Sunday, November 04, 2012

10691: Offensive Politics And The Ad Industry.

Can’t wait for Tuesday’s election—mostly because it’s painful to witness the poorly produced propaganda from advertising agency people.

Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein apparently pulled the embarrassingly bad video for The Future Children Project. The iconic duo undoubtedly hoped it would go viral; however, folks reacted like it was a virus. Besides being sophomoric pap, the piece represented everything President Barack Obama opposes about political advertising. The Commander-In-Chief would never have provided the tag, “I’m Barack Obama and I approved this message.” Needless to say, Goodby and Silverstein are no Clint Eastwood. And as others have pointed out, they are no Hal Riney either.

The latest mess—“Obama: Let’s Finish The Job”—comes from a concept initiated by SVA students and executed by Martin Agency CCO Joe Alexander and friends. While being a well-intentioned effort, this video may surpass The Future Children Project for offensiveness. Hyping the notion that Americans don’t leave a job half finished, the video included an image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and asked, “What if Martin Luther King decided to quit halfway up the mountain?”

If Obama would have panned the garbage by Goodby and Silverstein, how might MLK have reacted to the work of ad students and professionals? After all, the famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech was made in protest of discriminatory labor practices. Plus, MLK literally targeted prominent brands in his call for justice:

And so, as a result of this, we are asking you tonight, to go out and tell your neighbors not to buy Coca-Cola in Memphis. Go by and tell them not to buy Sealtest milk. Tell them not to buy—what is the other bread?—Wonder Bread. And what is the other bread company, Jesse? Tell them not to buy Hart’s bread. As Jesse Jackson has said, up to now, only the garbage men have been feeling pain; now we must kind of redistribute the pain. We are choosing these companies because they haven’t been fair in their hiring policies; and we are choosing them because they can begin the process of saying they are going to support the needs and the rights of these men who are on strike. And then they can move on town—downtown and tell Mayor Loeb to do what is right.

It all begs questions like:

• How would MLK feel about appearing in such a video brought to you by the advertising industry?

• Has Madison Avenue made any progress in the areas of diversity and non-discriminatory hiring practices since MLK delivered speeches and led marches?

• Would MLK denounce the separate-but-unequal conditions experienced by minority advertising agencies—and perpetuated by White advertising agencies and clients?

“Obama: Let’s Finish The Job” declared, “Americans don’t quit. We finish the job.” Yet regarding diversity—the very heart of MLK’s legacy—the video’s proposition does not hold up in the U.S. advertising field. On Madison Avenue, the job is far from finished and not even halfway started. Hell, it could be argued the job hasn’t begun. And history shows the problem won’t be adequately addressed, no matter which candidate emerges victorious on Tuesday.

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