“This is adland 2018”—Campaign’s lengthy examination of IPA’s annual diversity survey—looks a lot like adland 1918. For starters, BAME are MIA, especially at the C-suite level. IPA President and CHI & Partners CEO and Partner Sarah Golding remarked, “So, how are we looking? At first glance, the immediate reaction to these figures is that they aren’t where they should be. However, while the rise in diversity doesn’t appear extreme enough or fast enough, and we have yet to achieve parity at all levels, there is an inevitable time lag from implementing change to seeing results, and we mustn’t lose heart.” Actually, progress requires gaining heart—and brains, in the case of an excuse-making moron like Golding. An analysis by Alex Brownsell revealed “there was a fall in the percentage of C-suite roles held by ethnic minorities, from 5.2% in 2016 to 4.7% in 2017. Meanwhile, disappointingly, just 2% of chair/CEO/MD roles are currently held by people from a BAME background.” The accompanying charts are bullshit, comparing women in C-suite roles versus BAME overall—showing the senior-level women are trouncing the BAME in terms of success. Somebody tell Golding the IPA study results warrant losing heart. Plus, executives with hiring power who fail to create inclusion should be losing their jobs.
Friday, January 19, 2018
Thursday, January 18, 2018
Adweek reported more on CES 2018, continuing to critique the trade show for its lack of diversity. Honestly, given that the tech industry’s exclusivity is common knowledge and openly acknowledged, why bother hammering an event for appealing to and reflecting its core audience? Divertsity was on display, with advocates including HP CMO Antonio Lucio, who declared, “[Diversity in tech] may take a bit longer than all of us anticipated, but let’s get started.” Yes, things tend to take a bit longer than anticipated when half-wits like Lucio promote half-assed efforts.
Voice Reigned at CES 2018, but Diversity Was Still Elusive
Heads up, tech giants: Alexa and Siri don’t count as real women
By Lauren Johnson
Every year, the Consumer Electronic Show sets the agenda for the biggest trends and gadgets. Thousands of marketers descend into the desert to discuss the tech that consumers will soon get their hands on—and what it means for brands.
As technology weaves more intricately into our daily lives and consumer adoption continues to grow, CES’s packed show floor—clocking in at 2.5 million square feet across 11 venues, to be exact—has become a bit of a running joke for marketers in recent years. Advertisers know well that 90 percent of the products (think smart litter boxes or noise-canceling devices connected by Bluetooth) they see during the weeklong event won’t go mainstream. But this year, they’re particularly bullish on the other 10 percent, namely voice and artificial intelligence.
Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home were on the lips of every big brand and agency exec in Las Vegas, popping up in dozens of companies’ pitches and demonstrations about the Internet of Things.
“We’re really interested in voice assistants—we’ve seen a lot with Alexa and Siri,” said Meredith Verdone, Bank of America’s CMO. “For us to understand how people are interacting with chat is really helpful for us to see the consumer behavior of what’s working [and] what’s not working.”
Tech giants flexing their voice muscles
Among Las Vegas’ miles of casinos and conference halls, voice got its big IRL moment. Google Home’s activation included a giant gumball machine showing how artificial intelligence works by asking consumers to play a game where they ask the voice assistant a series of questions. Google also conducted a large out-of-home and media campaign in casinos and on the monorail system.
Meanwhile, Amazon was unavoidable even during a quick walk around the show floor, as both major brands (like Sleep Number and Whirlpool) and smaller startups pitched AI-infused products. The commerce giant also hosted at least nine panels talking about itself.
Right now, voice technology is nascent, and virtual assistants can only understand a relatively small number of words, but not for long. Expect the vocabulary of your virtual assistant to grow as the technology becomes more sophisticated.
“Hopefully, at a certain point, it will be more organic—there will be more natural language understanding, so you can speak more eloquently, [more] fluidly and faster,” said Michael Bassik, managing director of MDC.
One thing not prevalent at CES: Marketers’ one-on-one meetings with the platforms. Instead of spending time talking with platforms, it seems like advertisers this year were focused on seeing the future through techy gadgets.
Tech’s diversity problem
While flashy and glitzy tech was the main attraction at CES, one thing that wasn’t on full display was diversity.
Going into CES, much was made about the conference’s lack of female solo keynoters, with some marketers suggesting a boycott. While companies like Twitter, Sonos and Medialink hosted women-led panels and programming, the lack of diversity in both gender and ethnicity was prevalent at CES.
HP CMO Antonio Lucio, who has made a big push for more diverse teams for the past year, focused on attending non-official CES events—like Twitter’s #HereWeAre event with 150 attendees, which was live-streamed and racked up two million viewers. The two-hour event included Kara Swisher, cofounder and executive editor of Recode; Linda Boff, CMO of GE; and Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code.
Still, booth babes were in clear sight at several companies’ displays, and an event featuring sex robots at a nearby nightclub went viral after it was revealed that it was aimed at attracting women.
Diversity in tech “may take a bit longer than all of us anticipated, but let’s get started,” said Lucio.
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Campaign presented “Power 100 Next Generation 2018”—marketing’s alleged rising stars—whose featured stars look like all the exclusive power players from previous generations. M&M’s Brand Director Alexa Saller added a dose of divertsity by gushing, “I am so proud of Maltesers’ mission to stand up for diversity, but what’s most important is that it comes from a really genuine place. It’s something our vice-president of marketing, Michele Oliver, is personally passionate about—and consumers recognise that. Using your brand to make a difference through your supply chain or with your advertising, backed up by concrete commitments, gives consumers a reason to pay attention to you.” Okay, but don’t be offended if MultiCultClassics pays no attention to your Pollyannaish and patronizing propaganda.
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Campaign presented divertsity drollery from Grey London Co-Chief Creative Officer Vicki Maguire, who advocated for more female comediennes in advertising. Of course, there was no acknowledgment of Annie the Chicken Queen, The Pine-Sol Lady or the Honey Bunches of Oats Lady.
Why funny women should take the lead in advertising this year
There’s a wealth of female comedy talent out there, so let’s tap into it and inject some humour back into our creative output, says Grey London’s creative chief.
By Vicki Maguire
It’s 2018 and advertising isn’t quite what it used to be. You can’t call your PA “sugar tits” or hire your talentless son. You can’t have a post-pitch grope in the edit suite or make the occasional racist joke “just for bantz”.
HR is preventing you from recruiting from your alma mater and one woman on the board isn’t good enough. There’s no more pinkwashing a scam ad in case they find out you pay women less than men, and no-one good will work with you because word’s got around that you’re a misogynist prick who can’t keep his hands to himself.
Oh, well, at least you can have a laugh. Funny ads are back in fashion, after all. But all your go-to guys for funny, like Kleinman and Linehan, are busy and Peter Kay is still trotting out “garlic bread”. What to do? You could go for something cute and furry instead. Kittens? Been done. Meerkats? Also done. Or just cute — women? Minefield. How about funny women? Now, that’s not been done for a while.
Time to dust off a few clichés. You wonder whether Maureen Lipman is still alive. Or how about a childless Bridget Jones-type, with big pants and shrivelling ovaries? Or a ditzy chick who needs to call a plumber to get her out of a fix? No, that’s a bit porno and, besides, you can’t shoot with Terry any more. A power-suited ballbreaker surrounded by spineless male lackeys, perhaps? Or fat and funny? But, oh no, Dawn French has gone and lost weight. And now you’re out of ideas.
When it comes to women, the ad industry is still clueless. Research from The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media last year showed that in advertising women are “humourless, mute and in the kitchen”. The Museum of Brands has charted women’s evolution in ads in six dismal stereotypes: Domestic Obsessive, Selfless Nurturer, Sex Object, Unattainable Goddess, Fraught Juggler and Bit Part. Not funny. Never funny. In 2017, men were 2.6 times more likely to be funny in ads than female characters. This industry is desperately lagging behind. Even the BBC banned all-male comedy panel shows back in 2014.
