Saturday, September 30, 2006

Essay 1159

Idea in Spanish is still spelled idea

By José Reyes

[José Reyes is partner and creative director at Turbulence, an award-winning creative shop in Miami focused on revitalizing brands by building culture, not just advertising. Prior to joining Turbulence, José was Group Creative Director of Zubi Advertising in Miami.]

So, a Puertorican, a Cuban, a Colombian, and an Argentine walk into a bar.

Nope, this isn’t some cheap, tasteless joke about our newfound multiculturalism. It’s every day at one of the top Hispanic agencies in the US.

Once we get to the bar, the scene’s pretty familiar. We all have high expectations, and we’re pretty hard on each other. After all, we’re all still looking for the best “idea.” Most of the creatives have been trained in other Spanish speaking countries, where production budgets aren’t great, so more emphasis is placed on creating something breakthrough. In those countries, advertising messages tend to be sophisticated with an emphasis on the creative solution without underestimating the consumer.

Unless you’ve been living in Kuala Lumpur, you know the Hispanic market has enjoyed a boom over the past few years. Clients are familiar with the research and charts all showing the growth in purchase power over the next few years coming from the Hispanic market, so most are interested in buying into this “new trend” which has been happening for the past 20+ years. Crisp, new marketing plans are minted daily focusing on the “Spanish dominant” Hispanic: the consumer which apparently survives in this country while only managing to consume Spanish-language messages. A traditional, family-oriented, lower-income, conservative adult with a basic level of education, and an over-developed sense of accomplishment that manifests itself in the need for emotional comfort provided by the countless products he comes in contact with.


Well, I’m sure in some cases this might be true, but definitely not in all cases. Some agencies have clients convinced there is some unique “Hispanic language” they can use that will make all Spanish-dominant consumers loyal to their product. They’ve been successfully built on answering the question: What’s Hispanic about it? The music. The family. The soccer. I argue, just like any other market in the world, what we need is FRESH IDEAS.

(That’s the sound of all the multi-cultural agencies collectively screaming blasphemy.)

Truth is, this market is changing, and just like any other marketing environment, fresh thinking is what separates one product from another. If we aren’t willing to accept this, maybe we’re in the wrong business. Maybe we should be translating. Maybe we should simply buy Spanish media. Maybe we shouldn’t be calling ourselves agencies. We are in the business of selling ideas that sell. Just in Spanish. Of course, I’m idealistic enough to believe we, as a market, are as sophisticated as the Anglo market, and we certainly need to understand the importance of communicating a fresh breakthrough idea to consumers. As the market becomes more inundated with advertisers, the advantage of a fresh idea will be more and more important. Simply producing Spanish language advertising won’t be enough — we need to produce great ideas. Just like everyone else.

Essay 1158

A not-so-thrilling MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• Michael Jackson and ex-wife Deborah Rowe have reached a settlement in their child-custody battle. Lawyers for both parties declined to comment, so no one knows any details of the agreement. Which is fine, as most folks stopped caring after Thriller.

• Elvira Arellano will remain holed up in a church for now, after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit that sought to halt the woman’s government-ordered deportation to Mexico. The illegal immigrant and her U.S.-born son took refuge in the Chicago church in August. Arellano and her lawyer declined to comment. Which is fine, as most folks stopped caring in August.

• In case anyone still cares, here’s one more response to the AdAge story presented in Essay 1136…

> Touchy subject, but considering the hugely great influence advertising has on our economy and the aggregate US dollars spent toward the companies that peddle the influence, it should be of equally great importance that these groups that represent the brands’ revenues be forced to reflect upon their actions. I do not agree with quotas for the sake of social compliance. However, the advertising industry has gone unchecked in its portrayal of Black people in the many media brands purchase by proxy. I can say from firsthand experience, even when faster, better and cheaper are the hot buttons, media groups that choose to represent the “true” reflective culture of Black America are shunned as not reaching the masses. Seemingly (and this is only from my experience as a Black media company owner), if we are not dedicated to reaching White audiences directly or by crossing over, Big Brand dollars are not for us. The brands won’t say it, but the actions of agencies are clear — Latinos and Asians are today considered target consumer markets, while Blacks are merely an annual $600 Billion given. “Throw them a bone during Black History Month, MLK day, Back to School, and the standard esoteric Cigarette promos.” Like all non-mainstream markets, the nascent Black market may be relatively small, but the major difference and “need” for municipal oversight is that advertising to this market is not represented by nor is it representative of its culture — and it would be nice both socially and economically if it were. — Chicago, IL

Essay 1157

You won’t stay swole if you eat this shit regularly. But you might swell.

Essay 1156

From The Los Angeles Times…


‘Girlfriends’ feels left out of the clique

The long-running show has a new time slot and a new network. But its creator wishes the CW would tout it more.

By Greg Braxton, Times Staff Writer

When it comes to on- and off-screen drama, it’s hard to beat the comedy “Girlfriends.”

As “Girlfriends” launches its seventh season at 8 p.m. on Sunday, its creator is biting the hand that programs the show — the new CW network — saying she’s not feeling the love. The network denies the charge, saying it has much love. One of its core stars dropped out unexpectedly at the end of last season and has turned down pleas to make a farewell appearance. And the first episode of the season begins not with a joke but with one of the girlfriends jogging through the ruin and recovery of Hurricane Katrina-torn New Orleans.

The furor helps mark a milestone season for “Girlfriends,” whose producers include Kelsey Grammer. The comedy is one of the longest-running series featuring a predominantly black cast since “The Cosby Show,” surpassing the runs of ABC’s “My Wife and Kids,” Fox’s “The Bernie Mac Show,” and even NBC’s “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” “Girlfriends” is also the most veteran UPN series to survive the WB and UPN merger that led to the CW.

Moving from the 9 p.m. Monday time slot it previously occupied, “Girlfriends” is the anchor of the CW’s Sunday lineup of African American shows that includes “Everybody Hates Chris” and “All of Us,” while also serving as the springboard lead-in for its spinoff, “The Game,” which premieres Sunday.

On the eve of the new era, Mara Brock Akil, the key creative force behind “Girlfriends” and “The Game,” calls this season “an exciting challenge.”

But she is troubled that “Girlfriends” was not included in the CW’s “Free to Be …” billboard and bus-placard campaign hyping its programming. The push focused on “America’s Next Top Model,” “Gilmore Girls” and “Veronica Mars,” while also giving a boost to “Smallville,” “Everybody Hates Chris” and “Supernatural,” which have not been on the air as long as “Girlfriends.”

