Sunday, July 31, 2011
Like many bloggers and pundits, Bob Hoffman of The Ad Contrarian panned The Richards Group’s “Hail to the V” campaign for Summer’s Eve. Upon later learning that Goodby, Silverstein & Partners’ “Got PMS?” milk campaign for the California Milk Processor Board was also ripped by critics and ultimately yanked, Hoffman was inspired to publish another post titled, “I Am Offended.” Hoffman’s perspective discussed advertisers’ right to free speech, and he wondered if public pressure to pull campaigns amounted to censorship. In Hoffman’s words, “Is it wise to apply pressure to effectively silence offensive ideas?”
Of course, the post ignited a comments thread including the typical remarks like, “It’s always a source of bewilderment to me just how far those who are so easily offended will go out of their way merely to find something that will offend them,” “Political correctness is nothing but fascism in new clothes,” and the ever-popular hack’s gripe, “We’re heading for a road of bland, thought-free advertising purely to safeguard against people (who more than likely are not your target audience) being offended.” MultiCultClassics left initial comments in response to the clichéd and contrived whiners, yet felt compelled to further examine Hoffman’s true viewpoint. Read the full post and preceding post to draw your own conclusions. MultiCultClassics is focusing on the following excerpts:
I am afraid that we are in a slow but inexorable slide toward the erosion of free speech. To a significant degree, this erosion is due to the erroneous belief that people have a right to be free of offense.
In fact, our constitution guarantees exactly the opposite. It guarantees us the right to offend whomever the hell we want whenever the hell we want to. That’s what free speech means.
Our courts have held that as a general principle commercial speech enjoys similar protections as individual speech. This means that businesses and advertisers have the same right to offend that individuals do.
I happen to hold very liberal views about individual liberties, including free speech. But there is a branch of “liberalism” these days that has become very intolerant. These people are humorless scolds who are very easily offended and demand instant redress for their injured sensitivities.
There is also a branch of conservatism that thinks we need to be protected from “dangerous” ideas. Well, I appreciate your concern, but if it’s all the same to you, I’d like to draw my own conclusions.
The tricky part is this. Government is prohibited from censoring what we can say. But well-meaning citizens, believing they are protecting society from dangerous, offensive, or prejudicial ideas, have substantial power to censor by applying economic pressure.
In the internet age, it has become much easier to band together to exert pressure for the purpose of silencing ideas we don’t like. And we have every right to do so. But before we exercise this right we need to think seriously about the implications.
I don’t believe our sensitivities are so profound that they trump someone else’s right to offend us. I don’t believe we want to allow the limits of commercial discourse to be determined by the loudest bullies on the web.
Do ethnic, racial and sexual stereotypes cause offense? Absolutely.
Should we act to silence them? Absolutely not.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Hoffman usually exhibits above-average intelligence, and his blog is among the finer reads out there, but he really comes off as an Old White Guy in this scenario.
Wikipedia states, “Freedom of speech in the United States is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and by many state constitutions and state and federal laws, with the exception of obscenity, defamation, incitement to riot, and fighting words, as well as harassment, privileged communications, trade secrets, classified material, copyright, patents, military conduct, commercial speech such as advertising, and time, place and manner restrictions.” There are other provisions listed at Wikipedia as well. So it’s a bit of a stretch for Hoffman to proclaim the U.S. Constitution guarantees people the right to offend whomever the hell they want whenever the hell they want to.
Hoffman is a tad delusional to write, “Our courts have held that as a general principle commercial speech enjoys similar protections as individual speech. This means that businesses and advertisers have the same right to offend that individuals do.” Um, not exactly. Advertising has been regulated seemingly forever by sources such as the FCC, FDA and—wait for it—TV network censors. Hell, nearly every form of media features some type of official ad scrutiny on national, local and in-house levels. And do you want to know a main reason why, Mr. Hoffman? Because our industry has consistently demonstrated that its practitioners cannot be trusted. We’re hucksters. Offensive too.
Plus, advertisers bleep themselves. Anyone with any experience in the business knows that clients have their own internal watchdogs with wildly inconsistent and personal standards. A common killer of campaigns uttered by clients and adpeople alike is, “This will never get past the guys in legal.” And to be clear, advertisers’ “legal departments” make calls that go beyond legal issues, reaching as far as moral territory.
If advertising can be “censored” by the government, media and advertisers, why can’t the public nix messages too?
Hoffman’s attacks on “liberals” and “conservatives” sound familiar—and a little paranoid. Could it be that the entire rant is really rooted in a fear of advancement? Consider the following ads:
Does anyone not think these messages are offensive? Does anyone not think these messages should be prohibited from running today?
Society has moved forward, abandoning these types of messages, because of pressures exerted by the government, media, advertisers and the public. Sure, there were probably folks arguing about “political correctness” and “freedom of speech” when the eliminations took place, just as there were jeers for Henry Ford by yahoos who didn’t want to give up their horses. Hey, change for the better can be scary.
Women’s Rights, Civil Rights and Gay Rights began when individuals and groups proceeded to challenge what others were saying. The U.S. of A launched with protests too. In a similar spirit, if advertisers insult someone—deliberately or not—the offended have the right to tell them to stop. Why, it might be an ethical and moral obligation. Freedom of speech is a two-way street. Go ahead and shit on the public, Madison Avenue. But please do not cry when turds are tossed back in your direction.
Hoffman’s thoughts on the Internet Age are wacky. Yes, the World Wide Web has enabled folks to organize grievances in new ways. On the flip side, it has fueled nutcases and advertisers to push offensiveness to unprecedented heights. Sorry, the offenders still outnumber the offended.
“I don’t believe our sensitivities are so profound that they trump someone else’s right to offend us. I don’t believe we want to allow the limits of commercial discourse to be determined by the loudest bullies on the web,” wrote Hoffman. Gee, cultural cluelessness makes smart people type stupid statements. Additionally, labeling the offended as “bullies” could be a new standard of arrogance for the White privileged among us.
Hoffman should not be “afraid that we are in a slow but inexorable slide toward the erosion of free speech.” It’s actually an explosion of free speech, as the public exercises the right to rebut offenders. God Bless America!
We’ve all heard the belief—often delivered by talentless amateurs and direct marketers—that advertising is not art. For the record, MultiCultClassics does not subscribe to the contention. However, the overwhelming majority of adpeople are not fine artists or political revolutionaries. And Mad Men should not be permitted to justify ignorance by embracing freedom of speech. We must operate under restrictions, we must act with responsibility and we must view the public with respect.
It’s not the road to hell. It’s the road to progress.