Advertising has become focused on values and higher purpose lately, which has ended up making everything look a bit, well, samey. There was a time when British advertising was the envy of the world because — wait for it — it was funny. Everyone talks about how brands need to show human qualities but humour is one of the most important human characteristics. For most people, funny is how you choose your partner. In ads, funny cuts through, builds brands, increases equity and gives you a distinct tone of voice.
The nature of female humour can be different from men’s. Often, women use humour to “create moments of connection”, according to Carol Vallone Mitchell, author of Breaking Through “Bitch” – How Women Can Shatter Stereotypes and Lead Fearlessly. In contrast, men are more likely to use humour to gain top status, she says. Either way, in these dark times, we could all do with a laugh.
This may come as rather disquieting news to some of the throwbacks that still haunt the advertising world, but a new generation of female comedians is entering the mainstream. Performers such as Sarah Millican, Katherine Ryan and Bridget Christie are household names, inspired by the likes of French and Saunders, Victoria Wood and Jo Brand.
Female comedians have never been more popular, with tickets sales trebling between 2011-2014, according to Ticketmaster. The rite of passage that is the Edinburgh Fringe last year saw more funny women showcase their comedy in more female-written, female-performed shows than ever.
Michaela Coel’s Chewing Gum and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag have made the transition from stage to TV and been widely acclaimed – both here and in the US. The BBC is now actively seeking fresh young female comedy-writing talent with initiatives such as its Caroline Aherne Bursary for Funny Northern Women. The Maltesers ads, such as “New boyfriend”, championed some of our brightest up-and-coming talent.
Meanwhile, Sharon Horgan has started her own production company, Merman, which also has a brand content division. She’s on a mission to champion female ad directors — a move that the #FreeTheBid initiative is also backing, as only 9% of ads and 14% of films globally are directed by women.
We’ve always been shameless borrowers of culture. It’s time to give something back. In 2018, let’s make sure we have strong, funny female leads that aren’t foils or wallpaper. Great comedy powered by empathy, passion and an eye for the bizarre and quirky. Comedy that can connect rather than divide us, or simply score points. All of us — consumers, creators, brand owners included, irrespective of gender, sexual or religious persuasion or nationality, age or race — surely deserve a bit of that.
Vicki Maguire is the co-chief creative officer of Grey London.
Monday, January 15, 2018
The Google Doodle commemorating MLK Day shows a divertsity spirit with its female imagery. The diversionary doodle maneuver makes sense, given Google’s actual dearth of diversity in regards to race and ethnicity—and the tech company is failing with gender equality too. Google displays strong commitments and insights for diversity, but the workforce displays strong dedication for exclusivity.
Guess Who’s Coming to ‘Peanuts’
By David Kamp
“Is this your beach ball?” These were the first words spoken by Franklin, addressing Charlie Brown as the latter stared glumly out to sea. And this is how Charles M. Schulz integrated his comic strip, “Peanuts,” on July 31, 1968. Franklin’s initial three-strip arc unfolded quietly and gently, with the boys building a sand castle together while chatting.
Franklin stayed quiet and gentle, taking his place in the “Peanuts” gang as a steady but low-key presence over the next three decades — sometimes to the chagrin of African-Americans who found him to be anodyne at best and a token at worst. In a 1992 “Saturday Night Live” routine, Chris Rock complained, comically but pointedly, that Mr. Schulz had deprived Franklin of the kind of signature traits he had assigned the other “Peanuts” kids.
“Linus got the blanket, Lucy’s a bitch, Schroeder plays the piano, Peppermint Patty’s a lesbian,” Mr. Rock said. “Everybody got their thing except Franklin! Give him something! Damn, give him a Jamaican accent!”
Yet Franklin’s careful rollout and nice-guy equanimity were very much by design, as “50 Years of Franklin,” a new exhibition at the Charles M. Schulz Museum, in Santa Rosa, Calif., reveals. The exhibition opens this weekend in conjunction with the observance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday on Monday.
Dr. King’s assassination, on April 4, 1968, played a direct role in Franklin’s creation. Eleven days later, a Southern Californian named Harriet Glickman wrote to Mr. Schulz, introducing herself as “the mother of three children and a deeply concerned and active citizen.” In her grief, Ms. Glickman explained, she had been pondering “the areas of the mass media which are of tremendous importance in shaping the unconscious attitudes of our kids.” She then proposed an idea: “the introduction of Negro children into the group of Schulz characters.”
“I was acting on the feeling that maybe there was one little thing I can do,“ Ms. Glickman, who is now 91, told me in a recent interview. A civil rights and antiwar activist, she was shrewd to petition Mr. Schulz. “Peanuts” was at the peak of its popularity at the time, running in a thousand newspapers, with a devoted daily readership approaching 100 million. Mr. Schulz, as unassuming a man as he was, was a veritable godhead, revered in those divided times by Americans of all stripes.
Mr. Schulz wrote back to Ms. Glickman within two weeks, but only to tell her he couldn’t fulfill her request. He and his fellow white cartoonists, he said, were “afraid that it would look like we were patronizing our Negro friends.” Undaunted, Ms. Glickman sent another note, asking if she could share his letter with black acquaintances. Mr. Schulz assented, though he again expressed reluctance to introduce a black character into “Peanuts.”
Ms. Glickman wasted little time in enlisting her friend Kenneth C. Kelly, a black father of two, who told Mr. Schulz, essentially, to get over his anxiety.
“An accusation of being patronizing would be a small price to pay for the positive results that would accrue!” he wrote. Mr. Kelly suggested that Mr. Schulz begin with a “supernumerary” black character, a de facto extra, who “would quietly and unobtrusively set the stage for a principal character at a later date.” This cautious approach would serve the dual purpose of not burdening Mr. Schulz and “Peanuts” with the duty of making a Major Social Statement and presenting friendship between black and white children as utterly normal.
But in the context of the late ’60s, Franklin’s debut was indeed a Major Social Statement. Inevitably, a few newspaper editors in the South made noises of protest, but by and large, the reaction to Franklin was positive, particularly among black readers.
Morrie Turner, whose “Wee Pals,” introduced in 1965, was the first widely syndicated strip by an African-American cartoonist, told Mr. Schulz in a letter that he found the “handling and the treatment of the character excellent,” adding, “The day Little Orphan Annie has a black boyfriend, we’ll really have it made.” More earnestly, a young black Army sergeant in Vietnam, Franklin R. Freeman, wrote to Mr. Schulz to express how gratifying it was to find “a new character in the strip who shares my name.”
For Barbara Brandon-Croft, who in 1991 became the first African-American woman to have a nationally syndicated comic strip in the mainstream press, “Where I’m Coming From,” the simple fact of Franklin’s addition to the mix was downright exhilarating. Ms. Brandon-Croft was 10 years old in 1968, and she told me: “I remember feeling affirmed by seeing Franklin in ‘Peanuts.’ ‘There’s a little black kid! Thank goodness! We do matter.’”
In the long run, Franklin ended up existing in a space somewhere between supernumerary and principal, most reliably serving as the academically proficient straight man to Peppermint Patty’s perpetually D-minus-pulling goofball. Like a lot of “Peanuts” fans, I wish Franklin had been given greater depth and more to do. In that very first series of strips, he mentioned that his father, like Sergeant Freeman, was away in Vietnam. Franklin and Peppermint Patty (and Marcie) attended a school on the other side of town from the strip’s core characters.
I’ve always been fascinated by the faint intimation that this was the neighborhood where the less-privileged kids lived. Whereas Charlie, Sally, Lucy and Linus were the children of nuclear families, Peppermint Patty was being raised by a single father, and Franklin (at first, anyway) was being raised by a mother in a similar situation. Were the lives of these kids harder? Was there a higher ratio of students to womp-womping teachers in their school? It was a path that, alas, went unexplored.
But Mr. Schulz, who died in 2000, was generally wise to stay within his lane. He correctly intuited that he could go only so far in portraying a black child’s experience. More auspiciously, Franklin served as proof that there was room for more black characters in the comics, their stories to be told this time by black cartoonists.