Akil said she was concerned when she first heard that the show “was moving from the Monday night slot where we’ve worked so hard to build an audience. … I know [CW Entertainment President Dawn Ostroff’s] financial purse is tight, but to move us without a billboard around town when we’re going into our seventh season doesn’t make me happy. Will our fans know we’re on, or when?”

She said that “Girlfriends” “has never had a billboard, even though more times than not we’ve been the No. 1 show in black households.” She continued: “That’s not right. If I meet this challenge, even though our numbers may be small, I will consider them double what they are, because we would have done it without marketing support. I know it’s the reality of the business, but I don’t like it.”

Responding to Akil’s comments, a network spokesman said, “When you’re launching a new network, there are countless marketing priorities, including an overall branding campaign, which featured every show on the CW. ‘Girlfriends’ is one of those shows, and we are very proud that it’s anchoring our new Sunday night as the most-watched program on television by African Americans since it premiered in 2000.”

And in an interview earlier this week, Ostroff called the series an integral part of the CW’s strategy to attract female viewers. “When ‘Girlfriends’ was on UPN, it was still going strong,” she said. “It’s very important for us — it helps to bring in women. The show is so smart, and shows women in a realistic vein.”

Making the transition even tougher for Akil is the unexpected departure of one of the series’ main cast members, Jill Marie Jones, which caught Akil and the rest of the cast off-guard.

Jones’ character, real estate agent Toni, was embroiled in several heavy-duty story arcs last season, which included a bitter divorce and custody battle, and a falling out with her best friend, restaurant owner Joan (Tracee Ellis Ross).

The departure of Jones and her refusal to make a farewell appearance still has Akil shaken. She said: “I would love for her to come back, but Jill doesn’t want to return. I don’t know 100% why she made this decision. She didn’t tell me. All she said when we talked was that she felt it was time for her to move on. The door is not closed. We’ve asked her to come back and have offered different ways for her to return. But I completely wish her well. There’s no drama involved.”

Jones declined to comment. “There really is nothing to say,” said the actress’ publicist, Nicole Nassar.

“Girlfriends” will now deal with Toni’s loss through Joan’s struggles, said Akil. “We’re going to show what it’s like to lose a best friend and not have that last conversation to say goodbye.”

That loss will be linked thematically to Joan’s visit to New Orleans, where she went after her falling out with Toni and her other friends. The season opens with Joan jogging from the French Quarter to the 9th Ward, and was filmed guerrilla-style with a local crew.

Ross said: “The scene really opens the devastation that has been in Joan’s life. We’ve always straddled the line between comedy and drama, and showing real life is what keeps our show fresh.”

Akil said she knew it was risky to start the new beginning of “Girlfriends” with the sequence: “It’s a little out of character with the show — it’s not the conventional thing to do, especially when the story is not about New Orleans. This was our way to reach outside the box, and pay tribute to New Orleans at the same time. It’s our way of saying we don’t want people to forget what happened there. We can’t delve into it like an hour drama. But I’m proud of the way we did it.”

Essay 1155

For Blacks, Ford presented a man discussing his fade and barbershop (see Essay 1146). For Hispanics, it’s a face-painting soccer fan. Clearly, Bold Moves does not refer to the automaker’s multicultural messages.

Essay 1154

From The Los Angeles Times…


For 20 years, gay men have vigorously fought the contention that HIV is a disease of homosexuals.

But now, one of Southern California’s most influential gay institutions has embarked on a controversial ad campaign with this stark declaration: “HIV is a gay disease.”

With that message and the tag line “Own It. End It” on billboards and in magazines, the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center says it is trying to reach legions of gay men who have become complacent about HIV and AIDS.

The campaign is an abrupt departure from the years of hard politicking against the idea of AIDS as a gay plague, a characterization that many — including the Gay & Lesbian Center — had argued marginalized victims and made it hard to reach others who were at risk, including thousands of minority women who have become infected in recent years.

The ads have stunned some in the gay community and the AIDS services world, who recall the early years of the epidemic, when anti-gay clergy railed against the condition and little money was available for research or prevention.

(Click on the essay title above to read the full story.)

Essay 1153

Is Terry McMillan moonlighting as a copywriter? What’s next — How Stella Got Her Fixed Car Back?

Essay 1152

Just in time for Yom Kippur, this editorial appeared in newspapers nationwide…


The new anti-Semitism

Victor Davis Hanson, a senior fellow and historian at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University: Tribune Media Services

Hating Jews, on racial as well as religious grounds, is as old as the Roman destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Later in Europe, pogroms and the Holocaust were the natural devolution of that venom.

Anti-Semitism after World War II often avoided the burning crosses and Nazi ranting. It often appeared as a more subtle animosity, fueled by envy of successful Jews in the West. “The good people, the nice people” often were the culprits, according to a character in the 1947 film “Gentleman’s Agreement,” which dealt with the American aristocracy’s social shunning of Jews.

A recent third type of anti-Jewish odium is something different. It is a strange mixture of violent hatred by radical Islamists and the more or less indifference to it by Westerners.

Those who randomly shoot Jews for being Jews--whether at a Jewish center in Seattle or at synagogues in Istanbul--are for the large part Muslim zealots. Most in the West explain away the violence. They chalk it up to anger over the endless tit-for-tat in the Middle East. Yet privately they know that we do not see violent Jews shooting Muslims in the United States or Europe.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promises to wipe Israel “off the map.” He seems eager for the requisite nuclear weapons to finish off what an Iranian mullah has called a “one-bomb state”--meaning Israel’s destruction would only require one nuclear weapon. Iran’s theocracy intends to turn the idea of a Jewish state on its head. Instead of Israel being a safe haven for Jews in their historical birthplace, the Iranians apparently find that concentration only too convenient for their own final nuclear solution.

In response, here at home the Council on Foreign Relations rewards the Iranian president with an invitation to speak to its membership. At the podium of that hallowed chamber, Ahmadinejad, who questions whether the Holocaust ever took place, basically dismissed a firsthand witness of Dachau by asking whether he really could be that old.

The state-run, and thus government-authorized, newspapers of the Middle East slander Jews in barbaric fashion. “Mein Kampf” (translated, of course, as “Jihadi”) sells briskly in the region. Hamas and Hezbollah militias on parade emulate the style of brownshirts. In response, much of the Western public snoozes. In the last two decades, Islamic terrorists have bombed and murdered thousands inside Europe and the United States. Their state supporters in the Middle East have raked in billions in petro-windfall profits from energy-hungry Western economies. For many in Europe and the U.S., supporting Israel--the Middle East’s only stable democracy--or even its allies in the West has become viewed as dangerous and costly.