Not sure why these ads appeared as consecutive pages in the latest issue of Essence magazine, as the messages are selling two different lines of makeup—although the images appear to have come from the same photo shoot. Maybe Queen Latifah is being used for cross-cultural marketing.
The Chicago Tribune reported Snoop Dogg started a youth football league in Chicago. Hopefully, the sidelines are stocked with Gatorade versus Colt 45 Blast.
Snoop Dogg launched youth football league in Chicago
The Associated Press
Rapper Snoop Dogg launched a Chicago version of his popular youth football league Saturday, saying he hoped the program will give kids in high-crime neighborhoods a positive release for their energy.
Dancing and high-fiving his way through a large crowd at the Chicago Indoor Sports Facility, the playful entertainer seemed intent on meeting all the kids involved in the inaugural season of the city’s Snoop Youth Football League. Chicago’s is a division of the league he established in Los Angeles in 2004.
Snoop Dogg spent most of his time interacting with the more than 100 football kids and fans, many whom waited several hours for his arrival.
“When I walked into the building, I felt the spirit,” the rapper said of the loud welcome that included non-stop photo flashes. Obviously moved, Snoop Dogg smiled and danced as his songs played in the background.
He credited football, a sport he played growing up, with giving many kids in his California league the incentive to focus on their education and other aspects of their lives. He’s hoping Chicago youth use the program to figure out what they want to do with their lives, and he’s anxious to see how they respond.
“I want to give them something to fight for,” he said of his intentions with the new league. “At the end of the day, they’re our future.”
The league in California has eight chapters with more than 3,000 participants. Chicago’s league will have six chapters with more than 1,500 participants.
Snoop Dogg said the league prides itself on a strong support system, anchored by coaches and parents. “We’re teaching life skills now,” he said, referring to the program’s more-than-football approach.
The rapper’s also proud that his league isn’t afraid to go into some of the most dangerous neighborhoods to reach the young people who live in them.
“We’re going to the toughest areas,” he said. “We’re going to deal with them face to face.”
Chicago’s league starts in August and is open to youth ages 7 to 14. There are six unlimited weight chapters in Humboldt Park, Pilsen, Bridgeport, Cabrini Green, and the city’s South and West sides.
163 votes later, the numbers haven’t changed dramatically for the Adweek Readers’ Poll. Over half of the respondents believe Summer’s Eve was right to pull the talking vajayjays—despite the additional “No” votes likely cast by employees at The Richards Group and deviants who are attracted to gibbering genitalia.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
This looks like another example of the White ad agency receiving an out-of-this-world production budget for a promotional commercial—while the minority agencies typically get inner-city budgets to show colored people dancing, romancing and singing.
This looks like another example of a client taking an ad from its White agency and getting its Black agency to make the concept culturally relevant. Probable back-up headlines include:
Yo, Check Out What Happens When Mango and Pineapple Hook Up.
A Cool Mix.
Keeping It Real Fruit.
The Chicago Tribune reported on a heated lawsuit between the Cottonelle and Northern Quilted brands of toilet paper, where the rivals are battling over copyright infringements involving the “diamond quilted” design. Hopefully, Northern Quilted won’t call on the annoying faux housewives to testify.
Judge on a roll with toilet paper opinion
By Steve Schmadeke, Tribune reporter
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago takes on many weighty legal issues of the day. This was not one of them.
In a legal battle between two titans of toilet paper, the court held this week that quilted bathroom tissue is too basic a product to be trademarked, upholding a lower court that threw out the lawsuit.
“Toilet paper. This case is about toilet paper,” Judge Terence Evans led off the opinion. “Are there many other things most people use every day but think very little about? We doubt it.”
At issue was a lawsuit in which Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products LP, which makes Northern Quilted brand toilet paper, accused Kimberly-Clark Corp., maker of Cottonelle tissue, of infringing on its trademark for its “diamond quilted” design of toilet paper.
Despite the mundane subject, the stakes were high. As the opinion pointed out, the toilet paper industry is a $4 billion-a-year business.
And with lawyers being lawyers, the case produced a staggering 675,000 pages of evidence — enough paper, printed out and laid end-to-end, to stretch from Chicago to Michigan City, Ind., and back. (We have no idea how many rolls of toilet paper that would equal.) The lawyers also cited almost 120 cases and 20 federal statutes in arguing the legal issues.
“That’s quite a record considering, again, that this case is about toilet paper,” opined Evans, who is that rare appeals court judge who can have some fun with his writing when the opportunity presents itself.
Given the subject, the judge missed few opportunities at puns, at one point noting that despite the fact that the lower-court judge “dutifully plied her opinion, we now wipe the slate clean and address Georgia-Pacific’s claims.”
Judges Michael Kanne and Diane Sykes joined in the decision.
A Georgia-Pacific spokesman said the company was disappointed with the decision and is considering its options. A Kimberly-Clark spokesman said the company does not comment on pending litigation.
This was by no means the only arcane trademark case the court has ruled on of late. Last year it held that circular beach towels once sold by actor Woody Harrelson couldn’t be trademarked either.
Not too sure about this Rotary International campaign to end polio. If we are “this close” to a cure, why spend money on multimedia advertising? Put the funds directly into research and production of the miracle treatment.
From The New York Post…
Rosa Parks’ essay reveals neighbor’s rape attempt
The Associated Press
Long before Rosa Parks was hailed as the “mother of the civil rights movement,” she wrote a detailed and harrowing account of nearly being raped by a white neighbor who employed her as a housekeeper in 1931.
The six-page essay, written in her own hand many years after the incident, is among thousands of her personal items currently residing in the Manhattan warehouse and cramped offices of Guernsey’s Auctioneers, which has been selected by a Michigan court to find an institution to buy and preserve the complete archive.
The Associated Press was provided with some samples of the documents in the archive, including portions of the essay. Archivists had reviewed the documents for Guernsey’s and provided descriptions of their contents.
Civil rights historian Danielle McGuire said she had never before heard of the attempted rape of Parks and called the find among Parks’ papers astounding.
It helps explain what triggered Parks’ lifelong campaign against the ritualistic rape of black women by white men, said McGuire, whose recent book “At the Dark End of the Street” examines how economic intimidation and sexual violence were used to derail the freedom movement and how it went unpunished during the Jim Crow era.
“I thought it was because of the stories that she had heard. But this gives a much more personal context to that,” said McGuire, an assistant professor of history at Wayne State University in Detroit. Her book recounts Parks’ role in investigating for the NAACP the case of Recy Taylor, a young sharecropper raped by a group of white men in 1944.