“It was ‘Here comes Franklin,’ and then it was ‘Here comes Luther, here comes Quincy,’” Ms. Brandon-Croft said, referring to the title characters of the syndicated strips created in 1968 and 1970 by, respectively, her father, Brumsic Brandon Jr., and Ted Shearer.
Fifty years after Franklin recovered Charlie Brown’s beach ball, we’re still living through times when representational firsts are newsworthy and cherished by fans: the first kiss between Asian and black characters in a “Star Wars” film (Rose and Finn in “The Last Jedi”), the first Marvel Studios movie headlined by a black superhero (next month’s “Black Panther”). Franklin might not have been the most fascinating fellow ever to populate the comics universe, but as his story shows, a first like him is necessary to advance the march of representation.
When I asked Ms. Glickman if she was at all disappointed by Franklin’s relative blandness, she laughed at the very thought. “Never! Are you kidding me?” she said. “I was so pleased with Charles Schulz. He did what he could do at the time.”
Adweek published a pathetic piece reminding culturally clueless White advertising agencies and marketers that Martin Luther King Jr. content is not in the public domain—so don’t think it’s cool to produce patronizing pap on MLK Day without paying for the privilege. This presents yet another example of the sad state of affairs regarding divertsity in adland. For example, International Women’s Day—which most U.S. adpeople never knew existed—generates splashy, multichannel campaigns featuring pricy, original executions. Yet the same White ad shops and clients celebrate the iconic civil-rights leader with crumbs or less. Ironically, International Women’s Day represents a dream assignment, while MLK Day symbolizes a dream deferred.
Read This Before Posting Images or Quotes From Martin Luther King Jr. on MLK Day
Opinion: Sometimes saying nothing is better than an awkward or off-the-mark attempt
By Hope Bertram
As Martin Luther King Jr. Day approaches, social media and community managers for brands big and small are thinking about posting quotes and images of King in reverence to his amazing legacy. Here are a few things to think about before scheduling that post hitting the send button.
According to The Washington Post, “All of King’s papers and speeches are owned by family members, some of whom also operate the licensing operation through which those who want to use them must go.”
While the entire speech is copyrighted, is it possible to use a sentence or two under fair usage laws? Are images of King copyrighted, as well? Images of King can be purchased on royalty-free images sites like Getty Images with prices ranging from $150 and up for standard editorial rights.
Is a meme with a quote considered editorial?
Daliah Saper of Saper Law explains: “Those who try to bypass formal licensing of Dr. King’s speech or his images and rely on a fair-use defense must be prepared to justify each use on a case-by-case basis. There is no clear definition of what does and does not constitute fair use. Courts will consider the context, purpose and amount of use in making their determinations. For example, classroom or editorial use might qualify as a fair use, whereas use in an advertisement or promotional tweet will be tougher to justify.
Converting an image or excerpts from a speech into a meme does not automatically make the use editorial or ‘fair.’ Indeed, even news outlets can’t just use images as part of stories without permission. That’s why they have their own photographers or they license images to run with their stories.”
Of course, if the usage is commercial, and you plan to profit from using the image or quote—like an “I have a dream” T-shirt—you must obtain permission and will likely have to pay a licensing fee.
Here are few general tips:
• The post or tweet should be a tribute and not a promotion.
• If you decide to post something related to King, stay on brand.
• The bigger the brand, the more exposure.
• The hashtag #MLKday is safe to use since you are referencing the day
• Talk about the topic, rather than using a quote or King’s name, likeness or quote.
Honoring the legacy
Once you’ve obtained the proper permissions, make sure to craft any tweet or post with care, honoring King’s legacy and not using it to promote your brand.
The Society for Human Resource Management did a wonderful job of this a few years ago, honoring King’s life works and starting a conversation about how to keep it moving forward.
On the more awkward end of the spectrum, ZzzQuil’s MLK Day tweet was just odd—perhaps on brand, but still uncomfortably awkward.
The internet wasn’t kind with its response. ZzzQuil was slammed by Twitter users who either mocked it or told it outright that it was wrong.
As Kristina Nette so eloquently put it:
All in all, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Using copyrighted images or works of King can get your brand into trouble legally, and if you post something off-brand or promotional leveraging the day to make money, the internet might respond unkindly.
Sometimes saying nothing is better than an awkward or off-the-mark attempt.
Hope Bertram is the founder and CEO of educational event company Digital Megaphone.
Sunday, January 14, 2018
The Advertising Age Staff presented, “Ad Age’s 2018 Industry Predictions” and “2018 Resolutions We’d Like To See”—without a single mention of divertsity, diverted diversity or diversity. Yep, the trade publication is perfectly in touch with the industry.
Saturday, January 13, 2018
Adweek reported on the culturally clueless contradictions at CES, where there are protests over the dearth of divertsity alongside sexist practices like “booth babes” embellishing the event. Oh, the humanity!
Women Execs Are Speaking Out About Diversity at CES, Yet Booth Babes and Sex Robots Are Still Prevalent
Conference shows tech industry’s widespread sexism
By Lauren Johnson
“Do as I say, not as I do” might as well be the mantra for discussions about diversity this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Weeks after marketers and execs slammed the conference’s organizers for its lack of solo women keynoters, numerous panels and execs are using the conference as a platform to talk about lingering diversity issues and gender equality. But the scene inside the convention center still reflects tech’s misogynistic culture: Dozens of the thousands of companies exhibiting at CES pay scantily-clad models (aka booth babes) to pitch their companies, showing that the industry still has a long way to go in overcoming sexism.
“The booth babe thing is unfortunate and it would be ideal for CES to get rid of all of that—it’s totally unnecessary and people are here to do business,” said Lorraine Twohill, Google’s CMO. “I think there’s still a lot of work to be done to make CES feel inclusive of women. If CES genuinely wants to have an event that feels welcoming to women, then you can’t have [booth babes.]”
Nima—a company that makes portable Bluetooth speakers in the shape of sports helmets and balls—employed two of its own models to demonstrate its products to attendees at its booth. Over the course of a few minutes, several male attendees asked to take pictures with the models, who were wearing sports bras and workout clothes.
A company rep at the booth said that the models were there “to help attract more customers and help people have a good time and enjoy.” A number of other sports-related companies are also using models to show off their products.
In addition, strip club Sapphire Las Vegas held an event on Monday night featuring “sex robots.” While the event is not officially associated with CES, it quickly spread on Twitter and was meant to attract both men and women.
According to Liz Gumbinner, co-publisher of Cool Mom Tech, brands’ desire to go viral is part of the reason why booth babes remain a staple at CES. With thousands of companies vying for attention, it can be hard for companies to cut through the clutter and make a splash.
“Brands are looking for any opportunity to get attention and a visual spectacle is an understandable part of that,” she said. “Hire a young women and dress her up as a cheerleader or sexy nurse and people will take photos with her—it’s far less expensive than hiring a celebrity.”
She added, “I also think a lot of tech companies are trapped in this kind of regressive dude culture and they think, ‘OK, Las Vegas, so that’s all about strippers and showgirls, right? It’s really just laziness.”
In response to CES’ lack of women speakers, some executives have suggested that attendees boycott CES this year. But combined with the flurry of sexual harassment allegations across media, advertising and entertainment, Bank of America’s CMO Meredith Verdone, thinks this “is a moment” for women, so she decided to attend this year.
“The reality is that yes, I wish [CES] could have found female CEOs to speak—the bigger issue is that we need to get more female CEOs,” Verdone said. “I’m not giving them a pass on it but it’s something that’s more systemic and maybe they need to change their criteria and broaden it so that it’s more than CEOs.”
Specifically, Verdone cited equal pay and hiring practices within her brand. Fifty percent of Bank of America’s employees are female while another 40 percent of management and more than 35 percent of the brand’s board members are women.
“It’s creating this groundswell and now we need to focus on it and do the hard work, not admire the problem but say, ‘What are we doing about?”