In addition, Israel is no longer weak but proud and ready to defend itself. So when its terrorist enemies like Hezbollah and Hamas brilliantly married their own fascist creed with popular left-wing multiculturalism in the West, there was an eerie union: yet another supposed Third World victim of a Western oppressor thinking it could earn a pass for its murderous agenda.

We’re accustomed to associating hatred of Jews with the ridiculed Neanderthal right of those in sheets and jackboots. But this new venom, at least in its Western form, is mostly a left-wing, and often an academic, enterprise. It’s also far more insidious, given the left’s moral pretensions and its influence in the prestigious media and universities. The renewed hatred of Jews in the Middle East--and the indifference to it in the West--is a sort of “post anti-Semitism.” Islamic zealots supply the old venomous hatred, while affluent and timid Westerners provide the new necessary indifference--if punctuated by the occasional off-the-cuff “Amen” in the manner of a Louis Farrakhan or Mel Gibson outburst.

The dangers of this post anti-Semitism is not just that Jews are shot in Europe and America--or that a drunken celebrity or demagogue mouths off. Instead, ever so insidiously, radical Islam’s hatred of Jews is becoming normalized.

The result is that the world’s politicians and media are talking seriously with those who not merely want back the West Bank, but rather want an end to Israel altogether and everyone inside it.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Essay 1151

Is it the shoes? Who cares, mamacita.

Essay 1150

Surviving and stayin’ alive with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• CBS reality TV series “Survivor” decided to integrate its tribes. No explanation was offered for the multicultural merging. “We’re back to America. We’re a melting pot,” said contestant Parvati. “I love it.” Now will someone with broader appeal replace host Jeff Probst please?

• Environmentalists and authorities believe the proposed U.S.-Mexico border fence will upset migration routes for animals, including rare birds and jaguars. Although the animals will probably wind up using the same alternative paths as illegal immigrants. In the meantime, prepare for face-offs between The Minuteman Project and PETA.

• Senator George Allen is now taking heat from a Confederate group that feels he dissed them by distancing himself from Confederate symbols. Hey, as much as he’d like to, Allen can’t be expected to support every racist platform.

Essay 1149

“People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?”

That’s a tough question to answer, based on the last few weeks in the advertising industry.

Anheuser-Busch pulled the plug on its Bud Light campaign starring Zagar and Steve. Native American groups complained Zagar — who bears an uncanny resemblance to a Yanomamo tribesman — displayed stereotypical and racist characteristics.

An Ohio auto dealership sparked outrage by trying to air a radio commercial with blatantly anti-Muslim messaging. The announcer copy proclaimed the car seller was “declaring jihad on the automotive market.”

The Chicago Creative Awards sunk to new lows with Master of Ceremonies Tony Little, accompanied by two scantily-clad, large-breasted bimbos. The lecherous Little literally groped female award recipients when they stepped onto the stage. Next year, maybe the Chicago Creative Club will book Neil French to host.

CBS reality TV series “Survivor” segregated contestants by ethnicity, ultimately polarizing advertisers as well. After two episodes, the producers switched to a multicultural merging with no explanation.

Plus, a contender in Advertising Week’s annual icon contest is none other than Aunt Jemima.

The continuing diversity soap opera inspired plenty of ugliness too.

Advertising Age conducted a poll that showed 93 percent of respondents did not think the agreements signed by New York shops would solve the exclusivity problems.

Advertising Age followed through with a cynical editorial that stirred controversy when the iconic publication declared The Human Rights Commission is “asking the industry to lower its standards” by hiring minorities. Subsequent “clarifications” by AdAge were delivered with a bumbling incompetence reminiscent of the infamous Al Campanis perspective on Blacks in sports.

Emails and letters to the editor unleashed the biased, bigoted responses that, for all intents and purposes, clearly established there are serious race-based dilemmas plaguing Madison Avenue.

New York City Councilman Larry Seabrook provided terse commentary regarding the no-shows at a diversity forum scheduled during Advertising Week. According to Seabrook, advertising executives “ran like chickens with their asses plucked clean.” The councilman warned he might be issuing subpoenas soon.

Activist and radio talk-show host Sanford Moore also publicly skewered the industry with references to economic colonialism and slavery. He’ll probably ask O. Burtch Drake to cough up 40 acres and a mule.

To top it all off, blogger Copyranter posted this attempt at humor:

Advertising Week — Thursday Morning Diversity Seminar.

In response to widespread media criticism, The 4As this morning held an impromptu Diversity Seminar/Breakfast at a secret swanky Manhattan restaurant. However, an anon copyranter operative was able to snap some pics. On hand were Juan Valdez (pictured), Aunt Jemima, and the Travelocity Gnome, who were all seated at a VIP table and served by an all-white staff of top ad industry honchos. Said Phil Dusenberry, former BBDO Chairman, with a laugh, “Wow, that was enlightening. Now I know what it feels like to be a spic slave-mama midget.”

Nothing like completing the circle with a racial slur.

Can’t imagine any of this will help future recruitment efforts. In fact, potential minority candidates may view these sad activities as evidence to stay away.

It’s no wonder the 4A’s hired a PR firm to rejigger its image. At this point, an extreme makeover is in order. Somebody call Queer Eye pronto.

Thank God — or whatever deity you worship — it’s Friday.


(Visitors are cordially invited to click on the essay title above to reread the MultiCultClassics inaugural rant.)

Essay 1148

Hard to believe this ad was produced in the 21st century. And it looks like the dude is only eyeing the woman’s Bud Light.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Essay 1147

Two more comments in response to the AdAge story presented in Essay 1136. Initial comments were listed in Essay 1140…

> I’m shocked. Shouldn’t employment be about finding the best people for the job? The problem lies with educating and developing minorities, to enable them to make a valuable contribution in advertising. — London

> I totally concur with “hometown’s” comments. Perhaps someone should explain to Mr. Seabrook that the New York Times reaches more African Americans on a daily basis than the Amsterdam News. And is more efficient. I nominate Butch Graves to be the teacher. — New York, NY

Essay 1146

Here’s a minority version of Ford’s latest campaign. The man discusses his fade and trips to the barbershop. The copy even features an obligatory “Keep it tight.” It’s a wonder Ford didn’t play off “Bold Moves” by depicting the man breakdancing.

Essay 1145 calls radio talk-show host Sanford Moore “The Man Who Triggered The Diversity Probe.” The Man talks via video — click on the essay title above to check it out.

Essay 1144

(The latest issue of Advertising Age presented more propaganda from 4A’s President-CEO O. Burtch Drake.)

Essay 1143

(Letters To The Editor from the latest issue of Advertising Age, including a spanking from New York City Commission on Human Rights Commissioner Patricia L. Gatling.)