Of her own experience, Parks wrote, “He offered me a drink of whiskey, which I promptly and vehemently refused. He moved nearer to me and put his hand on my waist. I was very frightened by now.”
“He liked me. … he didn’t want me to be lonely and would I be sweet to him. He had money to give me for accepting his attentions,” she wrote.
“I was ready to die but give my consent never. Never, never.”
Most people know the story of Parks, a black, middle-aged seamstress who refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955. Guernsey’s President Arlan Ettinger said her personal papers reveal a much more complex individual, one who spent a lifetime fighting for racial equality and against the sexual violence of black women.
Parks is credited with inspiring the civil rights movement with her solitary act of defiance on Dec. 1, 1955, that led to the Supreme Court outlawing segregation on buses. She received the nation’s two highest honors in her lifetime, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor.
She died in 2005 at age 92, leaving the trove of personal correspondence, papers relating to her work for the Montgomery branch of the NAACP, tributes from presidents and world leaders, school books, family bibles, clothing, furniture and more — about 8,000 items in all.
“It is wonderful and breathtaking,” Ettinger said. “It will be up to the institution that ends up with it to make this material known to the world.”
Proceeds from the sale will go to resolve a dispute over her estate, divided between her relatives and the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development that she created in 1987.
Guernsey’s, known for its sale of iconic and celebrity collections, took an inventory of Parks’ homes in Detroit soon after she died and is looking for an institution to buy her archive, which Ettinger described as the most complete he’s ever seen.
The only thing missing, he quipped, is the bus itself. The bus is in The Henry Ford, a museum in Dearborn, Mich.
The archive reveals an infinitely complex individual, Ettinger said.
Parks worked on many cases with the NAACP, including the Scottsboro defense of nine black teenage boys accused of rape in Alabama in 1931. She was involved in the black power conventions in the 1970s and the anti-apartheid movement in the 1990s.
Parks wrote on anything she could get her hands on. The backs of church pamphlets and NAACP flyers are filled with her thoughts and observations.
There are detailed notes on how African-American citizens should comport themselves during the bus boycott following her arrest that lasted 382 days and about the organization that led it, the Montgomery Improvement Association, headed by a young pastor named the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Elsewhere, she laments about life under the oppressive Jim Crow laws and asks what is wrong with the world when her jailer refuses her a drink of water.
She also vividly recalls an incident when she was 10 years old involving a white boy who threatened to hit her. Demonstrating some of the determination she exhibited on the bus decades later, Parks writes “I picked up a small piece of brick and drew back to strike him if he should hit me. I was angry. He went his way without further comment.”
Parks’ memoirs include one with author Jim Haskins and another with one of her attorneys in the early 1990s, but by then said McGuire, “her story was pretty much well-rehearsed, and limited to her time in Montgomery and the bus incident.”
“Her story had become mythic and iconic … I can’t imagine what that felt like for her to have a whole history of activism and political work erased and turned almost into a cartoon character,” said McGuire.
Guernsey’s has talked to about 20 museums, libraries, university and churches about buying the archive over the past three years.
“There hasn’t been a group that didn’t desperately want it but had to face the reality whether they could afford it,” Ettinger said, adding that he was currently in discussions with three separate entities — an institution and two individuals who could buy the archive with the intention of donating it to a museum or other cultural institution.
He declined to give an exact figure but said $8 million to $10 million was in the “ballpark.”
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a research library of the New York Public Library, was among the interested institutions.
Its new director, Khalil Gibran Muhammad, said the center has very little material on Parks and would love to own some of her papers but because the archive is being sold as a single collection, it took the Schomburg out of the running.
“She is a witness to the beginning and the maturation of the civil rights movement. . She walked as close to Martin Luther King Jr., as you can get at the beginning of the movement,” Muhammad said.
McGuire wondered why Parks omitted the attempted rape incident from her memoirs but included the story about the little boy who threatened her.
“It shows some kind of conscious effort in shaping her own legacy but also, I think, speaks to the issue of respectability. She doesn’t necessarily feel comfortable telling the world about what happened,” she said. “But she’s contemplating telling people about it because she’s written it down.”
The iconic “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” campaign usually maintained a certain sophistication with its celebration of scandalous behavior. This Boomtown Casino campaign tries to copy the Vegas concept, but is too crude with its Caligula-loving irreverence.
Oddly enough, the Black-targeted ad is the tamest of the bunch—although, of course, the Blacks are dancing.
Via Ads of the World
Advertising Age interviewed DIRECTV SVP of Advertising and Communications Jon Gieselman, and the discussion included examining the controversies surrounding recent commercials. Read the full interview to understand the statements in context. MultiCultClassics is dissecting key quotes.
Mr. Gieselman: [The commercials] definitely have broken through. The Russian character was the first in the campaign. Everybody absolutely loved him so we created a new set of characters, the banker, the Whale and “Tommy the Truth.” They are larger-than-life characters but have some twist in them that make it fun to watch. They are intended to be entertaining, over-the-top characters that no one would ever take literally.
Ad Age: Why, then, did you take “Tommy the Truth” off the web?
Mr. Gieselman: The debate ensued with a string of dialog that was completely inappropriate and had nothing to do with the spot or DirectTV and we didn’t want to have anything to do with it.
Okey-doke, let’s begin by identifying the issue that seems to escape Gieselman—and much of the public as well. The majority of the spots in this campaign feature characters displaying cultural/racial/ethnic stereotypes. Now, folks will rightly argue that comedy often requires using stereotypes. Yet as DIRECTV is seeing, cultural/racial/ethnic stereotypes can lead to trouble, especially when utilized for sales messages hawking trivial shit like TV services.
Perhaps the most stereotypical spots in the batch are the ones starring the rich Russian guy—Opulence, I Has It and I Am Epic Win. While sources have indicated the guy was inspired by the billionaire owner of the New Jersey Nets, Mikhail D. Prokhorov, it’s hard to deny the cultural stereotyping. The tiny-giraffe enthusiast appears to have gained his fortune illegally—Hey, all wealthy Russians are crooks with mob ties, right?—as evidenced by the bodyguards, harem of hooker-like women wearing fur coats and extravagant over-spending. The accent and broken English are ultra-exaggerated (and delivered by an Irishman!). Indeed, he shows nearly every cartoonish quality that Americans have concocted about Russians since The Cold War. This is the guy regularly appearing as a villain in James Bond movies and episodes of 24. The only reason these spots have not drawn criticism is that it’s politically OK to bash Russians. Or it’s not as explosive as bashing other racial and ethnic minorities at least.