That’s not to say that CES doesn’t have its work cut out for itself. Verdone added, “If a year from now there’s no change, then maybe I’ll boycott.”
Kasha Cacy, president of UM for the U.S., also isn’t boycotting this year. Instead, she created a two-hour event featuring women that will take place on Wednesday.
“I’d rather jump in and use all of the people here to prove a point than to boycott,” Cacy said. “I think we’ve gone with momentum and now momentum has to stop and we have to change.”
When asked about what booth babes signal to the advertising and tech industry, she said, “We’re tackling these things one by one—I would hope that through tackling these things one by one people start to become more aware … hopefully we’ll get there.”
Friday, January 12, 2018
Thursday, January 11, 2018
Campaign reported Mediacom UK Chairwoman Karen Blackett was named WPP UK Country Manager—a new role at the White holding company. According to Campaign, Blackett is now “the most important agency leader in the British ad industry.” Then again, it would be interesting to learn how her current salary compares to others in the field—especially in contrast to WPP Overlord Sir Martin Sorrell’s compensation package. While Blackett’s elevation is a well-deserved and groundbreaking move, it technically doesn’t improve diversity in adland, as she was already on the WPP payroll. But the appointment helps the cause overall, as Blackett has always been a vocal proponent for inclusion. “The ad industry is not diverse enough,” remarked Blackett. “It doesn’t reflect the consumer base that our clients are targeting.” The critique is actually more dramatic when considering that WPP is “perhaps the most diverse example of diversity of any single organisation.” Can’t wait to see what happens if Blackett must engage with WPP Spain Country Manager Gustavo Martinez.
WPP names Karen Blackett as its first UK country manager
By Gideon Spanier
WPP has named Karen Blackett as its first UK country manager, making her the most important agency leader in the British ad industry.
Blackett, who will retain her current role as chairwoman of MediaCom UK for six months, has been appointed with immediate effect. She will work with 17,000 staff in dozens of agencies spanning media, creative, design, branding, data and public relations across WPP’s £2 billion-a-year UK operation.
She said her priorities include getting WPP’s agencies to work “in a more joined-up and collaborative way”, developing new products and “managing and diversifying the talent base”.
Her promotion was announced at the same time that Group M, WPP’s media-buying arm, named Tom George as its UK chief executive to replace Nick Theakstone, who becomes global chief investment officer.
Blackett maintained that WPP, the dominant agency group in UK advertising with close to 40% of the agency market, has “headroom” to grow further organically and she identified “high-growth” and e-commerce clients as sectors where “we don’t have a big enough market share”.
She said: “If you look at the top 100 global brands, then we’re doing pretty well. But if you look at another metric like ‘high-growth’ businesses, we could be doing a lot better.”
Sir Martin Sorrell, the chief executive of WPP, described Blackett as “an exceptional and inspirational leader” and “a tireless champion of diversity in our business, in the wider sector and in public life in general”.
He said in a memo to staff: “Karen will focus on our core strategic priority of horizontality: ensuring our companies work together effectively and present a seamlessly integrated and simplified offer to clients.
“She will also support efforts to attract and retain the best and most diverse talent, generate cross-group business opportunities and identify potential acquisitions and investments.”
Blackett, whose parents grew up in Barbados before moving to Britain, was named the “most admired” business leader in the UK ad industry in a survey of agencies for Campaign’s 2017 School Reports.
She acknowledged that her promotion to WPP country manager has symbolic importance because she is black, female and “from a working-class background”.
She said: “The ad industry is not diverse enough. It doesn’t reflect the consumer base that our clients are targeting.”
Blackett hopes to apply some of the lessons that she learnt at MediaCom, Britain’s biggest media agency, and its predecessor The Media Business, where she started in 1995, after spells at CIA and Zenith.
“When you get diversity of thought, you get better answers,” she said. “It’s the route to creativity.”
Blackett, who was UK chief executive of MediaCom from 2011 to 2015, sees parallels between her new role as WPP country manager and her past job as MediaCom’s chief operating officer for EMEA when she worked with “a group of incredibly talented CEOs” from different countries to collaborate more effectively.
“I don’t think it’s about ‘command and control’ — that’s never been my style,” she said. “It’s really about championing and collaborating and influencing.”
The CEOs of the different UK agencies will keep what Blackett described as a “solid” reporting line to their respective global or regional agency CEO — rather than reporting to her.
She added that there are no plans for WPP to have a single P&L for the UK “at this moment of time”, explaining: “My role is to create a UK team across the UK operating companies and make them work better.”
She will have a small office and team but does not expect to recruit externally.
Blackett, who has only worked in media agencies, knows most of the leaders of WPP’s ad agencies but said “I need to know better” the UK agency CEOs in other areas such as branding, digital and PR.
Sorrell is under pressure to simplify WPP after it cut its global revenue forecast three times last year and its share price slumped 26% from £18 to just above £13 as FMCG clients reduced agency fees.
However, WPP’s UK operation, its biggest after north America, performed well as its net sales rose 3.2% in the first nine months of 2017 compared to a 0.7% drop globally.
WPP, which said in its 2016 annual report that it had more than 160 companies, has slashed the number of agency brands that it operates in the last 12 months.
MEC and Maxus have merged to form Wavemaker, Wunderman has absorbed Possible and Salmon, five branding and design agencies including Lambie-Nairn and The Partners are becoming one group, and today research group Kantar brought together four agencies in a single unit, Kantar Consulting.
WPP has also been appointing country managers in about 50 countries as part of the move to improve collaboration and Blackett said she has talked to several of her counterparts to pick up ideas.
She said there is “an opportunity to avoid duplication of effort” but insisted: “I don’t think it’s about cutting costs. Yes, there are synergies that can happen but let’s think about creativity and growth.”
Blackett added WPP has “talked about horizontality for three or four years” and it needs to become “a strategy” that is embedded in the way the company does business, rather than just because “a client demands it”.
Other agency groups have been appointing country managers. Publicis Groupe has poached Annette King, the UK chief executive of WPP’s Ogilvy, who will start as its first UK chief executive later this year.
According to WPP’s latest annual report, for 2016, it had £1.9bn in UK revenues and 14,000 staff.
At the current point in time, and with associates included, WPP says it has approximately $3bn (£2.25bn) in UK revenues and 17,000 staff.
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
PRWeek reported on a controversial social media campaign from Poundland—featuring an Elf engaging in sexual and obscene acts—that will undergo an ASA investigation. The retailer is displaying a high degree of insensitivity and ignorance, dismissing disapproving consumers as not getting the joke. Actually, Poundland deserves a pounding—and worse—for its cultural cluelessness. Forget the Elf behaving badly. Poundland is displaying bad behavior, as well as bad judgment for having approved the shit.
Poundland’s controversial Elf ‘boosted Christmas sales’ but faces ASA investigation
By John Harrington
Poundland says its controversial Elf Behaving Badly campaign drove “significant numbers of shoppers” into stores in the week before Christmas.
The retailer has reiterated that it is standing by the campaign following news that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is to investigate the social media activity, saying the number of people who didn’t “get the joke” is “so small”.
The pre-Christmas social media campaign, focused on the Elf on the Shelf product, featured images of the Elf in a series of sexually themed poses.
One image involving Twinings tea (pictured above) — which had the caption “How do you take your tea? One lump or two?” — caused particular controversy. Some criticised its sexual nature, while others described it as harmless fun and fitting for the Poundland brand.
In a new trading update, Poundland said Elf Behaving Badly, as part of the retailer’s “low cost but highly effective marketing strategy”, drove “significant numbers of shoppers” into stores in the week before Christmas. More than 200,000 ‘bad elves’ were sold alongside more than one million elf accessories, the company stated.
Trading in the week to Christmas Eve was £59m, up 20 per cent on the previous year, although there was an extra day of trading in the 2017 pre-Christmas period.
The apparent success of Elf Behaving Badly, in terms of its impact on trading, poses the question of whether the campaign was justified.