Essay 1142

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Essay 1141

Be the first on your block to own a KOAB. Provided you can handle the $100,000 price tag. Click on the essay title above or call 949 859 KOAB.

Essay 1140

Check out these comments responding to the AdAge story presented in Essay 1136. Click on the essay title above for the full story, including video of the proceedings…

> To give business to a firm solely because it is owned by a black man is no better than to give business to a firm solely because it is owned by a white man. Advertising media placement is a game of numbers. If any media company, minority- or Caucasian-owned, wants to gain market share, they need only provide an audience of greater number and value to marketers. Forcing advertisers to spend money in any market which does not provide the greatest return will diminish their ability to compete. Their business will not grow as fast as others in their category and, in turn, their advertising budgets will reduce. The best thing minority-owned media companies could do to get a greater share of the advertising pie is to provide a greater share of valuable market audience. — Hometown, DC

> The best rationale for the need for this dialogue comes not from the article but from the previous comments. How can the industry of “Big Ideas” be filled with such small minds? The arrogance displayed in these comments is a glaring reflection of the problems that face this industry. You copy the style, language, fashion and music of the African American community, and then question African Americans the availability of qualified people to hire? At least be creative in your denial. Dallas, Texas — Grand Prairie, TX

> No one likes to have decisions forced upon them. No company or its principals are ever welcoming to the notion that government can step in and say that they are doing things in an unethical or unfair manner. However, businesses felt that same way in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, etc. At some point, regardless of your race or ethnic origin, you must notice the huge disparities that exist between “white” companies and everyone else’s. It’s more a matter of fair and honest competition than making sure that black businesses get a cut. Monopolies are broken up. Anti-trust suits are filed. Barriers must be broken in a civil and judicious manner, similar to the 1960s. What is the other recourse? It’s not as simple as saying: “Don’t they have anything better to do?” or “Focus on your community.” It’s a fight for proportionality. The percentages of blacks working in ad agencies are not low due to lack of skills, experience, or desire. The question becomes what is actually lacking in the process that can be fixed. — Philadelphia, PA

> This is ridiculous. Diversity hearings are for losers. You don’t see Asians out there beating their chest for an equal opportunity. They do a fantastic job, and they get hired. Anyone who is hired to fill a quota, and not on their own skills, is lazy, or untalented. Maybe diversity needs to be forced onto corporations that are traditionally white/male only, like big oil manufacturers. When I worked in oil&gas, there were no black people… unless they were working on the rigs. THEY need to be forced to be diverse. The advertising industry is probably one of the more diverse industries there is. Give me a break! — Burlington, ON

> I think the agencies were wrong not to attend. I think they could have used the opportunity to show which minority media they do buy and which media they don’t. There are several reasons why I didn’t buy specific media in the past, especially community newspapers: poor circulation figures (if audited at all), poor production standards, and canned editorial content straight from corporate PR departments. When given the choice between legitimate media reaching minorities, especially magazines, such as Black Enterprise, radio such as KMEL, and cable TV versus these local publications, I didn’t hesitate. And naturally, it was the publishers who were the loudest critics. — Novato, CA

> In over 30 years in the agency business I have only worked with two African Americans. This issue should have been addressed years ago. Kudos to the NYC City Council. — Irvine, CA

> Don’t those people have anything better to do? Instead of demanding that agencies hire minorities to fill some arbitrary quotas perhaps they should focus on the minority communities and what they should be doing to improve their saleability to the agencies that hire. I’d also like to see the data that supports their claim. — Alamosa, CO

> I will admit that I may not be totally informed about the purpose of the public hearing. However, once again, it appears that the government is forcing its way into the private sector’s decision-making process. If the ad community decides to skip the meeting, let the marketplace determine how to handle it. Why does the government feel compelled to threaten them, or at the very least use their public forum to bash them. This issue is larger than this hearing; it is just another example of how the government will throw their weight around whenever they don’t get their way. Let’s face it, we all can’t get our way but the rest of us have to deal with it. As for the minority-owned businesses, I do see a need to help them get started and have a solid foundation. But once they are up and running, why is it the role of the government to continue to support them? If they have a good idea that the market has a need for, combined with a strong business plan, shouldn’t they be able to stand on their own? This all reminds me of something I was once told, “We become experts on external conditions when we fail to look at ourselves.” — NORFOLK, VA

> I think there are few companies out there in general that support diversity. Many corporations have “diversity programs” whether that is for hiring internally or externally with suppliers. However, I bet if you investigated the issue further you would find that many of these “programs” are fronts. Corporations and Ad Agencies will still continue to do what they want unless someone actually holds them accountable and they are required to disclose NOT just “numbers” but names of individuals or contractors that can be verified. Then and only then will they start to take it seriously! — Chicago, IL

> Obviously the New York City Council practices the much-practiced Jesse Jackson-inspired shakedown techniques that are cloaked in the phoniness of “diversity.” Can we also ban the word “disrespected?” — Plainfield, IL

Essay 1139

New Yorkers have counted on HIP’s health plans for almost 60 years. The ad image — with Gramps and the kid dancing in front of a brownstone stoop — looks like it’s almost 60 years old.

Essay 1138

New media opportunities in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• The Los Angeles Times reported on a new wave of hype in rap music: creating viral marketing with folks in jail. One record label sends promotional material to incarcerated pals, realizing these felons are tastemakers. “Prisons are great because you have an incredibly captive audience that has a lot of entertainment time on its hands,” said a record label executive. “These people are definitely influential, and not just in the prisons. … A lot of these guys are still calling shots in the outside world. You look in some of these urban communities and you see some of these pimps and gangsters as the governors of the ghetto.” Yeah, but most folks on Madison Avenue are still a lot more evil than the typical convict. Click on the essay title above to read the full story.

• The Health Department in New York is waging war against trans fat, proposing a ban on its use in restaurants. Officials are comparing the health dangers of trans fat to lead paint. The New York City Health Commissioner proclaimed, “Trans fat causes heart disease. Like lead in paint, artificial trans fat in food is invisible and dangerous, and it can be replaced.” Hey, lead paint tastes much better than the standard McGriddles® sandwich.

• Chicago’s first Wal-Mart is tailored to appeal to Blacks and Latinos with bilingual signage, urban clothing labels and more. There’s even Latino-themed soft drinks and food. Additionally, local residents are benefiting from jobs provided by the megastore. However, they can look forward to remaining low-paid employees, thanks to Mayor Richard Daley’s veto of a proposal to boost the wages at big retailers.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Essay 1137

Ever smelled anything that made you feel like steppin’? This ad smells — and it makes you feel like steppin’ to the toilet.