Tommy the Truth and The Whale tap stereotypes that cross the line of political correctness, despite reflecting the popularity of comedians such as the Wayans brothers, Dave Chappelle and Ken Jeong.
Gieselman doesn’t get it when declaring, “They are intended to be entertaining, over-the-top characters that no one would ever take literally.” Not sure anyone is taking these characters literally. Rather, they are responding to the negative and over-the-top characteristics consistently attached to specific cultural/racial/ethnic groups. In short, DIRECTV is perpetuating bigoted stereotypes.
Gieselman also doesn’t get it when remarking, “The debate [attached to Tommy the Truth] ensued with a string of dialog that was completely inappropriate and had nothing to do with the spot or DirectTV and we didn’t want to have anything to do with it.” Dude, you have everything to do with it. DIRECTV approved the stereotyping that led to the heated and racially-charged conversations.
Ad Age: Do you have a sense if those offended are a vocal few or something bigger?
Mr. Gieselman: We’ve been getting the same amount of feedback [as prior spots]—no more, no less. We get feedback on all our creative; people share their opinions and that is great. You just have to be careful with that and when there is a very vocal minority, you have to keep that in perspective. We run close to 20 to 30 different spots during the year so we have a baseline for what’s typical. You know pretty quickly if it’s something that’s causing a negative reaction more intense than something has in the past, so this is not unusual. Some of the commentary … it’s amazing what people take away sometimes.
Love the line, “You just have to be careful with that and when there is a very vocal minority, you have to keep that in perspective.” A very vocal minority? You mean like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton? Another gem is, “Some of the commentary … it’s amazing what people take away sometimes.” Which “people” does Gieselman refer to here? What’s truly amazing is how some people (usually White people) remain insensitive and ignorant about other people (usually non-White people).
Ad Age: Do you think the critics have a point or are they just missing the point?
Mr. Gieselman: In my judgment these are farcical characters. It’s altered reality. If some people take it literally and don’t like it I apologize for that. Sorry, you didn’t like it; that’s not what it was intended to do. Everybody’s measure for what’s appropriate is different and there is no way to reconcile everyone’s yardstick. What you don’t hear are the 99% of people who either didn’t have a reaction or liked it and chose not to take the time to write an email.
Again, Gieselman doesn’t get it. In his judgment, the characters are farcical and the reality is altered. For the offended, the characters are negative stereotypes and the reality is, well, the same damned reality that Whites have historically altered. To say, “Sorry, you didn’t like it; that’s not what it was intended to do,” doesn’t cut it for responsible advertisers. Unintentional insults are not significantly less insulting, and the lack of intention does not absolve the insult maker. Gieselman believes “there is no way to reconcile everyone’s yardstick.” Perhaps. But the root problem resides in Madison Avenue’s inability and unwillingness to simply acknowledge the existence of any yardstick that doesn’t belong to a White man.
Gieselman should admit, “Cultural cluelessness, I has it.”
Friday, July 29, 2011
According to Nielsen, “Women control almost $12 trillion of the $18 trillion in global consumer spending.” Yet women barely control 3 percent of the creative director roles on Madison Avenue. This miniscule figure seems really wrong. Or maybe not. Regardless, the currently male-dominated creative departments are growing increasingly inept at effectively communicating to women—as any talking vagina hand will tell you.
Don’t mean to keep bashing Adweek, but the publication grows lamer every day. Consider its coverage on the SC Johnson-Draftfcb split—arguably the biggest industry-related news story of the month. Advertising Age reported on the breakup Thursday evening, following the lead of Crain’s Chicago Business, and even provided supplemental and updated information today. Hell, blogs were delivering the latest perspectives on the shift too. Adweek countered by lazily coughing up 400+ words on the event late Friday morning. Meanwhile, Editorial Director Michael Wolff is shuttling around London like a Sherlock Holmes wannabe, seeking smoking guns for the Rupert Murdoch controversy.
Adweek is conducting a poll that asks, “Was Summer’s Eve right to pull its talking-vagina ads?” Seems like a pointless question to pose to advertising people, as the public provided the deciding vote. Also wonder how many of the “No” votes were placed by the over 600 diverse employees at The Richards Group, as well as marketing wonks at Summer’s Eve. Stuffing the ballot box takes on all sorts of different meanings in this case.
Crain’s Chicago Business reported Draftfcb lost $65 million in revenue, as SC Johnson reassigned its billings to Ogilvy and Energy BBDO. The firing is actually not news, as everyone has been predicting the move for quite some time. Draftfcb leadership will probably blame the dumping on newly hired CCO Todd Tilford. Oh, and count on Howard Draft to continue admitting that 80 percent of his shop’s work is shit. The figure just won’t include stuff for SC Johnson anymore. One thing is certain: Lots of people who had nothing to do with the shift will lose their jobs—while the assholes who had everything to do with the client’s defection will remain gainfully employed. And no amount of Glade PlugIns can cover the stink.
DraftFCB loses entire S. C. Johnson account
By Kate MacArthur
(Crain’s) — In a big blow, Chicago ad agency DraftFCB has lost its $65-million-revenue global account with S. C. Johnson & Son Inc., which is splitting the work between Chicago-based roster agencies Ogilvy & Mather and EnergyBBDO, Crain’s has learned.
After seven months of back and forth, the Racine, Wis.-based maker of home care products including Glade air fresheners, Raid pest control sprays and Windex glass cleaner will end its nearly 60-year relationship with DraftFCB, according to two executives close to the situation.
None of the agencies nor S.C. Johnson returned calls requesting comment.
Half of the work, valued altogether at nearly $1 billion in billings, will go to EnergyBBDO and the other half to Ogilvy & Mather, DraftFCB senior managers learned this evening. S.C. Johnson plans to issue a formal statement later Thursday night.
“Every assignment that DraftFCB had domestically and internationally will be gone,” said one of the executives with knowledge of the move. The assignments likely will begin transitioning over the fall.
S. C. Johnson Chairman and CEO Fisk Johnson contacted Michael Roth, chairman and CEO of DraftFCB’s New York-based parent Interpublic Group of Cos., at the close of business Thursday.
S. C. Johnson in December announced the global review that included roster agencies for advertising, digital and Internet, shopper marketing, promotions, direct marketing, and media buying and planning.
The company had narrowed the contenders to DraftFCB, Ogilvy & Mather and Energy BBDO. DraftFCB made its final pitch on June 1.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
MultiCultClassics will take a break from criticizing The Richards Group and Summer’s Eve, handing over the reins to Larry Woodard of Graham Stanley Advertising. Take it away, Mr. Woodard.