Meanwhile, the ASA confirmed to PRWeek that it had received around 80 complaints about the Elf Behaving Badly Twitter posts.
“The general nature of the complaints is that the ads (tweets) are offensive for their depiction of toy characters and other items which have been displayed in a sexualised manner, and are unsuitable to be displayed in an untargeted medium where children could see them,” said a spokesman.
“I can confirm that we have launched an investigation.”
In a statement, Poundland described the controversy as a “storm in a tea cup” and said the complaints “contrasted with thousands of people who said they loved our naughty elf pictures — not least because it reminded them that Britain is famous for the saucy postcard and panto”, the statement said.
“We’re just pleased the number of people who didn’t get the joke is so small.”
Adweek spotlighted Cashmere Agency EVP Chief Creative Officer Ryan Ford, who leveraged his hip-hop connections to succeed in the advertising industry. Gee, that seems to be one of the most common ways for non-White people to elevate in the field.
One Man’s Journey From Hip-Hop Journalist to Creative Chief and Snoop Dogg Partner
Cashmere’s Ryan Ford has run the rap gamut
By Patrick Coffee
Whether it was his brief meeting with Tupac at age 16, his experience Iowa’s only hip-hop radio DJ in the early ’90s or his time working on the first televised Brown and Black Presidential Forum for Democratic candidates to address young minority voters’ concerns in 2000, Ryan Ford realized at a young age that he wanted to make his living at the intersection of hip-hop, politics and pop culture.
Now, 25 years later, he leads creative at Cashmere Agency, Los Angeles’ go-to shop for brands looking to reach those core consumers who closely follow every development in the byzantine world of rap music and its expanding subcultures.
Ford’s official entry to that universe came in a traditional way via an internship at The Source, also known as “the bible of hip-hop.” During his eight-year tenure, he met and profiled the biggest names in rap royalty, including Jay-Z, Kanye West and Queen Latifah. But his journalistic rise occurred just as print media went bust, with readers moving toward rapid-fire, digital-first sources like AllHipHop.com as ad revenues declined. He and a small team of fellow UCLA graduates saw the writing on the (pay)wall and responded by launching their own mini-marketing agency.
Bandit Strategies was a “side hustle” that eventually turned into a full-time job at Cashmere thanks to a relationship with Snoop, who introduced Ford to his business partner and Cashmere co-founder Ted Chung. “I took a leap of faith and said, I’m getting out of the magazine industry and getting into this new world,” Ford said.
One of his first projects with Cashmere involved promoting Father Hood, a 2007 E! reality show focusing on Snoop’s home life. After that series became a surprise hit, E! was eager to work with the agency on what it hoped might be its next smash. According to Ford, network executives said the show’s star was “resonating with not only white audiences, but Hispanics and African Americans as well … she’s racially ambiguous … her name is Kim Kardashian.”
Since then, Cashmere has gone on to help market such properties as FX’s Atlanta and the smash hit film Get Out.
Evp, chief creative officer, Cashmere Agency
Co-founder, CEO, Bandit Strategies
Co-founder, Rhyme Night talent showcase
Executive editor, The Source Magazine
As head of creative at Cashmere, Ford collaborates with his internal team and a revolving roster of influencers to connect clients like Adidas, Airbnb, Netflix and PepsiCo with young, multicultural consumers fluent in the ever-changing language of hip-hop—its music, its culture and, yes, its brands.
How he got the gig
Ford was a freelance writer and editor at The Source eager to immerse himself in all things hip-hop just as Snoop Dogg began to “become the pitchman we all know today.” After his Bandit Strategies group helped promote a joint Snoop/MTV project called Hip-Hop Gaming League, Ford signed on to work with longtime Snoop associate and Cashmere co-founder Chung as a consultant.
Cashmere isn’t officially a Snoop Dogg joint, but stars like P. Diddy and Jay-Z have moved from launching clothing lines to starting their own marketing agencies. “We’re not TBWA\Chiat\Day or Deutsch, but we’re in here fighting every day,” Ford said. “ … One day, we intend to be that big.”
Tuesday, January 09, 2018
Campaign published a divertsity declaration from UK Editor Rachel Barnes, who proclaimed, “I pledge to do better on diversity.” However, Barnes’ opening line told the true tale: “In 2017 we started to move beyond talking about the issues of diversity, inclusivity and equality; actual progress was made as companies realised that inaction was no longer acceptable.” Um, to admit progress “started” in 2017 is nothing short of obscene, as the issue has been festering for many decades. Barnes proudly boasted Campaign has done well to promote White women; however, she admitted the trade journal has work to do in terms of integrating racial and ethnic minorities. Um, MultiCultClassics—and Campaign—recognized the exclusivity in 2016. Yes, Barnes can pledge to do better on diversity. But that’s not promising much, as Campaign’s efforts to date have been less than zero.
I pledge to do better on diversity
Let 2018 be the year of doing.
By Rachel Barnes
In 2017 we started to move beyond talking about the issues of diversity, inclusivity and equality; actual progress was made as companies realised that inaction was no longer acceptable. Although, looking at the IPA diversity survey of adland, there is still so much more that needs to be done.
The biggest catalyst for change came from a surprising corner: Hollywood, post-Weinstein. In the wake of this, our industry’s own stories have begun emerging, both of sexual harassment and gender bullying — the latter no less destructive and disgusting as an abuse of power.
Cultures where such behaviour has been tolerated, covered up, silenced – including historical cases — have no place in any business from this point on.
Change happens now. And it isn’t just about unearthing those individuals who have chosen to behave in a certain way. It is as much about looking at who you are hiring as your junior execs, as well as what’s communicated by the shape of, and messages coming from, your boardrooms. It’s about diverse teams — yes, that again — and inclusive businesses.
Across all levels, at all agencies surveyed, the IPA found that the proportion of staff from a BAME background is 12.9%, up almost one percentage point in the past year, but still short of the 13.1% of two years ago. There is, however, an indication that long-term behaviour change programmes are having an impact and the entry-level pipeline is getting stronger, with junior executives from a BAME background up from 15% in 2016 to 16.4% in 2017.
It’s a sorry story at the top: only 2% of chair/CEO/MD jobs and 4.7% of C-suite jobs are held by ethnic minorities, with both figures down on the 2016 survey. We are clearly a long way off from having diverse boardrooms.
At Campaign, we strive to reflect people from different backgrounds. While we still face criticism for the white, male faces that often fill many of our pages, we genuinely keep gender representation front and centre. However, where I admit we haven’t done well enough is in our BAME representation.
It would be easy for us to say: “Well, that’s the industry and we’re representative of it in the faces and voices we feature.” However, I pledge we will go further this year to bring alternative voices into Campaign, be they BAME, younger people, older people, or people with disabilities — from all corners of our industry.
Several people have told me recently that they need to make improvements in the diversity of economic backgrounds of recruits. One expressed dismay at the fact a few people in his business all went to the same school.
We are at risk of becoming a passion industry for rich kids, warns Blue 449’s Simon Davis (p24), who suggests apprenticeships, travel, cost-of-living supplements and bursaries should all be on the table.
No more needs to be said about why this makes sense, how anonymised CVs will help, or that there is a business case for better reflecting the population — your consumers — within your own workforce. It’s all been said. A lot. These things matter so we keep banging on about them.
But in 2018, do it — just do it. Is it that hard? Recruit different people. Reach out to different organisations, like ThisAbility, BAME 2020 or Creative Equals.
IPA president Sarah Golding says our industry has now gone from benchmarking its diversity to planning how to address it. The talking’s done, the planning is under way, now let’s do the doing.
OK, it might be easy for me to say just do it; I realise this is about long-term, strategic behaviour change. The industry might not be able to change overnight, but, as individuals, we can. Happy 2018 to everyone – I predict a roller coaster.
Rachel Barnes is the UK editor of Campaign.
