Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Retirement planning with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Merrill Lynch Chief Executive Stan O’Neal has opted to retire, and he’ll leave with about $162 million. However, he’s losing access to the company jet and armed bodyguards. He may need those bodyguards for dealing with irate Merrill Lynch customers. Then again, folks may suddenly have renewed interest in the financial company’s retirement planning services.
• Immigration advocacy groups are charging pharmacies nationwide with discrimination against non-English speakers. The groups insist pharmacies should offer bilingual medication instructions. “The idea is that people should not be placed in danger by not understanding their medication regimen,” said an executive director of one of the complaining groups. OK, but who’s going to translate the illegible doctors’ handwriting for prescriptions?
Adweek reported on Nielsen Business Media’s Next Big Idea Conference, where JWT worldwide chairman and CEO Bob Jeffrey made a keynote speech (click on the essay title above to read the full story). Here are two interesting excerpts from the story:
“In a talk called ‘21st Century Brand Building: Swimming Against the Current,’ Jeffrey said that the industry has entered an era of ‘rampant promiscuity’ in which client, consumer and agency had all become ‘brand sluts’ without loyalty to one another.”
“Jeffrey called for an end to what he called ‘idea racism.’ He said the new brand-building model is ‘not authoritative, not status-quo driven, more multicultural, more fluid and more open minded.’”
So Jeffrey recognizes the industry is rife with sluts and racists. Brilliant.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Lifestyles of the Rich and Infamous in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The trial involving millionaire couple Mahender and Varsha Sabhnani (pictured above) is underway, with charges of keeping two Indonesian women as slaves for years in their Long Island mansion. A federal prosecutor opened the trial by accusing the couple of starving, beating and stabbing the women during “years and years of servitude and abuse.” Once the trial is over, the two Indonesian women will probably land jobs at the Gap.
• Rev. Al Sharpton criticized Vice President Dick Cheney for hunting at an exclusive club where someone spotted a Confederate flag hanging inside a garage on the property. Sharpton argued Cheney should “leave immediately, denounce the club and apologize for going to a club that represents lynching, hate and murder to Black people.” Actually, Cheney has proven to be more dangerous to White people at hunting expeditions.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Quick good-byes in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Bye-bye to Merrill Lynch Chief Executive Stan O’Neal, who’s slated to step down for over 7.9 billion reasons.
• Bye-bye to Gap clothing made by children in a New Delhi sweatshop. The company claims the product made at the vendor location will be destroyed so it can’t be sold in Gap stores. Why not just give the stuff to the kids?
• Adios to Marketing y Medios, which will no longer be published as a separate insert in Adweek, Brandweek and Mediaweek—probably because interest was week, er, weak.
Last August, Advertising Age launched The Big Tent, a blog featuring industry leaders’ perspectives on diversity in the advertising, marketing and media worlds. The viewpoints hit a range of topics, inspiring lively online chatter. Additionally, Ad Age has done a commendable job of spreading the efforts by running stuff in its weekly magazine—kudos to Ken Wheaton and his associates for their groundbreaking commitment.
Among the more spirited writers under The Big Tent is Laura Martinez, whose credits include founder and editor-in-chief for Marketing y Medios magazine, which was the premier source for news and opinions on Hispanic marketing before conglomerate VNU made the asinine decision to fold the publication. Then and now, Martinez has never hesitated to state her positions with insight, wit and the subtlety of a sledgehammer blow to the temple.
Martinez recently pondered why Hispanic TV programming isn’t as good as Hispanic advertising, prompting a flood of reactions. To read the original piece and comments, click on the essay title above.
The Martinez post irked the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies Board of Directors, who fired a nasty letter to Ad Age editor Scott Donaton. The letter appears below, followed by a MultiCultClassics response.