Summer’s Eve Ads Miss The Mark
By Larry D. Woodard, Graham Stanley Advertising CEO and President
In 1972, the late comedian George Carlin released an album that contained a skit called the Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television. The skit contains the seven words, still pretty much considered obscene and not printable here. Carlin was pressing the idea of free speech and caused quite a controversy.
He was arrested after performing the skit live on stage and when he performed the skit on radio it became the basis for a case that wound up in the Supreme Court. There are few topics in our society that are as divisive as obscenity; one of them arguably is race. So, in light of a recent campaign for Summer’s Eve dubbed “Hail to the V” (yeah, that “V”) that are being called racist and sexist by many and borderline obscene by others; I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about racism, obscenity and advertising. Hide the children and hold on to your hats!
The ads in question were created by the Richards Group, an advertising agency based in Dallas that lists among its clients Bridgestone, Home Depot and Motel Six. There are three ads, each targeting a racial group. How do I know? Because in each ad there is a hand, ala Senor Wences and Johnny, but instead of horizontal to simulate a mouth, these hands are vertical to simulate a vagina. (OK, I know I’ve lost half of the readers just now—but for the rest of you, stick with me, it gets worse.)
In an attempt to differentiate based on insights into each ethnic group, each spot suggests a slightly different rationale for using the products. The black hand explains to African American women that you spend a lot of time on the hair on your head, why neglect the hair down there while showing the drawing of a cactus. (Okay, I’ve lost my African American readers, let’s move on.) The Hispanic hand starts off by saying “Aye, Aye, Aye” and then in a heavily accented voice mentions the “trashing the tacky leopard thong”—need I say more? (Hasta luego Hispanic readers) The Caucasian hand starts off by welcoming viewers with a hearty “Hello from Vagina Land”. (Please! Dear reader, come back next week)
As my mother would say when I just went off the deep end: “Have you lost your mind?” Okay, that’s enough about the ads because we want to spend some time addressing how ads like these get produced. One look at the portfolio of the Richards Group and you realize they are a very talented agency whose work has given us a lot of pleasure and likely sold a lot of product for their various clients. So what caused them to miss by a nautical mile with this campaign?
You have to first understand there is a battle being waged in the advertising industry. It is about race, demographics and representation. But above all, it is about money.
Large advertising agencies are powerful fiefdoms that largely control the advertising spending for the major corporations in the United States and abroad. The industry, in people, is relatively small, about 172,000 and overwhelmingly white. (To my last four readers, the going really gets tough from here) With virtually no representation from people of color in the management ranks of the industry, the proper filters don’t exist to create advertising that has the right balance of insight and information to credibly speak to the growing percentage of the population that is ethnic.
That’s why you see so many black, Hispanic and Asian stereotypes in ads. There are very few black, Hispanic and Asian chief creative officers to say: “Hell, no!” The singer Nat King Cole had a critically acclaimed variety show in the ‘50s that died for lack of advertisers, prompting Nat to exclaim, “I guess Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark.”
There is a different problem now. Advertisers for the most part want to—need to—sell to everyone. They have created budgets and initiatives to reach consumers that are best reached with cultural relevance. The problem is they too often spend those budgets with agencies that do not have the makeup within their ranks to develop credible advertising for these groups. Even if the work is written by a Hispanic copywriter, he still has to sell the work through a management system and many times a client as well who don’t have the ability to judge its effectiveness or even appropriateness to an ethnic target.
So in the end you have an ad that can be perceived to be racist, sexist and tasteless and the scapegoat will probably be the female product manager who in this case was working with what she had. Advertisers: It should not be acceptable for you to have agencies that get A’s for creativity but failing grades for insight. Make your agencies prove they have cultural competence and are representative all the way through the management ranks particularly at the sign-off levels. Or, risk alienating your target consumer or embarrassing your company with major gaffs like this one.
Larry Woodard is a director on the Advertising Week board and chairman of the American Association of Advertising Agencies’ New York Council.
Adweek Editorial Director Michael Wolff has flown to London to more closely cover the Rupert Murdoch mess—presumably because Adweek readers give a shit about the affair. In his latest over-dramatic video report, Wolff declared, “What we have here is the next stage in the collapse of the credibility of both Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch.” As well as the next stage in the collapse of the credibility of Adweek.
How come fast food joints always feature minorities to depict Grill Masters, Certified Cooks and Chicken Queens? Is it rooted in Pancake Czars, Cream of Wheat Emperors and Rice Rulers?
Adweek is messed up. When Elizabeth Taylor passed away, the trade publication ran an insensitive story examining the “bad timing” of her death. When Amy Winehouse died, AdFreak presented “The Most Uncool Ad Ever Made Featuring Amy Winehouse” as a clumsy tribute. Yet with the passing of John Chervokas—the adman credited with creating the “Please Don’t Squeeze the Charmin” line and Mr. Whipple for Charmin toilet paper—Adweek doesn’t even make a single mention at all. However, the trade journal did feature a riveting examination on the evolution of paper towel advertising. Adweek barely earns the right to be used to wipe one’s ass.
Adweek reported on the Summer’s Eve decision to yank the talking vajayjay commercials too—contrasting the Advertising Age story with slightly different details, including quotes from Stacie Barnett.
For starters, Adweek claimed all three versions—Black, Latina and White—were pulled. But Ad Age is correct in noting the White one is still yammering away at SummersEve.com as hand/vaginas are wont to do. Many people thought the Black and Latina videos were stereotypical and even racist; however, letting the White vajayjay stick around feels like an act of bias and exclusivity on the part of the advertising agency and client. The scenario is reflective of Madison Avenue, where the minorities get cut while the equally awful Caucasian retains her job.
It appears that Barnett semi-carefully considered her remarks before spouting off this time. Nonetheless, she managed to stumble a bit. “Stereotyping or being offensive was not our intention in any way, shape or form,” said Barnett. “The decision to take the videos down is about acknowledging that there’s backlash here. We want to move beyond that and focus on the greater mission.” There they go again with the “greater mission” mumbo-jumbo. Hey, the Dalai Lama is on a greater mission. The Richards Group and Summer’s Eve are selling pussy purifier.
“We do not think [the videos] are stereotypical, nor did we obviously intend that. However, it’s a subjective point of view,” said Barnett. “There seems to be an important perception out there that they may be, and we would never want to perpetuate that.” At least she’s no longer throwing the “in-house multicultural experts” under the bus. But given the large number of folks who do think the videos are stereotypical, maybe the agency and client should peek at the mirror and examine their potential insensitivity and cultural cluelessness. Before wiping their “wunder down unders” with Summer’s Eve Cleansing Wash, of course.