Monday, January 08, 2018
AgencySpy published a post titled, “The Martin Agency Introduces $4.99 Footlongs for Subway,” noting the campaign is the final work for the sandwich chain from the White advertising agency. First of all, the decision to dump The Martin Agency is warranted, as the work is mediocre and awful. Regardless, the partnership also offered opportunities for promotional tie-ins featuring Jared Fogle and former Chief Creative Officer Joe Alexander. It could have led to more comedic material than the White advertising agency’s iconic GEICO campaign.
Sunday, January 07, 2018
This Domino’s advertisement from McCann in Israel seems clueless from a life stage perspective. If you’re having a midlife crisis, you shouldn’t eat shitty pizza—or be awake at 4:00 am.
Saturday, January 06, 2018
Adweek reported Omnicom settled an anti-gay discrimination lawsuit, despite a 2017 statement from an Omnicom representative insisting, “…[W]e believe the claims in this individual case are without merit…” Hey, Bob Garfield would vehemently dispute that belief. Maybe Omnicom President-CEO-Pioneer of Diversity John Wren will pledge to double the number of LGBT creative directors in 2018. And if Wren is a Pioneer of Diversity, the former creative director in the case has earned the privilege to be called a Pioneer of Adversity.
Omnicom Reaches Settlement in Anti-Gay Discrimination Case
DDB creative director alleged harassment
By Patrick Coffee
After more than two and a half years of legal developments, holding company Omnicom has reached a settlement in a discrimination suit brought by a now-former employee of its agency DDB.
The case went through a series of dramatic turns, including a dismissal by a U.S. District Court Judge in 2016, before the plaintiff successfully appealed earlier this year. It also served as a study in whether matters of sexual stereotyping may be applied to sexual orientation.
Conditions of the settlement have not been made public.
In May 2015, lawyer Susan Chana Lask, Esq. filed a civil complaint in the Southern District Court of New York seeking $20 million in damages on behalf of her client, DDB creative director Matthew Christiansen, for “discrimination, harassment and victimization … because of an HIV disability,” as stated in the complaint. She claimed violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees against discrimination based on sex, race, nationality or religion.
The defendants named in the case were Omnicom; DDB New York; that agency’s former chief digital officer Joe Cianciotto; its current CEO, Chris Brown; and its former CEO Peter Hempel.
This week, a holding company representative confirmed the settlement, writing, “the matter has been resolved amicably, and Matt is not returning to the agency.”
“Since I obtained the positive Second Circuit concurring decision now clarifying sexual orientation discrimination under Title VII, I then settled this matter amicably for all of the parties,” attorney Lask told Adweek. “Matt has happily moved on in his career, with the best wishes of all involved.”
Both parties declined to elaborate further.
Adweek reached out to Cianciotto on social media but has yet to receive a response. Davis & Gilbert and Leeds Brown Law, the law firms that represented Omnicom and Cianciotto, respectively, have not responded to emails seeking comment.
Allegations of harassment
In the initial filing, Christiansen, who was identified only as “Anonymous,” claimed that he had been “emotionally and physically paralyzed with fear as a gay man being discriminated by his own supervisor” while working under Cianciotto. According to that document, the other current and former DDB executives named in the case failed to act to prevent this behavior despite receiving complaints from Christiansen and other employees.
“The alleged conduct in this complaint occurred years ago and the employee who filed the lawsuit did not previously file a complaint with DDB about any of the actions cited,” an agency representative told Adweek the month after the case was filed in 2015. “We do not believe the lawsuit has merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously.”
Lask later provided Adweek with a statement calling those claims “inaccurate” before publishing a LinkedIn post that named her client and publicly detailed the allegations in the suit. That post claimed that Cianciotto “commenced a harassment campaign against [Christiansen] by repeatedly accusing Matthew of having AIDS just because he was gay” as soon as he joined DDB in 2011.
More specifically, Lask wrote that her client’s manager had referred to him as “super gay” and told another gay employee, “He sleeps with everyone. He must have HIV, right?” The post alleged that Cianciotto created drawings of “gay employees fornicating” in the agency’s New York office and included an image of another drawing, also allegedly created by Cianciotto, that depicted Christiansen “defecating, urinating and with an erect penis with comments on gay equality.”
The post went on to claim that Cianciotto had “accused [Christiansen] of having AIDS” during a meeting between colleagues and representatives of DDB client State Farm.
Christiansen was HIV-positive but did not have AIDS, according to his attorney’s initial filing.
Lask’s LinkedIn post, which went live in June 2015, also claimed that Christiansen and other employees complained to leadership, and that leadership “defended Joe [Cianciotto] and would threaten them.” In response to that claim, an agency spokesperson told Adweek, “The plaintiff in this action remains employed by DDB and has never been asked to leave the agency nor threatened with litigation by DDB.”
A new twist in the case
In early 2016, the case was closed after a U.S. district judge approved the defendants’ motion to dismiss, finding that the protections of Title VII do not apply to sexual orientation or gender identity.
In her ruling, as reported by Gay City News, Judge Katherine Polk Failla “reluctantly” wrote that Christiansen and Lask had not demonstrated a violation of the Civil Rights Act despite the fact that Cianciotto was “openly resentful and hostile toward Plaintiff because of his sexual orientation.”
The plaintiff appealed, and nearly one year later, chief judge Robert A. Katzmann of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York ruled in his favor. In that decision, Katzmann cited the 1989 case of Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, which concerned executives at the professional services network who allegedly told a female senior manager that she needed to “walk more femininely, talk more femininely, dress more femininely, wear make-up, have her hair styled and wear jewelry” if she wanted to become a partner.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against PwC in that case, and judge Katzmann’s ruling overturning the earlier dismissal cited the decision, noting: “We disagree with the district court’s conclusion that Christiansen failed to plausibly allege a Title VII claim based on the … stereotyping theory of sex discrimination articulated in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins.”
Katzmann wrote, “The gender stereotyping allegations in Christiansen’s complaint are cognizable under Price Waterhouse and our precedents,” implying that the earlier case had conclusively established discrimination related to gender identity and sexual orientation as a potential violation of Title VII.
In March 2017, an Omnicom representative responded, “While we believe the claims in this individual case are without merit, Omnicom supports any change to the applicable federal law that would extend protection to employees who experience harassment on the basis of sexual orientation.”
Friday, January 05, 2018
Campaign published divertsity directives from Eleven Inc. Partner and Chief Growth Officer Michele Sileo, who presented “4 lessons” for White men mentoring White women. The generic lessons could be applied to any mentor-mentee relationship. And a peek at the Eleven Inc. team shows the place isn’t applying any of the basic lessons to achieve diversity—or even diverted diversity.
4 lessons for male mentors who work alongside women
By Michele Sileo
Without men, we can’t make our workplaces safer and more equitable for women, says Eleven’s chief growth officer.
Men are having a tough time in the news these days. We’re in the midst of a much needed reckoning where harassment, assault and disrespect of women are coming to the surface in unprecedented ways. And while the stories may differ in detail and degree, at the heart of these stories are women who were likely just trying to do their jobs well and respectfully.
We hope these men are the minority and there are as many, if not more, willing to push for change. Men who are genuinely concerned about making the workplace a safe, supportive environment where women can grow in their careers and move into positions of leadership themselves. These men get that this moment in history is not just about changing the conditions that have enabled harassment and assault, but also creating workplaces where women can thrive, advance and make a full contribution.
Some men want to make change because they believe making the workplace more equal for women is the right thing to do. Others are waking up to the fact that what’s good for working women is good for business—that ignoring the talents and contributions of half the population is a massive missed opportunity. We can’t make our workplaces safer and more equitable for women without these men.
I recently spoke at last year’s 3% Conference in November about the role of male mentorship. I was inspired to write about how I’ve been helped along the way by men who didn’t need to wait for a big public reckoning to see that women are worth investing in—and they themselves were more successful for it. Here are some lessons taken from what they did, that we can all learn from when working alongside women.
Recognize and acknowledge her strengths.