Essay 1136



NYC Official Slams Agency Execs for Skipping Diversity Hearing

Mad Ave. Also Criticized for Lack of Spending in Minority-Owned Media

By Matthew Creamer

New York ( -- New York City Councilman Larry Seabrook blasted ad agencies who failed to show today for a public hearing on minority-owned media, saying they “ran like chickens with their asses plucked clean,” and suggested a subpoena might compel them to do so in the future.

‘Relegated to leftovers’
Madison Avenue, under fire for its failure to build diverse workplaces, was also slapped today for not buying enough ads in media outlets owned by African-Americans, Latinos and other minorities. In hearings at New York City Hall, media owners and City Council members blasted the industry for what one described as an environment where these outlets are “devalued and relegated to leftovers.” But it wasn’t just media plans that got the goat of the council. What raised the council’s ire and brought out some of the loudest verbal fireworks was the decision by agency executives not to show up and testify, a move that could ultimately lead to more hearings.

Left holding the bag was the agency business’ trade group, the Association of American Advertising Agencies. 4A’s Senior VP Adonis Hoffman said the agencies’ decision not to appear followed a series of agreements with the New York City Human Rights Commission that had the effect of canceling a separate set of hearings into diversity hiring matters also scheduled for this week. Both sets of hearings were scheduled to coincide with Advertising Week, the industry’s annual celebration.

With those agreements, he said, the agencies “would be free to proceed with their diversity plans without hearings on the issues that were resolved as a result of many months of negotiations. Thus, following the advice of their individual legal counsel, the agencies, as you can understand, opted not to appear today.”

‘It’s disrespectful’
Councilwoman Letitia James said the decision was “an affront to the City Council. We’re pretty offended by this. It’s disrespectful.”

For his part, Mr. Hoffman acknowledged the challenges facing the media outlets, in an era of media consolidation, and he offered a set of recommendations for how the city can help. He said the city should use tax incentives and other economic-development tactics as part of a program to promote minority-ownership of media.

But that did little to ease the concerns of the media owners. Following a presentation by a Verizon government-affairs executive touting the company’s diversity record, Elinor Tatum, editor-publisher of the New York Amsterdam News, questioned Verizon’s commitment to minority-owned media. She said that in her paper’s case Verizon bought a couple ads every January and February to coincide with Black History Month and Martin Luther King's birthday.

“It seems like black newspapers exist only in January and February,” Ms. Tatum said.

List of grievances
Overall, a long list of grievances was aired, ranging from the fact that multicultural agencies are often subcontractors and thus control a small slice of ad budgets to the fact that those budgets often are relatively tiny set-asides and don’t come out of general-marketing budgets. Said Ms. Tatum: “Agencies blame clients. Clients blame agencies. That way all the doors stay closed.”

Mr. Seabrook, who brokered an agreement with Omnicom Group, the largest ad-agency holding company, to provide more than $2 million toward a diversity program, has been trying to broaden the debate beyond workplace issues to include matters such as media spending. Last week, four Omnicom-owned agencies followed shops from WPP Group, Interpublic Group of Cos. and Publicis Groupe in settling with the Human Rights Commission, agreeing to set and report minority-hiring and promotion goals.

Essay 1135

For an ad whose headline reads, “Where Style Meets Substance,” there’s little style or substance.

Essay 1134

4A’s President-CEO O. Burtch Drake — seeking to kick off diversity initiatives during Advertising Week — stares at a Black woman’s booty.

(Photo credit:

Essay 1133

Sunday’s issue of The New York Times Magazine featured a 37-page special advertising supplement comprised of diversity messages from a host of companies.

These types of ads, many of which have been presented on this blog before, usually appear in minority business publications for recruitment purposes — plus, the insertions help satisfy corporate goals to support minority-owned media.

It’s unclear what inspired this collection. Not surprisingly, there were no messages from New York advertising agencies.

Essay 1132

The Apocalypse is officially scheduled to take place on Wednesday, October 11 at 10pm/9c.

Essay 1131

From The Associated Press…


Spotlight shined on lack of racial diversity in New York ad agencies

NEW YORK — Why, city officials demanded, were there virtually no black staffers at New York’s elite advertising agencies? The year was 1968. Agencies’ executives vowed to fix the problem.

They did not.

Now, under steady pressure from advocates and the threat of public embarrassment by city officials, they have renewed those promises. Sixteen of the city's top ad agencies have agreed to recruit more minorities, especially blacks. They will also diversify senior management and let city officials monitor them for three years.

As Advertising Week 2006 festivities begin, the agreements signed with the city’s Human Rights Commission offer a rare glimpse inside one of New York's core industries — and reveal that its work force does not look much like the nation.

“This is a big deal — that advertising agencies actually signed written agreements to make these changes,” said Burtch Drake, president of the American Association of Advertising Agencies. “Will you see an overnight sea change? No. But over time you’ll see other cultures integrated into advertising.”

About 3 percent of advertising staffers nationally were black in 2005, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor data, with 1.6 percent Asian and 7.5 percent Latino. In upper management, the diversity is virtually nonexistent, data show.

Under the agreements, big agencies including WPP Group PLC’s Ogilvy & Mather, Publicis Groupe SA’s Saatchi & Saatchi and Draft New York, part of Interpublic Group of Cos. Inc., will devote staffing and resources to finding and keeping more minority staff members. They will set up in-house diversity councils, and executives who meet the new hiring goals will be rewarded accordingly.

“This strategy is deliberate — we really wanted to change things across the board,” said Patricia L. Gatling, head of the human rights commission.

Spokesmen for advertising agencies have mostly declined to comment on the issue. Young & Rubicam, a unit of WPP, issued a statement saying the agency “believes that diversity is a business imperative and we are pleased to have come to an agreement with the Human Rights Commission that reinforces our diversity initiatives.” Omnicom Group Inc., parent of DDB Worldwide and BBDO Worldwide, has pledged $1.25 million to diversity initiatives within the company and will help establish a new advertising curriculum at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn.

Why did the city focus on advertising? It is hardly the only big industry that lacks racial diversity. City officials said it was time to revisit an issue first raised at their hearings in 1968. And Gatling, a former prosecuting attorney, took a tough approach.

And then there is Sanford Moore.

The veteran black advertising guru, 65, for decades wrote letters, staged protests and pushed public officials to highlight the lack of diversity in advertising. Off and on for 13 years, he has also discussed it on his Sunday night talk show, “Open Lines,” on the radio station WRKS-FM. His on-air name is Charles W. Etheridge III.

The agreements are a result of Moore’s determination, said Eugene Morris, president and CEO of E. Morris Communications, a Chicago-based agency specializing in the African-American market.

“He has been a bulldog,” said Morris.