Barnett insisted the agency and client steadfastly stand behind the “Hail to the V” campaign. Then the PR wonk went on the defensive, distinguishing cleansers from douches (gee, what an insightful and informative interview it must have been for Adweek’s Tim Nudd). Yet Barnett seems to have missed a big problem with her douching discussion. Specifically, the advertising has drawn so much negative attention to the brand, consumers are not simply lashing out against the messages—they are attacking the very existence of the products. This is perhaps the worst harm an agency can inflict upon a client.
“We’ve got to rebound from this, and that’s what we’re committed to doing,” declared Barnett. OK, but in the future, please keep your vagina ventriloquism to yourself.
Summer’s Eve Pulls Controversial Talking-Vagina Videos
The online clips had been accused of being racially stereotypical
By Tim Nudd
Summer’s Eve pulled three videos off its website and YouTube on Wednesday following claims that they were racially insensitive.
The videos, part of the feminine-care company’s new “Hail to the V” campaign by The Richards Group in Dallas, featured talking hand-puppets representing women’s vaginas. Two of the spots in particular, featuring black and Hispanic characters, were criticized by some viewers, who complained that the voice work was racially stereotypical.
The black woman is “Pam Grier and Lil’ Kim all wrapped in to one,” wrote one online critic, while the Latina woman opens with the cry, “Ay-yi-yi.”
Under pressure, agency and client stood by the videos last week, with agency founder Stan Richards saying they were meant to be “relatable,” not stereotypical. But on Wednesday, Richards PR executive Stacie Barnett told Adweek that the criticism had begun to overshadow the message and goal of the larger campaign—to educate women about their anatomy and break down taboos in talking about it—and that the online videos had to go.
“Stereotyping or being offensive was not our intention in any way, shape, or form,” said Barnett. “The decision to take the videos down is about acknowledging that there’s backlash here. We want to move beyond that and focus on the greater mission.”
Agency and client had expected the campaign to be provocative, Barnett said, but for its frank talk about female anatomy, not for any racial issues. (And indeed, it was parodied by Stephen Colbert on Monday night, in a segment Barnett said the agency found amusing.) “We do not think they are stereotypical, nor did we obviously intend that. However, it’s a subjective point of view,” said Barnett. “There seems to be an important perception out there that they may be, and we would never want to perpetuate that.”
Barnett said agency and client remain strongly committed to the rest of the campaign, which includes a 60-second anthem spot and an online quiz about female anatomy called ID the V, which Barnett said 16,000 women had completed in the past two weeks.
Much of the criticism of the hand-puppet videos online has been inseparable from criticism about Summer’s Eve products themselves. Some people are simply opposed to the products, which could make them pre-disposed to oppose any marketing of them.
Barnett acknowledged that is a barrier for the brand, but she made a distinction between douching products and the cleansers being advertised in this campaign.
“The product that women and the medical community have questioned whether it is necessary is douching,” she said. “This campaign is marketing the external cleanser, cloth and wash, which is no different than a special hand cream, eye cream, body wash, etc. Now, are these things necessary? No. But cosmetically, as women, we have those choices.”
She added: “The bigger issue is: Do I think the baggage that Summer’s Eve has had related to its heritage of douche is part of this [current criticism]? Absolutely. There are people who may always associate Summer’s Eve only with douche, and therefore look upon it either with mockery or a negative perception. And that’s fine. But there are a lot of women who want these products, right or wrong, necessary or not. And that’s who we want to educate.”
Despite this being its second PR crisis in two years, Barnett said the brand can and will bounce back. “We’ve got to rebound from this, and that’s what we’re committed to doing,” she said.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Advertising Age reported on the inevitable: Summer’s Eve pulled its talking vajayjays. However, only the minority hands/vaginas were yanked—the White one is still online. Wonder what the “in-house multicultural experts” at The Richards Group are thinking now. Of course, there’s not a peep from the collective private parts of Stan Richards, Stacie Barnett or Angela Bryant.
Summer’s Eve Cleanses YouTube of Controversial Ad
Will Marketer Behind Talking-Vagina Hand Puppets Get Another Promotion?
By Jack Neff
Fleet Laboratories has pulled the controversial talking-hand-puppet-vagina web ads for its Summer’s Eve washes off YouTube, following considerable lampooning and complaints by some online commentators that the ads were racist.
This particular set in the marketer’s “Hail to the V” tribute to all things vaginal featured white, African-American and Hispanic versions of women’s hands paying tribute to the female anatomy and emphasized the need to wash the area regularly with its pH-balanced cleanser. Richards Group, Dallas, named agency of record for the brand less than a year ago, last year distinguished itself with a controversial print ad that suggested women would be more successful at getting raises if they’d douche first.
While the officially approved ads are gone from YouTube, unauthorized versions are still to be found there, and are viewable in their entirety in this clip from “The Colbert Report,” which suggests comparable advertising for male-hygiene products.
Spokespeople for Richards Group couldn’t be reached or didn’t immediately return calls for comment. Angela Bryant, director of U.S. marketing for Fleet, also didn’t immediately return a call for comment.
It all does raise the question of whether the douche brand is being deliberately provocative to drum up publicity. One sign that Fleet doesn’t mind the fuss: Ms. Bryant last year was brand manager of Summer’s Eve when she publicly apologized for the douche-to-get-a-raise ad. This year, she’s director of U.S. marketing.
Another fun fact: Fleet is based in Lynchburg, Va., also home to the Rev. Jerry Falwell and the conservative evangelical Liberty University.
While the vaginal hand puppets are gone, other elements of “Hail to the V,” including a talking pussycat at www.thatsvaginal.com, remain. Other cinematic-style ads featuring men throughout history fighting for access to “the V” continue to run, too, apparently also in cinema advertising for the NCM Theater Network. And the Caucasian version of the hand-puppet ad also continues to grace the homepage at SummersEve.com.
Advertising Age reported on the actor playing a Russian rich guy in the DIRECTV spots—and revealed he is actually Irish. Leave it to Madison Avenue to create fake cultural stereotypes with White men. It’s a wonder advertising agency Grey didn’t use Robert Downey, Jr. to play The Truth.