My first boss’s parting words to me after four years together were, “Trust your instincts. You have good ones and they will take you far.” These words had a tremendous impact on how I approach my work, and they still do. Though I wish he had said it a year or two earlier, it was incredibly reassuring to know that he’d been paying attention and had recognized something in the way I worked and made decisions. I was still in the formative years of my career, and he lit a spark of confidence in me that I could build on throughout my career.
Ask her opinion.
My second agency was Deutsch in NY. It was tiny then, about 90 people, and Donny was moving into a leadership role. Donny showed himself to be a good leader because he would always ask for the opinions of others in meetings—including younger employees, women and others who didn’t often have a voice. The first time he turned to me, I was speechless. I had been working in advertising for four years, and it was the first time someone important wanted to know what I thought.
Not only did this make me realize that my opinion mattered, it also inspired me to come to meetings prepared with ideas, opinions and a strong point of view. Expectations mean a lot, and I learned that I was expected to make a full contribution to the team, in spite of my young age.
Put her forward.
No matter how young, no matter how many more senior men might be able to do the job instead, look for opportunities to give young women a chance to show you what they’re capable of. I was put forward by male bosses at a few significant moments in my career, and I remember them vividly to this day. Each time it was scary and I was unsure of myself, but the experience was entirely worthwhile for both me and my team. For instance, I was given the chance to present to clients on behalf of the agency at several large and important meetings. Not only did this build my confidence, but it told the people around me that I mattered, that I had a voice on the team and that I was capable of leadership.
Create an environment of unconditional trust.
Our always-on industry needs to practice what we preach and get serious about de-stigmatizing and honoring flexible work schedules. Women, especially as they advance along in their careers, are jugglers. They’re handling work, maybe kids, partners, homes, hobbies, passions. They need you to trust that they can excel in their jobs, while also handling the rest of their lives. I’ve had the good fortune to work with some fantastic men who were empathetic and supportive.
In the 13 years I have been at Eleven, they have readily given me the trust and the space to get my job done while also living my life. There was never hesitation around my need to leave early most days, work from home, flex up or down as family needs evolved. The trust was felt and the trust was given without hesitation. In return, I deliver over and above in my work, with gratitude.
Our workplaces are evolving, and as the social conversations around women’s positions in the workplace grow louder, more big changes are sure to come. The male leaders who stand up and empower women to do their best work and to share in that power will be the ones who see their businesses succeed the most.
Michele Sileo is Partner and Chief Growth Officer at Eleven Inc.
Thursday, January 04, 2018
Adweek continues to report on the U.S. Army-McCann saga, with fresh drama indicating many of the executed marketing programs are “ineffective” and a waste of money. First of all, it brings to mind the famous John Wanamaker quote that reads, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don't know which half.” Secondly, the U.S. Army is hardly a stranger to ineffectiveness and wasting money. Thirdly, at this point, partnering with any White advertising agency tied to a holding company will ultimately lead to a lack of effectiveness and a surfeit of money-wasting opportunities. But you might land a new girlfriend in the deal. And that’s the truth well told.
U.S. Army Audit Claims ‘Ineffective Marketing Programs’ Have Wasted Millions in Taxpayer Dollars Each Year
Documents also indicate conflict of interest with AOR McCann
By Patrick Coffee
The results of an internal audit of the U.S. Army’s budget question the effectiveness of the hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars the organization spends on marketing and advertising each year. Its conclusions call many of these programs “ineffective,” claiming that the majority do not justify the costs.
“An audit of our outreach efforts is not yet complete, and any comment on the findings would be premature,” said a spokesperson for the Army Marketing and Research Group, or AMRG, in response to a related query. The audit launched in 2016 during a still-ongoing competitive review for the Army’s marketing account, which could concern up to $4 billion in spending over a period lasting as long as 10 years, according to Department of Defense estimates.
A series of U.S. government documents acquired by Adweek also appear to indicate a conflict of interest involving the AMRG and McCann Worldgroup, which has been the Army’s agency of record since 2005. A McCann representative deferred to the client for comment.
This development follows an earlier Adweek report in which Department of Defense sources claimed that the review had been “compromised” due to allegations of an improper relationship between executives at AMRG and McCann. The Army leader in question, James Ortiz, was removed from his position, but remains employed by the U.S. government.
The aforementioned documents concern a portion of the Army’s events marketing work that includes providing IT and data-based services for such events as the All-American Bowl and an Army-sponsored Tough Mudder series, as well as conducting assessments of the work performed by the primary contractor, McCann.
Until recently, those responsibilities had been assigned to a group consisting of two federally contracted companies, MSB Analytics and Rivera Group, that worked alongside AMRG. Those two companies worked under an 8a contract, which is specifically designed to be awarded to businesses designated as being owned by socially or economically disadvantaged people.
Documents reviewed by Adweek confirm the contract was worth approximately $2 million per year.
An ongoing audit
In mid-2016, the Army Auditing Agency launched a formal review of the Army’s marketing and advertising budget. Four sources with direct knowledge of the matter claim the order came about as the result of an internal investigation that followed AMRG’s request for additional funding.
A spokesperson for the Army Auditing Agency declined to provide details regarding the review in response to an email query. “It is difficult to precisely predict how long a specific audit review will last and when the corresponding audit report(s) will be published,” he wrote, stating that they might be available by mid-2018. But Adweek acquired a summary of the audit’s findings, dated Oct. 5, 2017 and titled “The Army’s Marketing and Advertising Program, Return on Investment.” This document states that, in fiscal year 2016, the AMRG failed to reach all but one of its six established performance goals.
“In addition, our analysis showed that only 3 of the 23 (about 13 percent) marketing programs generated a positive impact during the year,” it reads.
The document goes on to claim that the AMRG spent more than $930.7 million from 2013 to 2016 “on marketing efforts that potentially didn’t provide best value to support Army recruiting,” noting that 20 different programs costing a collective $36.8 million in 2016 alone “didn’t demonstrate a positive return.” The summary continues, “For [fiscal years 2018-2023], AMRG would continue to use about $220 million for the same ineffective marketing programs.”
In its response, AMRG writes that the report’s conclusions “are not supported logically and may appear as lacking in objectivity,” arguing that AMRG’s leaders have long realized that the Army’s marketing strategy “was not effective and needed replacement” and that they have repeatedly attempted to develop a more ROI-focused approach since the organization came into existence in 2013.
The response also notes increases in traffic to the Army’s website and cites various factors, including a steady drop in the overall unemployment rate, to explain lower quarterly recruitment totals. It claims that the audit’s results “ignore that marketing and recruiting are separate activities” and that connecting campaigns to specific goals “is a challenge in both the private sector in general and for the military in particular.”
The AAA’s negative conclusions, it says, demonstrate a “lack of marketing understanding or criteria for performance assessment.”
Tharon Honeycutt, founder and president of MSB Analytics, received an official notice from an Army contracting officer’s representative on July 13, 2017. It stated that the U.S. Army would not renew his company’s contract, which expired the following day after approximately eight years.
Unbeknownst to Honeycutt, McCann and AMRG executives had collaborated, weeks earlier, on an ADS, or advertising direction sheet, detailing plans to move the work previously handled by his company to McCann’s activation agency Momentum Worldwide without a pitch. The ADS outlined Momentum’s proposed new responsibilities, the relocation of some of its employees to AMRG headquarters in Virginia and the terms of payment between the two parties.
The document’s metadata indicates that AMRG revised the document after a Momentum executive created it on May 5. Official Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) state that the act of “developing or approving any contractual documents, to include documents defining requirements, incentive plans, and evaluation criteria” creates a conflict of interest for any and all employees of federally contracted companies.
The ADS sheet bore the name of AMRG deputy director Jeff Sterling, and it would have assigned all related Events Division Support work to Momentum for a period lasting from November 2017 to November 2018. According to multiple sources close to the matter, Jeff Sterling is also one of four people on the AMRG selection committee that will ultimately decide which agency gets the multi-billion dollar contract currently in review. Omnicom and WPP are pitching against McCann.
