Madison Avenue Manslaughter by Michael Farmer paints a sobering portrait of today’s advertising industry. The book’s subtitle sums up its overall perspective: An Inside View of Fee-Cutting Clients, Profit-Hungry Owners and Declining Ad Agencies.
Farmer’s 25-year journey as a management consultant and software provider to advertising agencies and advertisers led him to identify three key challenges confounding adland: 1) The Workload Challenge (requiring the need to better document, track and measure workloads); 2) The Mission Challenge (involving rejiggering the organizational objectives from “creativity and service” to “results for clients”) and; 3) The Accountability Challenge (demanding the need to run like a business with a greater sense of accountability). From there, the consultant offers a 10-step transformation program to restore shops to professional healthiness, harmony and happiness.
Not surprisingly, the 200-page guide fails to make any mention of diversity, except in reference to variety of media. Indeed, the book is illustrated with cartoons from The New Yorker featuring all-White characters. The absence of inclusion underscores the harsh reality. That is, it’s hard to argue diversity is a legitimate business imperative—and significantly more difficult to persuade agency honchos to place diversity on their to-do lists at all. Even diverted diversity is ignored as part of the transformative solutions. Will JWT Chairman and CEO Tamara Ingram’s WoManifesto fare any better than former Draftfcb President and CEO Laurence Boschetto’s Manifesto? Does anyone really care?
Albert Einstein is attributed with having said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” Yet what about doing the same thing over and over again with the same people? Farmer believes the road to success simply requires fundamentally reinventing processes, thinking and attitudes. However, the advertising industry has demonstrated time after time that the ruling majority is incapable of executing basic changes—and the dearth of diversity is symptomatic of the global problem.
Madison Avenue Manslaughter is an apt title, as any actual or metaphorical murders in the field will only involve men—and White men at that.