Moore conceded: “I’m obstinate. I’ve kept records on this since 1968.” He added, “I call advertising the last bastion of Jim Crow.”

The relationships he built through his lobbying with city public officials, including Gatling and City Councilman Larry Seabrook, prompted the Human Rights Commission to begin subpoenaing advertising agencies’ staff records in 2004.

Potentially embarrassing public hearings, at which agency executives would likely have faced tough questions during the industry’s annual Advertising Week, had been scheduled for Monday. They were canceled after the diversity agreements were announced earlier this month.

Seabrook will hold hearings Tuesday on a related issue: the struggles that black media have getting big clients to advertise with them.

“The advertising issue isn’t just about hiring, it’s about doing business,” Seabrook said, referring to the vast but mostly white industry of artists, writers and smaller ad agencies that subcontract with big agencies. “African Americans participate as consumers — we spend $350 billion a year in this country. But we are not getting our just due.”

Earl G. “Butch” Graves Jr., CEO of Black Enterprise Magazine said that some big corporations refuse to court minority consumers, but much of the blame lies with advertising. “They must hire people from top to bottom that look like society. How can an ad agency be charged with having a worldwide assignment for marketing and have all the people in the room be white men?”

Advertising experts say it is tough to find and keep minority ad professionals. Entry-level salaries are around $30,000 a year, likely unappealing to some potential recruits, said Mary Hilton, vice president of public affairs for the American Advertising Federation.

Black students often must be recruited into college advertising programs, said Jerome Williams, an advertising professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Many have never considered it because they know of no blacks in the industry.

Alicia Evans, a black advertising professional, said when she worked at a large, mainstream agency she won raves from clients. But she was never embraced by her mostly white co-workers and supervisors.

“I needed to be mentored,” said Evans, president of Total Image Communications a public relations agency in Westbury, New York. When you’re black, “you’re out there on your own.”

Seabrook said that, since the advertising agreements have been made public, he’s received calls from around the country.

“People say, ‘You think advertising is bad, you should come see where I work,’” he said. “The next journey is going to be Wall Street.”

Essay 1130

Ever wonder where Serena Williams, Usher, 50 Cent, Maurice White and more go to buy pit bulls? Of course not. But now you can click on the essay title above and find out.

Essay 1129

Keeping abreast of old news with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• Janet Jackson revealed she hasn’t spoken to Justin Timberlake since the 2004 Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction” incident. “We haven’t spoken. But I consider him a friend, and I’m very loyal, and friendship is very important to me,” said Jackson. “He has reached out to speak with me.” And probably cop another feel. Plus, could someone tell Jackson that most of us stopped caring about this topic around two minutes into the 3rd quarter of the 2004 Super Bowl? Jackson also expressed surprise over all the hoopla. “So much more important things were going on in the world. And the focus was on my breast? That didn’t make any sense to me.” Jackson is currently baring her enhanced breasts on about a dozen magazine covers.

• A federal judge approved a class-action lawsuit charging Big Tobacco with allegedly lying to the public about “light” cigarettes for the past 30 years. A lawyer for Reynolds American Inc.’s R.J. Reynolds Tobacco division said, “We obviously disagree with the ruling — strongly.” Well, yeah, liars do tend to dispute being called liars.

• Senator George Allen continues to face accusations of racial insensitivity, as two former acquaintances said Allen used racial slurs in the 1970s and 1980s. According to the two folks, Allen regularly used the N-word. “I don’t remember ever using that word,” said Allen. “And it is absolutely false that that was ever part of my vocabulary.” This guy sounds like a lawyer for Big Tobacco.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Essay 1128

The new standard in luxury: rims called Vomit. Don’t want to know what the old standard was.

Essay 1127

Adjusting the contrast with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• Mickey D’s will contribute $2 million to the La Jolla, California-based Scripps Institute for funding research and programs targeting child obesity. “Everything that we keep on seeing is the whole issue of childhood obesity and the early onset of Type 2 diabetes has grown exponentially,” said President and Chief Operating Officer Ralph Alvarez. “We felt we needed to get greater education in this area.” Alvarez is aware of the irony of the company’s donation. “Ironic or not we’re going to make a difference. … You won’t see those benefits short-term, in one to three years, because habits change over time. But as a major restaurant company, we need to be on the cutting edge of what’s happening.” So for now, keep feeding your kiddies Happy Meals to give the researchers plenty of scientific data to work with. And the Scripps Institute can probably expect to receive the $2 million in the form of McDonald’s Gift Certificates.

• Oprah is launching her own XM Satellite Radio channel called Oprah and Friends. The station will broadcast 24/7, featuring personalities from her TV show. Let’s see, Oprah’s got TV, radio, Internet and magazines covered. Look for the woman to fund inventing a new media outlet to dominate soon. And to contrast Oprah’s XM Satellite Radio offerings, Snoop is hitting the scene in November.

Essay 1126

Don’t play with razor bumps. Don’t play with asthma. Note to creatives: Don’t play with clichés.

Essay 1125

From The New York Times…


Focusing on an Attitude Rather Than a Language


LOS ANGELES — In “Pimpeando,” a new show about cars, the talk is of lowriders and paint jobs with images of Aztecs and the Virgin of Guadalupe.

The target audience may also watch “Pimp My Ride,” the MTV car customizing series on which “Pimpeando” is based. But the sought-after viewers for this show are primarily young Latinos, a fast-growing demographic whose taste in entertainment runs from English to Spanish, from American to Latin, and back. And MTV is giving chase.

Today it is starting MTV Tr3s as a replacement for the all-Spanish language “MTV en Español,” a 15-year-old video jukebox that MTV executives now say was a placeholder while they tried to figure out more fitting programming for the Latino youth audience.

The new MTV Tr3s, or MTV Three, doesn’t shun Spanish — it will broadcast, for example, “Quiero Mis Quinces,” a Latin American show about the coming-of-age parties for 15-year-old girls, with English subtitles — but it will mostly reflect the fusion of American and Latin music, cultures and languages, MTV executives said.

That means V.J.’s who speckle their English with Spanish words, a playlist that puts Daddy Yankee next to Justin Timberlake, and original programming like “Pimpeando,” which pairs the popular host-customizer Michael Martin, or “Mad Mike,” star of “Pimp My Ride,” with Luis Lopez, a custom painter from the San Fernando Valley.

MTV Tr3s, pronounced “MTV tres,” is concentrating on Latinos between the ages of 12 and 34 and expects to reach at least 15 million households through cable, satellite and broadcast channels, said Lucia Ballas-Traynor, general manager of the network’s new channel.