Mini-Giraffe-Toting Actor From DirecTV Ads Sued Over Bar Brawl
‘Not the First Irishman to Be in a Bar When a Fight Breaks Out,’ DirecTV Says
By Rupal Parekh
The actor who stars as a Russian billionaire with a penchant for “lap giraffes” in DirecTV’s ad campaign is now the target of a lawsuit after he allegedly punched someone in the face at a Los Angeles bar, according to TMZ.
While many marketers might react swiftly in such a scenario, severing a contract with an actor in order to be safe, DirecTV says it’s taking a wait-and-see approach. And for now, it doesn’t seem like they have much of a problem with what the actor, Timothy Murphy, does whilst he’s not on set.
“We don’t have any details so it’s tough to say if this will affect the campaign one way or another, but with family from County Cork myself, I’m pretty sure Tim is not the first Irishman to be in a bar when a fight breaks out,” DirecTV spokesman Jon Gieselman told Ad Age. The agency responsible for creating the ads, Grey, New York, did not immediately have a comment.
Even if DirecTV does change its mind and decides to dump him, it seems like Mr. Murphy has plenty of other work. The actor, who has appeared in episodes of “Chuck”, “CSI”, “Nip/Tuck” and “24”, is in the midst of shooting several upcoming films according to IMDB, including one in which Ben Kingsley and Thora Birch will be his co-stars.
This panel of award-winning geniuses at Cannes 2011 discusses the dearth of diversity within the industry—and manages to spit out nothing but contrived clichés. What a bunch of fucking losers. Ironically, there is a White Pencil on the table.
A Midweek MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• In case people needed additional reasons to hate Glenn Beck, the nutcase sparked controversy by comparing the Oslo massacre victims to young followers of Adolf Hitler. “As the thing started to unfold and there was a shooting at a political camp, which sounds a little like the Hitler Youth,” said Beck. “Who does a camp for kids that’s all about politics? Disturbing.” Of course, Beck would never use the word “disturbing” to describe his own behavior—and the crap that flows from his pants or mouth.
• Mickey D’s is apparently caving in to political pressure, and will proceed to add a serving of fruit or vegetable to all Happy Meals. Plus, the fast feeder will reduce the portion size of fries. However, the price will probably remain the same—and knowing Mickey D’s, they’ll likely increase the size of the toy.
From The New York Times…
Recession Study Finds Hispanics Hit the Hardest
By Sabrina Tavernise
WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Hispanic families accounted for the largest single decline in wealth of any ethnic and racial group in the country during the recession, according to a study published Tuesday by the Pew Foundation.
The study, which used data collected by the Census Bureau, found that the median wealth of Hispanic households fell by 66 percent from 2005 to 2009. By contrast, the median wealth of whites fell by just 16 percent over the same period. African Americans saw their wealth drop by 53 percent. Asians also saw a big decline, with household wealth dropping 54 percent.
The declines have led to the largest wealth disparities in the 25 years that the bureau has been collecting the data, according to the report.
Median wealth of whites is now 20 times that of black households and 18 times that of Hispanic households, double the already marked disparities that had prevailed in the decades before the recent recession, the study found.
“It’s a very stark reminder of the high share of minorities who live at the economic margins of this country,” said Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center and an author of the report. “These data really show their economic vulnerability.”
Household wealth, also referred to in the report as net worth, is made up of assets, like a house, a car, savings and stocks, minus debts, like mortgages, car loans and credit cards. It is tracked by the Census Bureau in the Survey of Income and Program Participation, a broad sampling of household wealth by race and ethnicity.
Nearly two-thirds of Hispanics’ median net worth in 2005 came from home equity, according to the report, and when the housing market collapsed, so did their wealth. Median home equity for Hispanics fell by 51 percent in the period of the survey. The drop was compounded by the fact that Hispanics tended to live in the places that were hit hardest in the recession, like Florida and California, the report said.
Armando Moya, a Mexican immigrant from Woodbridge, outside Washington, experienced these swings of fortune first-hand. For a few happy years, he believed he had avoided his father’s fate of scraping by. He bought a house with a backyard and opened a taco restaurant with his brothers. His bank account was growing, and he took his family on vacations several times a year.
Mr. Moya lives in Prince William County, where the Hispanic population more than tripled from 2000 to 2010, according to the Migration Policy Institute, with many newcomers working in construction trades that were flourishing in the rapidly growing suburbs of Washington.
To capitalize on the influx, Mr. Moya, who is now 38 and had been working in restaurants since he came to the United States in the early 1990s, decided to start his own, and together with his brother opened Ricos Tacos Moya in 2005.
In the same year, he bought a house valued at $350,000. His monthly payments were more than $2,300, and with hungry workers filling his restaurant, he managed.
But when the collapse of the housing market swept like a wave through this Northern Virginia county, taking his house, and his bank account, and many of his customers along with it, he lost his middle-class lifestyle.
“Everything was going down,” he said.
Now he is back where he started, living with his family in a rented apartment, and working seven days a week in the taco restaurant. His house sold for $135,000 to a couple from Morocco, he said.
“My money changed,” he said. “I lost my house.”
The share of Americans with no wealth at all rose sharply during the recession. A third of Hispanics had zero or negative net worth in 2009, up from 23 percent in 2005. For blacks, the portion rose to 35 percent from 29 percent, and for whites, it rose to 15 percent from 11 percent.
About a quarter of all black and Hispanic households owned nothing but a car in 2009. Just 6 percent of whites and 8 percent of Asians were in that situation.
Whites were less affected by the crisis, largely because their wealth flowed from assets other than housing, like stocks. A third of whites owned stocks and mutual funds in 2005, compared with 8 percent of Hispanics and 9 percent of blacks.
The median value of stocks and mutual funds owned by whites dropped by 9 percent from 2005 to 2009. In comparison, the median value of holdings for those blacks who held stocks dropped by 71 percent, most likely because they had to sell when prices were low, Mr. Taylor said.
The median wealth of Hispanic and black households is at its lowest point since 1984, when the Census Bureau first conducted the study, the report said.
Mr. Moya counts himself lucky to still have his restaurant. He has to work weekends at a nightclub in Washington to keep up with his rent. His life is increasingly resembling his father’s — subsisting, without saving — but he has pinned his hopes for a better life on his sons, and he has discarded the idea of returning to Mexico.
“I want my house back,” he said. “I’m working for my house right now.”
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
From The New York Times…
Mariachi Bands Hit Hard Times, Leading to Rifts Over Their Fees
By Jennifer Medina
LOS ANGELES — Alejandro Cisneros calls the newer arrivals “pirates.” They simply put on a costume and trick customers into thinking they are mariachi musicians, he says, but they know nothing of the history of Mexican music.