Many of us on the AHAA Board of Directors and surely among our membership have read some of the opinions posted on Ad Age’s Big Tent blog with concern but have chosen not to comment until now. While clearly any blog represents the rightful opinions of individuals, we are deeply concerned over last week’s blog on Hispanic TV programming by Laura Martinez as Ms. Martinez is also an Ad Age reporter covering news and editorial material related to our Hispanic ad industry. In our view and considering the standards of ethical journalism, it is questionable whether Ms. Martinez can actually report objectively on Hispanic media matters when she has publicly stated such strong negative opinions about its content. This is especially more offensive when we consider that her opinions rely on two hours of morning daytime Hispanic TV viewing and web search. Hispanic audience’s preferences for Spanish language programming have been consistent over time and are reflected in the high ratings this programming enjoys as reported by AC Nielsen.
We will most certainly not argue the quality of the creative work produced by the AHAA agencies cited by Ms. Martinez but it should be understood that there are fundamental differences between the objectives and context of commercial advertising and content programming. The comparison made is superficial and shallow, clearly demonstrating a lack of understanding of our industry.
Media programming content is mostly based on successful formats and plots which are creatively adapted and sometimes replicated across many different parts of the world. This is how Reality shows have come to be a global phenomenon and how shows like “Deal or No Deal” (UK) and “El Gran Show de La Oca” (Spain) have been hugely successful in delivering media ratings and engaging consumers. Should we then argue that content programming in highly developed and sophisticated advertising and media markets like the UK and Spain are also garbage by the mere nature of their program format? Cinderella was written in 1697 by the Brothers Grimm and it is still the basic plot behind the “novella” format which by the way is also a globally successful format.
Television entertains and informs through stories, games, soft news and hard news, among other major formats. Advertising, on the other hand, aims to engage; persuade; sell; connect; create or support a brand image, among other communications criteria. Are the two comparable? I challenge, not.
In our view the unabashed public trashing of any sector of our industry is not conducive to the constructive understanding of our marketplace and the value it represents to marketers in the U.S. Statements like: “the target, apparently, are the legions of uneducated, Spanish dominant immigrants who presumably crossed the border by foot and now have to be punished with awful TV choices just because that is what they are used to” are irresponsible, feed misconceptions and lead to confusion about the viewing preferences among our Hispanic audiences. This rings especially true when the blogger expressing such opinion is also a news reporter on your publication.
Scott, in the spirit of AHAA’s partnership with Ad Age, we very respectfully offer the many members of our association as bonafide opinion leaders for your blog and urge you to consider publicizing their objective and professional opinions as a service to our industry and the advertising community in general.
Let us know your thoughts and we will quickly initiate a recruiting process among our membership.
Um, somebody please forward the Spanish translation for “Chill out, dudes.” Pronto.
Way back in Essay Eleven (March 2005), MultiCultClassics observed the Hispanic marketing community was doing a far better job of promoting itself than other industry peers. Ironically, the Martinez-led Marketing y Medios was spotlighted as an example of how the segment hyped accomplishments in positive, professional and compelling styles.
So it’s disturbing to see the AHAA make editorial demands, as if hollering, “I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ press badges!”
First, the AHAA must review the objectives of The Big Tent. Ken Wheaton wrote, “In politics, the ‘big tent’ refers to a party in which diverse viewpoints are accepted, where the comfort of a unified ideology is exchanged for the clamor of many voices.” With all due respect to the AHAA, this ain’t your party—and Martinez is not your piñata.
The AHAA argues a decent case for conflicts of interest with Martinez’s roles of blogger and reporter. Too bad it doesn’t hold up in today’s media landscape, where the borders have been crossed more often than, well, the U.S. borders. Ad Age reporters routinely author editorials and even rip the 4A’s and events like Advertising Week. Rival Adweek editors and writers cover the daily press releases and simultaneously insult DraftFCB on the AdFreak blog. Scribes like Martinez have successfully played on both sides of the fence, and they’ll undoubtedly continue their schizophrenic ways.
On another tip, while the AHAA has done a great job of establishing its honor and integrity, it’s a stretch for any adpeople to pontificate on ethical standards of journalism. Especially when most Hispanic publications contain advertisements from bizarre psychics. And what’s with offering an “objective” replacement blogger?