In a draft audit sent to the incumbent contractors MSBA and Rivera nearly a month after the Momentum ADS was initially drawn up, the Army Auditing Agency recommended that the 8a contracts be eliminated because much of the work those companies performed was no longer needed (which is the only reason such “protected” contracts can officially be canceled).
A side-by-side comparison of the draft audit and the Momentum ADS indicates that the AMRG planned to move the tasks in question, which include drafting operations orders, preparing briefing decks and coordinating conference calls, to the McCann agency rather than eliminating them.
“During a review of our event marketing efforts, it was determined that there was some overlap in the contracted work being performed by two separate agencies and Army contracting took corrective actions,” said an AMRG spokesperson. “No new requirements were given to the current prime contractor,” she continued, meaning Momentum never officially assumed responsibility for the work in question.
For further queries, the spokesperson referred Adweek to the U.S. Army’s Mission & Installation Contracting Command for Public and Congressional Affairs. In response to a subsequent request for comment, an Army representative confirmed that “findings from the recent AAA audit of Army marketing and advertising efforts are currently under investigation,” adding, “it is our policy not to discuss ongoing procurement actions.”
Jeff Sterling has not responded to a request for comment.
The 8a contractors later issued a point-by-point rebuttal to the draft audit, but the contracts were canceled anyway. MSB Analytics president Tharon Honeycutt did not return an email seeking comment.
As noted above, the responsibilities assigned to MSBA and Rivera under the 8a contract included assessing certain aspects of McCann’s events work for the U.S. Army. The Auditing Agency’s comparative analysis document arguing for the cancellation of their contract states that those two companies were “unable to properly report on the primary contractor’s performance” because they were not “allowed to review the task order.” The contractors responded that their responsibility in that context was not to “check deliverables” but to “assist in the execution of the event … and then report back to their Program Manager with their [after-action review] on the event with an unbiased opinion.”
None of the documents reviewed by Adweek clarify which party will be tasked with evaluating McCann’s event marketing work moving forward.
On July 14, the 8a contract expired, effectively ending MSBA and Rivera Group’s relationship with the Army.
Meanwhile, the larger review continues. In a January 2017 statement announcing its decision to solicit ad agency services for “a base period of five years,” a U.S. Army spokesperson estimated that the winning shop would be announced in fall of that year and begin working on the account by September.
Wednesday, January 03, 2018
MultiCultClassics is often occupied with real work. As a result, a handful of events occur without the expected blog commentary. This limited series—Delayed WTF—seeks to make belated amends for the absence of malice.
MultiCultClassics typically kicks off the New Year with a “year-in-review” post, but a busy holiday schedule prevented the annual report for 2016. Plus, it would have required too much work, as the previous 12 months presented lots of culturally clueless content. Indeed, 2016 was a direct extension of 2015, with diverted diversity—aka the White women’s bandwagon—accelerating and snowballing. On this ride, White women get promoted ahead of everyone else. Racial and ethnic minorities are pushed to the back, while White advertising agencies are patted on the back for being progressive advocates of gender equality.
In 2017, diverted diversity devolved in dumber, deliberate and devious ways. Don Draper once said, “If you don't like what’s being said, change the conversation.” It appears that adland has taken Draper’s advice in regards to diversity. That is, having grown tired of talking about being committed to racial and ethnic diversity—and knowing full well that it’s just talk without meaningful deeds or measurable results—the conversation has shifted to other types of diversity that are easier and preferable to handle. This is the equivalent of an advertising agency proclaiming, “Dammit, we can’t come up with a decent campaign for our global client. Oh well, we’ll just crank out a few banner ads and FSIs instead—while congratulating ourselves and receiving accolades for our half-assed efforts.”
This new direction for diversity demands a new label: Divertsity—because in the advertising industry, diversity has transformed into a series of diversionary stunts, schemes and smokescreens to avoid action and accountability on the core dilemma.
Divertsity is rooted in diverted diversity, which is a predominately White women’s movement, at least within the advertising industry. In recent years, the female firestorm has heated up in a variety of ways including:
• First and foremost, White women are being hired and elevated to high levels at high rates. Clients are mandating—or perhaps womandating is a better and cleverer term—the employment surge. In fact, clients are openly putting women ahead of racial and ethnic minorities, despite acknowledging that racial and ethnic minorities—especially women of color—face far greater discrimination than White women.
• Adpeople suggest and endorse quotas for gender equality, despite reacting with hostility when such thoughts are proposed for racial and ethnic minorities.
• Prominent defenders of the cause—notably, Cindy Gallop, Brad Jakeman and Kat Gordon—spew spirited sound bites, despite having done little or nothing to affect change for racial and ethnic minorities (or women, for that matter) when they were in agency or client positions.
• White advertising agencies invent innovative programs to recruit, retain and return White women to the field, despite settling on ineffective and contrived “solutions” for racial and ethnic minorities.
But wait, it gets crazier.
Divertsity adds phenomena like celebrating International Women’s Day with pricy executions and multichannel campaigns, despite saluting Black History Month with royalty-free stock photography and the hardest-working man in Black advertising.
Divertsity adds hypocrisy like White advertising agencies bragging about being diverse or championing diversity while exhibiting exclusivity. Or producing diverse and targeted campaigns hatched by White staffers. Or fabricating faux diversity via enlisting celebrities to serve as “Chief Music Strategist” and other original roles. Or bussing employees to women’s marches, despite barely recognizing MLK Day.
Divertsity adds patronizing pap like clients and trade associations protesting gender stereotypes, picketing against gender bias and plugging gender representation, despite pooh-poohing racial and ethnic stereotypes and postponing racial and ethnic minority representation.
Divertsity adds regurgitated ideas from culturally clueless folks who believe they’re trailblazing with fluff like diversity playbooks, diversity residency programs, diversity powwows, diversity reports and diversity surveys, despite having access to data showing everything has been pursued, perused and published already.
Divertsity adds semi-legitimate diversity, but not enough. The majority of minority job activities are lateral moves, internal boosts and Chief Diversity Officers—the latter position growing increasingly pointless, given that CDOs have arguably less influence on diversity matters than CFOs, as the financial executives control the mysterious and mythical diversity budgets. In short, the number of racial and ethnic minorities in the advertising arena is not significantly growing, despite evidence noting certain sub-segments are shrinking in our ranks.
Divertsity adds diverse passengers to the White women’s bandwagon, further pushing racial and ethnic minorities to the back. The leapfrogging groups include White LGBT people, White old people, White people with physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities, White people with neurodivergent conditions, White plus-sized people, White thoughtful people (i.e., diversity of thinking), White conservatives and White or fair-skinned Brazilians—despite the fact that none of these groups are as underrepresented as racial and ethnic minorities on Madison Avenue.
Divertsity adds a sense of urgency to spotlight ultra-underrepresented segments like people dealing with mental illness, old people, women without monuments and stepmoms, despite the fact that none of these ultra-underrepresented groups are as ultra-underrepresented as racial and ethnic minorities.
Divertsity adds unlimited bullshit, as demonstrated by We Are Unlimited—the “agency of the future” that perfectly symbolizes today’s state of affairs involving diversity. Here’s a firm that was allegedly erected from scratch to solely service Mickey D’s, and overseen by DDB North America CEO Wendy Clark, who claims to have a restless ambition for achieving diversity nirvana. Yet at nearly every chance to bring her dream to life, Clark resorts to hiring White men, White women and Brazilians, also engaging in cronyism by tapping candidates within the Omnicom network. Of course, Clark institutes mandatory unconscious bias training, with mandatory sexual harassment training coming soon. In the end, the “agency of the future” bears an uncanny resemblance to every White advertising agency in the present and past. Oh, and the place is responsible for some of the worst crap ever conceived for the Golden Arches.
Divertsity lets adland dream up deeper diversity detours, departures, delays, deviations, deflections, delegations, digressions and denials.