Market research has consistently shown that while the American-born generations increasingly speak only English, they preserve a pride and sense of uniqueness based on their Hispanic heritage. Christina Norman, the president of MTV, declined to estimate the dollar investment the network made in Tr3s, but she said that from its name — “Three,” following MTV and MTV2, MTV’s video-intensive offshoot — to its sharing of MTV’s marketing, research and even personnel, the new network is beaming a message in and outside the company that “it’s not that Latin channel over there.”

“In people, in money and in time, MTV Tr3s is part of the MTV brand in the biggest way that we can think of,” she said.

The potential audience is huge. About one in five Americans aged 34 and younger is of Hispanic descent, and MTV executives cite Census Bureau estimates that say by 2020 the Latino teenage population is expected to have grown 62 percent, compared to 10 percent for teenagers over all.

Television networks are not the only ones trying to figure out how to reach this audience. Carl Kravetz, chairman of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, said his group is grappling with a shift away from equating Latin with Spanish. He said that instead of emphasizing language — “Should we do the ad in English or Spanish?” — the thinking is shifting to first considering whether the message touches on the common values and attitudes that set Latinos apart from the general market.

These attitudes, he said, include a less individualistic approach to life, a less rebellious view of parents and a less rigid sense of privacy.

“It is obvious that whatever it is at the core of feeling Latino is not just about language,” Mr. Kravetz said. “It really is about identity.”

Already cable channels like SiTV and Mun2, a Telemundo channel that underwent a makeover last year, offer Latin-theme hybrid programming. Robert Rose, chief executive of the AIM Tell-A-Vision Group, which produces two syndicated shows for American-born Latinos, said that the advent of MTV Tr3s is significant because it should help get the attention of advertisers, the majority of which, he noted, still try to reach Latinos through Spanish-language media only.

“I view them as an ally because they’re further validating the market that we’re all targeting,” Mr. Rose said of MTV.

Executives at Mun2 say their shows are striking a cord with their target audiences. A musical countdown show of both Spanish and English hits, “18 & Over,” beats MTV, VH1 and BET among Hispanic viewers aged 12 to 34, with about 66,000 watching.

The numbers may seem small, but Alex Pels, general manager of Mun2, said the network’s ratings have tripled since it was revised last year with different programs and a more balanced offering of shows — from the hip-hop oriented “One Nation” to the Mexican regional music-based “Reventón” — which appeal to Latino tastes that vary from the East Coast to the West Coast. (Mun2 also relocated its headquarters to Los Angeles from Miami.)

But Mr. Kravetz said, “We’re still not in a place of ratings wars.” The efforts to reach young Latinos, he said, is “at a point where people are still tweaking and fine-tuning and trying to figure things out, including MTV Tr3s.”

Their smaller size and niche status allow cable channels to experiment in ways broadcast networks often don’t. MTV, for instance, has also been courting young Americans of Korean, Indian and Chinese descent with their own music channels.

Cheskin, a research firm that this year released a report based on videotaped interviews with bilingual Latinos ages 13 to 19, found that these teens often include their extended family in their social network, that they want to be part of the mainstream but maintain their ethnic identity and that they will respond to either English or Spanish content as long as “it recognizes the role that Hispanic culture plays in their lives.”

Jose Tillán, a senior vice president at MTV Tr3s, said the channel would serve as a platform to develop new Latino musical talent and will put Latin superstars like Alejandro Sanz and Juanes on an equal footing as English-language counterparts such as Beyoncé and U2.

Programming includes adaptations of MTV shows like “Total Request Live” and “Sucker Free.” “MiTRL” on MTV Tr3s showcases talent from both cultures, relying on rock, urban and pop music, and “Sucker Free Latino” features hip-hop and reggaeton.

“For us it’s extremely exciting,” said Gus Lopez, president of Machete Music, Universal Music Group’s Latino urban label, whose artists include reggaeton stars like Don Omar. “I’m hoping the right videos for new music and unique talent could open up the door to a new listener and maybe even radio.”

And to take into account differences among Latino groups, the channel offers music blocks and “destination” shows to appeal to that diversity. “Pimpeando,” for example, is geared to the Mexican-American market, which helped establish the low-riding car culture.

“It’s something people ask, why hasn’t it happened before,” said Abel Izaguirre, an artist who appeared on “Pimpeando” to talk about his murals and automotive airbrush work.

At 35 Mr. Izaguirre is on the fringes of the MTV Tr3s target audience, but he said that his 16-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son will likely be viewers because they already watch MTV, Mun2 and LATV, a hybrid local channel here.

Even with MTV Tr3s this population is still underserved, Mr. Kravetz said.

“What happens to the children who are now watching ‘Dora the Explorer?’” he asked, referring to the Nickelodeon cartoon. “What happens when they become tweens and teenagers? There’s still not a lot for them to turn to where they find themselves represented.”

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Essay 1124

The character depicted here claims he’s not a starving artist. The art director responsible for this ad should be.

Essay 1123

The article below appeared on A MultiCultClassics commentary immediately follows…


Just Make It Stop: 4A’s Hires PR Help

Fed Up With Bad Press for Advertising Industry, O. Burtch Drake (pictured above) Taps GolinHarris

By Matthew Creamer

NEW YORK ( -- Advertising Week, the industry’s annual pat on the back that kicks off this week, won’t be the end of Madison Avenue’s collective publicity efforts. Despite the fact it got badly burned last time it tried the tactic, the industry’s largest trade group has hired one of the country’s largest PR firms to conduct a public-image campaign on behalf of the business.

‘Negative headlines’
The American Association of Advertising Agencies has tapped GolinHarris, a global firm that represents corporate heavyweights such as McDonald’s and SC Johnson, to stave off “negative headlines” and burnish the industry’s reputation with reporters and other influencers.

It’s unclear exactly what tactics will be employed, but executives familiar with the situation said part of the outreach could target reporters who don’t cover the ad business on a regular basis with the hope of scoring positive stories in mainstream business magazines and in the consumer press.

‘Reputation problem’
“Our industry has had a reputation problem the past few years, though that’s been turning a bit with the excitement around new media,” said Julie Thompson, co-chair of 4A’s PR committee and communications chief at Leo Burnett. “I was surprised and pleased that an industry association many would call old school would take this step. It’s a refusal to keep taking lumps.”

The program, one executive said, is a reaction to “negative headlines about the business.” And, to be sure, the industry has picked up its share in recent years as consumer behavior and technological change call into question the relevance of ad agencies, especially the largest ones, and their best-known commodity, the 30-second TV spot. More recently, the agency world is getting bad press for its lack of success hiring minority staff.

‘Journalists aren’t idiots’
But even some agency PR people familiar with 4A’s programs aren’t confident Golin can pull off glowing headlines in any credible media outlet, given the issues facing the business. “Journalists aren’t idiots,” one PR executive said. “Why would any journalist, let alone one at a mainstream business publication, want to paint a Pollyannaish picture of the ad industry?”