Juan Ariso calls the old-timers “the businessmen.” They are too focused on charging more money and pushing out those who they believe are taking gigs they do not deserve, playing at weddings and quinceañeras and the occasional backyard cookout.
The two groups cannot agree on many things, but the most important is this: How much should a mariachi charge?
“This is our profession, our job, our passion,” Mr. Cisneros said. “We don’t want to have it ruined by these people who do not know what they are doing.”
For Mr. Ariso, it is a simple business calculation: “I charge what they are willing to pay. That changes all the time.”
For generations, musicians have gathered each day in a corner of the Boyle Heights neighborhood, just east of downtown. The sprawling square has been called Mariachi Plaza for as long as anyone can remember and has served as a central band-gathering spot since the 1940s.
The players come with their violins and trumpets and guitars, like roaming minstrels offering to play their traditional ballads for anyone interested, and especially for those looking to hire a band. A few dress in traditional charro outfits, elaborate dark suits accented with chains and embroidery, topped with ornate sombreros.
Mariachi Plaza is a sort of day-labor center for musicians, and the mariachis will quickly gather around passers-by, a horde of them jostling to get their business card into the hand of the would-be customer. The leaders encourage the customer to hire the full band, typically six musicians, and will belt out a tune or two as an enticement.
The going rate here has been about $50 an hour per musician for more than a decade, but when business began to dry up and newer musicians moved in a few years ago, competition became far more intense. Some were willing to drop their price to $30 an hour, and shouting matches over who would get the infrequent jobs would occasionally turn into fistfights.
Now, roughly 200 mariachis have joined the United Mariachi Organization of Los Angeles, a group that formed to set a minimum price in the plaza. To join, musicians must pay $10 a month and pledge not to charge less than $50 an hour. In return, they receive a gold-colored picture identification card, which leaders hope customers will recognize as a badge of authenticity.
Customers have come back to the plaza to complain about mediocre bands or musicians who did not show up on time, said Arturo Ramirez, the president of the organization and the leader of Mariachi Los Dorados De Villa.
“We want to have a standard,” Mr. Ramirez said. “There are good and there are bad, and it is difficult to tell who is who when you just hear them play one song. If you buy a pair of pants for $20 and another for $80, it’s not the same quality. The same is true for music. For this to work, we need people to understand the difference.”
Mr. Ramirez, who has worked out of the plaza for more than 25 years, said he had always charged for travel and setup time, something unquestioned by customers until recently, when the lower-price groups began undercutting by charging only for the time they played.
Jose Luis Avenas said he began coming to the plaza about five years ago, first on the weekend to supplement his income as a contractor. Then as that work began to dry up, he came more often.
“This was good work, easy work and honest work,” Mr. Avenas said. “I get it myself, and nobody should be able to take it away from me because of the rules. This is America, where there is freedom and a free market.”
Rimmed with cafes serving strong coffee and Mexican food, the plaza serves as a social gathering area as much as an employment center. The Mexican state of Jalisco, also known as the birthplace of mariachi, donated a concrete bandstand and iron benches several years ago. A community development group is now renovating a crumbling hotel that has housed musicians for years, many who traveled back and forth to their Mexican hometowns with their earnings.
While the murals have faded and begun to peel, a new subway station at the plaza has revived the area, which now features a farmers’ market on Friday afternoons. Many of the mariachis worry about being pushed out of the square as the area has begun to gentrify with hip coffeehouses and wine bars. But for now, the shops selling the traditional instruments and outfits are still doing brisk business.
“This is ours, and we have to keep it ours, not let others tell us what to do,” said Martin Gonzales, who has been in the plaza for more than 20 years.
For now, Mr. Gonzales is ambivalent about the new organization. He wants to keep prices fair, but he is distrustful of new rules that do not promise to give him all that much in return.
“Do we need this?” he asked. “I don’t know. What we really need is more work.”
It was the second day in a row that Mr. Gonzales had stood for hours without getting a job. By 5 p.m., he gathered his bandmates in the van and took off. Like others, they had scrawled the band’s name and phone number on the window, in case potential customers might see them on their way home.
It was only a matter of time. Stephen Colbert critiqued the Summer’s Eve “Hail to the V” campaign, and even created a male companion to the talking vajayjays. Note how the studio audience is laughing at the brand, not with the brand. The Richards Group will probably tell their client that the campaign has connected with popular culture—when it has actually connected with popular cultural cluelessness. Ultimate Fail to the V.
The NASA space shuttle program may be over, but Jetpacks is relaunching Where’s My Jetpack? into the blogosphere. After a hiatus, the blog is back and selling women’s shoes on the side.
Sorry for the Lobsters and beating a dead horse, but wanted to briefly re-examine Neil French and the alleged gender discrimination on Madison Avenue.
To briefly recap, French made sexist comments when asked about the lack of female creative directors during a professional engagement in 2005. French has consistently insisted that he was joking, and that anyone attending the event would have realized it (although a number of people reportedly exited in the middle of French’s presentation—and Nancy Vonk clearly was not amused). According to various sources, French said women usually leave the industry “to go suckle something,” and added, “You can’t be a great creative director and have a baby and keep spending time off every time your kids are ill … Everyone who doesn’t commit themselves fully to the job is crap at it.” French has never denied making these statements, and even defended his position in a later interview by saying, “A belligerent question deserves a belligerent answer. The answer is, They don’t work hard enough. It’s not a joke job. The future of the entire agency is in your hands as creative director.”
At the time of the incident, French was the Worldwide Creative Director for WPP, and he inevitably resigned when the proverbial shit hit the fan. But to be clear, his comments were grounds for dismissal, as one could easily argue that such declarations would create a hostile and discriminatory work environment for women. As WPP Overlord Sir Martin Sorrell recently admitted about his company, “We don’t recruit people very well, we don’t assess them very well, we don’t give them feedback very well.” It would not help the hiring efforts to also be known as a female-unfriendly enterprise.
Given the continuing controversy surrounding gender imbalance on Madison Avenue, at least in regards to creative directors, one must wonder if the people in power (i.e., White men) really think there is an issue. Why? Well, consider this. If French had made the exact same comments and replaced women with Blacks or Latinos, he would have been branded as the Michael Richards of the industry, and probably shunned and condemned by everyone. However, a number of prominent admen have come forward to praise French and his book, including Mike Hughes, David Droga, Mark Tutssel, Bob Scarpelli, Lee Clow, Jeff Goodby and Graham Fink.
So is there a problem with the “dearth of dames” leading creative teams and departments? Or deep down, do modern Mad Men support French’s viewpoint along with his book?