AHAA members constantly tell clients the Hispanic consumer market is not monolithic or homogeneous. Yet they’re howling because someone has demonstrated the notion with unconventional thinking. You can’t have your torta and eat it too.
The AHAA ought to peruse the thread ignited by the Martinez post. The majority of minorities welcomed the discussion. If the AHAA had opposing sentiments, why not join the online conference? There are real, legitimate issues warranting open examination versus ignoring problems and sweeping dirty secrets under the proverbial rug ala industry peers (whose businesses, incidentally, are crumbling like stale tortilla chips).
This was an opportunity for AHAA members to be inclusive pioneers. Instead, their actions mirrored those of old school gringo advertising executives.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Raining on the parade with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Although the University of Illinois officially banned its Chief Illiniwek mascot months ago, the character was permitted an encore appearance during a homecoming parade this weekend. Floats bearing his likeness were allowed, with officials hyping freedom of speech. “The university values free speech and free expression,” stated the university, “and considers homecoming floats, decorations, costumes and related signage all representations of such personal expression. Therefore, Chancellor Herman has directed the Homecoming Committee to strike the existing policy from the homecoming float guidelines.” Hey, why let insensitivity and racism spoil the parade?
• An Associated Press poll showed minorities are less likely to let their kids trick-or-treat during Halloween. The figures revealed 73 percent of Whites versus 56 percent of minorities will allow the traditional candy collecting to happen. Guess minorities are more used to being tricked than treated.
• Michael Jackson will lose his Neverland ranch if he fails to pay over $23 million on a defaulted loan in the next three months. Look for Jacko to be doing some serious trick-or-treating with his rich pals.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Spacing out with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Astronauts on the international space station added a new room to the complex—a compartment that will serve as a docking port. If U.S. astronauts were involved in the creation, it’s sure to feature a full wet bar too.
• T.I. was released from jail after posting a $3 million bond on Friday, and he’ll be on home confinement until his trial for weapons charges. No word on how he’ll shoot the time away.
• The founder of Overstock.com thinks people overreacted to his recent comments, and he rejected the NAACP’s call for an apology. Patrick Byrne was speaking at a debate in support of school vouchers for Utah families when he said, “Right now, 40% of Utah minorities are not graduating from high school. You may as well burn those kids. That’s the end of their life. That’s the end of their ability to achieve in this society if they do not get a high school education. You might as, just throw the kids away.” Responding to criticism, Byrne remarked, “These folks have been selective in their editing. I very clearly said the system is throwing away 40% of the minority kids because they’re not graduating. I’m saying that I’m against throwing kids away. People against vouchers are in favor of throwing the kids away.” Voucher opponent and NAACP Salt Lake branch president Jeanetta Williams didn’t buy the explanation, insisting Byrne meant that non-graduating minorities should be burned or discarded. She also noted Byrne failed to mention the White students who don’t graduate (Utah is over 80 percent White, 11 percent Latino and 1 percent Black). “It says he’s not sympathetic to the minority community and he means exactly what he said,” argued Williams. Unfortunately, this spat isn’t over yet.
The parody advertising agency diversity recruitment ads presented this week drew lots of visitors—special thanks to the folks at Agency Spy, Adrants and Copyranter for hyping the series.
One comment left at another blog warrants a brief response.
The comment read, “From what I’ve seen, most agencies just want top Talent and don’t care about anything physical. It just so happens that the pool to draw from is not very diverse to begin with—that is the real issue.”
This statement actually goes to the heart of problem, and it spotlights the challenges ahead.
First of all, who is defining the pool in such a narrow-minded fashion? The advertising industry is supposedly driven by breakthrough creative thinking. If an art director or copywriter adopted the position that any project had finite solutions, they would be dismissed as hacks. Yet we continue to allow people to present clichéd reasoning when addressing diversity.
An inclusive industry will only come about when everyone—especially the majority figures with hiring authority—becomes more proactive and innovative. Advertising leaders recognize the imperative for new business models to ensure corporate survival. The search for talent demands a similar visionary stance.
