candid historical appraisal of the Confederacy has to recognize that it was motivated by slavery, built on slavery and deeply committed to slavery. Attempts to deny that relationship are naive at best and dishonest at worst. Here are some indisputable facts.
On Dec. 24, 1860, South Carolina became the first state to declare its secession from the Union. Its Declaration of Causes included 18 references to the sanctity of slavery, repeatedly justifying secession as necessary to protect the “right to hold property in slaves.” Indeed, the declaration gives only one reason for secession: The Northern states “have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery. … They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes.” They have elected a president “whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery.”
Other state secession decrees were to the same effect. Alabama proclaimed its intention to unite with the “slaveholding states of the South.” Texas condemned the Lincoln administration as “a weapon with which to strike down the interests and property of the people of Texas and her sister slaveholding states.” Virginia bemoaned “the oppression of the Southern slaveholding states.”
The Confederate Constitution itself was explicit about the heart of its enterprise. Its “Bill of Rights” stated that no law “denying or impairing the right of property in Negro slaves shall be passed.”
It is true, of course, that the great majority of Confederate soldiers were not slaveholders. Most of the enlisted men fought for their homes, families and comrades-in-arms rather than for the abstract principles of a distant government. But there is still no escaping the fact that defense of the Confederacy meant the perpetuation of slavery for millions of African-Americans. It is impossible to separate the war from the cause.
So if you are tempted to think there might be something benign, or even admirable, about the Confederate flag, just remember that we pledge allegiance not only to the flag of the United States of America, but also “to the republic for which it stands.” In the case of the Confederacy, the republic undeniably stood for slavery, which is something that John Sims’ provocative artwork will not allow us to forget.
[Steven Lubet is a professor of law at Northwestern University.]
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Criminal clothing and suits in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Naomi Campbell spent her third day of community service cleaning lockers and scrubbing toilets. Now some critics are questioning the supermodel’s intention to auction off her work clothes for charity. The plans may violate state laws prohibiting felons from generating profits for their crimes. “Clearly this is income generated from the commission of a crime,” said a New York criminal-defense lawyer. “While it may not have violated the letter of ‘Son of Sam [laws against criminal profiteering],’ it certainly violated the spirit of it.” Look for legislators to introduce the Naomi Amendment.
• A couple in New York is suing a Park Avenue fertility clinic for screwing up the sperm used during in-vitro conception. The couple — the husband is White and the wife is Hispanic — accidentally received sperm from a Black man. They filed an emotional distress suit with numerous charges: they fear the natural father may claim rights to the child; they question whether additional screw-ups may mean they have other natural children or half-children out there; the child will be unaware of her full medical history; and they believe the child “may be subjected to physical and emotional illness as a result of not being the same race as her parents and siblings.” The kid’s had a rough childhood and she’s not even 3 years old.