Friday, October 02, 2009
7145: Advertising Week Tweak Five.
Earlier in the week, Ad Age editor Ken Wheaton posted a perspective on creating a Mad Men knock-off starring minority cast members to attract people of color to the industry. The idea came up during a meeting at Advertising Week. Although MultiCultClassics and others submitted comments at AdAge.com, it seemed appropriate to embellish on the thoughts here as well.
As Wheaton pointed out, the notion is not original. Marc Brownstein suggested something similar back in 2006—before Mad Men even aired—and MultiCultClassics blasted him for his cultural cluelessness.
There are plenty of reasons to question the concept. Despite the popularity of Mad Men, the advertising industry has rarely been a successful vehicle for a series. It’s not like medical dramas, courtroom proceedings or detective adventures. Contrary to the insistence of self-absorbed adfolks, as a TV subject matter, we just ain’t that interesting.
The people making the proposal also cite the career-influencing power of Darrin Stephens in Bewitched. They are usually completely oblivious to characters like Marcus Graham in the iconic Boomerang, thinking no colored people—besides Putney Swope—have ever been depicted in an ad agency.
Additionally, a colored version of Mad Men would ironically pale in comparison to the real deal—almost similar to the way minority shops are viewed as wannabes versus the general market agencies.
Besides, aren’t there already enough efforts designed to lure minority youth? From internships to Adversity, the kids are covered. Can we please stop focusing all our energy on wooing students from the inner city? And if you really believe a Mad Men knock-off would also lure minority mid- to senior-level executives, well, that is Pollyannaish.
Stocking up on seasoned minorities continues to be a conveniently forgotten issue. Plus, it’s pretty sad that anyone would think of financing an entertainment vehicle while the Howard University initiative struggles to collect necessary funding.
Finally, these types of pipe dreams ignore the true problem. Madison Avenue doesn’t need a fantasy program to charm minorities. Rather, Whites in our industry need to be reprogrammed in order to establish an environment where minorities feel welcome. Of course, Whites will overreact to that statement, believing they’re being labeled as racist. That’s not the case at all. But they have repeatedly demonstrated—and openly admitted—that they are clueless about cultures outside of their own. It’s not minorities who must change; instead, it’s the ruling majority.
Madison Avenue must stop emulating Mad Men.