The diverse candidates have always been ready and available. It just requires that we sail into deeper waters versus wading in the same small pool of familiarity.
Accept no limitations.
Friday, October 26, 2007
A blog visitor forwarded the document above. It’s a standard Equal Employment Opportunity Questionnaire, which advertising agencies use to categorize staffers. The agency and its affiliates cordially “invite employees to voluntarily self-identify their race or ethnicity.”
It’s interesting how the U.S. government distinguishes ethnicity and race, yet can’t even decide between Hispanic and Latino. There’s also something oddly polite about wording that reads: “…please select the race below which you consider yourself to be.” Does this mean people can choose which race they want to be? Could Eminem pick “Black” and Michael Jackson check “White” designations?
If you’re a Caucasian whose origins trace to the original peoples of North Africa, you’re “White.” Meanwhile, if your origins trace to “Black racial groups of Africa,” yet you hail from North Africa, you’re “Black or Africa American.” And what’s with the “Africa American” title? Just about everyone else is “Asian.” With the exception of the handful of people labeled as “Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander” and “American Indian or Alaska Native.” You can even elect “Two or more races.” But if your mix includes “Hispanic or Latino,” wouldn’t you need to choose an ethnicity and race?
It seems easier to check the box indicating, “I prefer not to provide this information.”
DNA evidence of ignorance in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• DNA guru James Watson retired on Thursday, after sparking controversy with comments about the intelligence levels of Blacks (see Essay 4603). Wonder if he’ll hold his retirement party at Sylvia’s in Harlem.
• Oil giant BP will pay $373 million as part of a settlement of charges related to a deadly Texas explosion, an Alaskan oil spill and more. “If our approach to process safety and risk management had been more disciplined and comprehensive, this tragedy could have been prevented,” said BP North America President Robert Malone in reference to the Texas incident. “We did not provide our people with systems and processes that would have enabled them to appreciate the risk of a catastrophic release” of explosive gases at the refinery in Texas. Let’s see how BP spins all of this into one of its inane feel-good advertisements.
• A new poll showed nearly one-third of people believe in ghosts, and about one out of four claim to have actually seen one or felt its presence. No word if the polled people lived near BP refineries.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
What’s next in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• O.J. Simpson was slapped with new charges of felony coercion, upping the total to 12 charges against him. What’s next, jaywalking?
• In an apparent effort to please protesting gay rights groups, Sen. Barack Obama added an openly gay performer to his campaign concert series (see Essay 4617). The protests originated over the anti-gay views of another singer in the concert. What’s next, Sen. Larry Craig to join Obama’s campaign committee?
• Diddy insists he didn’t recently punch a man at a trendy nightclub during a fight over a woman both men have dated (see Essay 4591). “I am a human being. I am going to get into an argument at times, but I didn’t punch anybody,” argued Diddy. “I don’t fight over girls.” What’s next? Um, who cares?
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
In Essay 4554, MultiCultClassics presented an Adweek article spotlighting White admen sharing their philosophies and strategies for recruiting talent. Now the magazine has published its annual list of “The Best Creatives You Don’t Know.” It doesn’t say much for the hope of diversity in the industry’s next generation. And why did Adweek only point out the ethnicity of the South Korean native at Crispin Porter + Bogusky?
Distorting the news in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Halle Berry is backpedaling over a comment she made on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. During a segment where the actress was viewing computer images of herself distorted by the Mac program Photo Booth, she apparently blurted an anti-Semitic remark. “Here’s where I look like my Jewish cousin!” joked Berry at a photo with a big, distorted nose. Berry managed to persuade Leno to delete the comment when the segment aired. “What happened was I was backstage before the show and I have three girls who are Jewish who work for me,” explained Berry. “We were going through pictures to see which ones looked silly, and one of my Jewish friends said [of the big-nose picture], ‘That could be your Jewish cousin!’ And I guess it was fresh in my mind, and it just came out of my mouth. But I didn’t mean to offend anybody. I didn’t. I didn’t mean any harm. … I am so sorry, and I apologize.” Bet she wishes the photo was among the things we lost in the fire.