At a hush-hush meeting Sept. 6, Golin pitched its plans to the 4A’s PR committee, composed of top communicators from some of the biggest agencies. A team from GolinHarris, brought in by 4A’s President-CEO O. Burtch Drake, laid out a few tactics, including one where agencies would feed news to the Golin team, which would aggregate the information and pitch it as trend stories to reporters.

Those present said it sparked more than a little grousing from agency PR folks, confused about why they’d want to cooperate with their competitors in achieving their communication goals. “The majority of the room was skeptical,” said an executive who was there.

Big stakes
Such a program may seem like inside baseball, but it does lay bare the insecurity that plagues the ad-agency industry in a time of immense flux. Just how the industry is perceived in corporate boardrooms, on Wall Street and in major business media has consequences for both how marketing budgets are spent and for the financial fortunes of the publicly traded companies that own most of the major shops.

This isn’t the first time the 4A’s has tried to counter skeptical reporting on the ad business. In 2004, it hired Dan Klores Communications to publicize the first Advertising Week.

It ended up landing a Fortune story titled “Nightmare on Madison Avenue.” Oh, it mentioned Advertising Week, but not before it spent a few thousand words trashing BBDO and giving Shelly Lazarus and Donny Deutsch room to criticize the industry’s shortcomings. It also quoted executives whining about procurement and, of course, the passing of the easy-like-Sunday-morning business culture that dominated for so long.

“Any time you pitch a story, you run the risk of being glorified or crucified,” Ms. Thompson said. “No risk, no reward.”


Damn. Have things ever been worse for the 4A’s and the advertising industry?

Even Advertising Age appears incapable of recording the events without injecting a critical and sarcastic tone.

One must wonder if the 4A’s leaders are actually working advertising professionals. What would compel them to believe hiring a PR firm is the solution? As most adfolks realize, it’s tough to generate positive hype when you’ve got a fucked-up product.

4A’s PR committee co-chair Julie Thompson admitted, “I was surprised and pleased that an industry association many would call old school would take this step. It’s a refusal to keep taking lumps.” First of all, the 4A’s does not deserve to be called old school. The 4A’s is old. Period. The step being taken here is completely typical of a decrepit and desperate dinosaur. Plus, AdAge’s story clearly demonstrates that the 4A’s and the industry can expect to continue taking lumps until they get their shit together.

The 4A’s inability to agree on a course of action — or to simply come to a consensus on GolinHarris’ bad ideas — does not bode well for the industry’s chances of making progress on any initiative, especially the diversity efforts. In standard old style, the bigwigs of our business don’t trust each other, despite being trapped on the same sinking ship.

If the 4A’s and the industry honestly hope to stop the negative press, they need to stop the negative stupidity. Then start doing something positive. Accomplish anything. It’s just that easy.

Or at least stop talking to AdAge reporters.

Essay 1122

The latest American Girl catalog features 35 photographs of Caucasian girls and 3 photos of Black girls — and one Black girl is depicted twice with the same product, while the other is out of focus in the background. Guess the doll company isn’t interested in accurately reflecting American girls. Plus, the girl shown below is kinda creepy — she looks less life-like than the doll.

Essay 1121

Meet Justin Merrick. The next great symphony conductor. Um, somebody forgot to tell Justin it was a black-tie affair.

Essay 1120

Affirmative action ban provokes uncivil response


DETROIT -- A feisty 29-year-old white woman and a pugnacious 67-year-old black man are performing two services this autumn for Michigan and the nation. Their Michigan Civil Rights Initiative is promoting color-blind government. And they are provoking remnants of the civil rights movement, which now is just a defender of a racial spoils system, to demonstrate its decadence, even thuggishness.

In November, Michiganders will vote on this ballot initiative: “A proposal to amend the state constitution to ban affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on their race, gender, color, ethnicity or national origin for public employment, education or contracting purposes.”

At age 19, Jennifer Gratz, denied admission to the University of Michigan, fought the university all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. It endorsed her argument that it was an unconstitutional denial of equal protection of the law for the university to add 20 points to the scores of black, Hispanic and Native American applicants. (The maximum score was 150; a perfect 1,600 SAT earned 12 points.)

Ward Connerly is a California businessman and former member of the University of California Board of Regents. He propelled to victory the measures mandating colorblind government in California and Washington.

With Gratz as its executive director, and Connerly lending hard-earned expertise, the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative collected 508,000 signatures. In response, some opponents have adopted four tactics, none of which involve arguing the merits of racial preferences, and all of which attempt to prevent Michiganders from being allowed to vote on the initiative. The tactics have included:

•Pressuring signers of petitions to say they did not understand what they were signing. Some talk radio stations have broadcast the names of signers, and opponents of the initiative have gone to signers saying, “Did you know you signed a petition against equal opportunity?” Two who recanted their signatures, saying they had signed without reading the measure, are federal judges.

•Violently intimidating the state Board of Canvassers, which certifies that initiatives have qualified for the ballot. The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action By Any Means Necessary disrupted the board’s deliberations, shouting and overturning a table. Video of this can been seen at

•Asking a court to rule that the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative committed fraud because many who signed the petition supposedly were confused. A federal judge -- Arthur Tarnow, a Clinton appointee -- sadly said he could not rule that way because, although he thinks the initiative is a fraud, whites as well as blacks were confused about it, and even if all signatures gathered in majority black cities were invalidated, there still were enough signatures to qualify it for the ballot. So Tarnow contented himself with an extrajudicial smear of Gratz, charging that her “deception” had confused all Michigan voters, regardless of race.

•Michigan ballots are printed by counties, so the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action says it is asking local officials to assert an extralegal “moral authority” to leave the initiative off the ballot. Because the plain language of initiative is appealing, some opponents argue that it would have terrible “unintended consequences.” It might, they say, eliminate single-sex public schools (Michigan has none; eight schools have a few voluntary single-sex classes) and breast-cancer screening, or might stop a Department of Natural Resources program aimed at helping Michigan women become hunters.

Given the caliber of opposition arguments, it is no wonder a Detroit News poll published Sept. 15 shows the initiative with an 11-point lead.

Anti-initiative demonstrators chant, “They say Jim Crow, we say hell no.” So, the rancid residue of what once was the civil rights movement equates Jim Crow -- the system of enforced legal inferiority for blacks -- with opposition to treating blacks as wards of government, in need of infantilizing preferences, forever. To such Orwellian thinking, Gratz and Connerly -- and soon, perhaps, Michigan say: Hell no.