• Two co-defendants in the O.J. Simpson case pleaded guilty to lesser charges yesterday, and in exchange, the men will testify against Simpson. Look forward to Mac Photo Booth renditions of O.J.’s mugshot.
• Securities firm Morgan Stanley agreed to pay $16 million to settle claims that it discriminated against Black and Latino financial advisors in its network. A class-action lawsuit by 1,300 Black and Latino employees charged the company gave them less pay and fewer promotions than White counterparts. The settlement includes providing diversity training to sales branch managers and tying their pay to recruiting and hiring minorities. Can discrimination be filed as a tax write-off?
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
A solitary MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Foxy Brown was sentenced to 76 days in solitary confinement for assorted violations committed at Rikers Island. The incidents included getting into a shoving match with another inmate, verbally abusing a corrections officer and refusing to take a random drug test. Plus, she may face more disciplinary action for refusing to board a bus and make a court date a few weeks ago (see Essay 4581). Somebody needs to explain the concept of rehabilitation to the rapper.
• A gay rights group is asking Sen. Barack Obama to drop a gospel singer currently touring for fundraiser events. Singer Donnie McClurkin’s views on homosexuality include statements like, “I don’t believe that it is the intention of God. … Sexuality, everything is a matter of choice.” Obama responded by declaring, “I have consistently spoken directly to African-American religious leaders about the need to overcome the homophobia that persists in some parts our community so that we can confront issues like HIV/AIDS and broaden the reach of equal rights in this country. I strongly believe that African Americans and the LGBT community must stand together in the fight for equal rights. And so I strongly disagree with Reverend McClurkin’s views and will continue to fight for these rights as president of the United States to ensure that America is a country that spreads tolerance instead of division.” Maybe Obama can replace McClurkin with Foxy Brown.
From The Chicago Tribune…
Gays, lesbians far more diverse than media portrays, study finds
By Mike Swift, San Jose Mercury News
To judge from the images on network television and corporate advertising, lesbians and gay men share the same demographic niche: affluent, educated, urban -- and usually white.
Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong, says a new national demographic study that suggests lesbians and gays are more likely to be older, “responsible” suburbanites sharing a mortgage payment and listening to country music than young turks partying in the Castro or Chelsea.
“We wanted to bust some stereotypes,” said David Morse, president and chief executive of New American Dimensions, a Los Angeles market research company that joined forces with San Francisco-based Asterix Group, a brand strategy firm, in an attempt to paint a more nuanced portrait of the nation’s gays and lesbians.
Some findings surprised even the researchers:
African-Americans and Latinos were more comfortable expressing their gay identity than whites, although their gay identity was not the most important part of who they are. And, while whites were more likely to be in live-together relationships than Latinos or blacks, they were less likely to include children in their family plans.
Gays and lesbians are increasingly open and honest about their sexuality. Two-thirds agreed with the statement, “Everyone knows I’m gay.”
A majority of lesbians and gay men live outside big cities, with about one-third of lesbians and one-quarter of gay men living in small towns or rural areas.
The average age people realized their sexual orientation was 15, but it was younger for men than for women.
Corporate America frequently stumbles when it attempts to sell its products to gays, the study’s authors say. They blamed a one-size-fits-all marketing approach.
“It would be wrong for marketers to think that this was a rich and white, male, partying group,” said Christine Lehtonen, president of Asterix.
The study was based on more than 900 in-person and online surveys conducted across the country in June. While survey respondents were predominantly white, nearly one in five were black, Latino or Asian. An equal number of men and women responded.
[Click on the essay title above to read the full story.]
Monday, October 22, 2007
It’s interesting to see JWT running the diversity ad above, given the agency declined getting involved with New York City’s Commission on Human Rights last year. But it also makes you wonder how other advertising agencies might present diversity messages…