Sunday, September 30, 2007

Essay 4529



Advertising Week Has No Excuse For Being Boring
An Ad Age Editorial

Advertising Week has hit a wall.

Each installment of Advertising Week has been a little better than the one before. In its second year, the organizers reduced the number of venues in order to contain the conference sprawl; in its third, they diminished the amount of attention given the icons. These moves haven’t done much to solve the event’s deep-seated identity crisis and excitement deficit, but, to the organizers’ credit, they’ve made one or two incremental improvements to an all-and-all messy affair each and every year.

Every year, that is, until this one.

The fourth time around for the ad business’ annual moment of celebration was a major disappointment, thanks to a completely uninspired agenda. It’s that simple. The series of panels were made up of the same topics and participants that make up the agenda of just about every other industry conference. Sure, the icons were properly reduced to a sideshow, but they were still somehow distractions. More important, there were no surprises and no must-sees among the rest of the program, just the nonstop babble of intelligence-insulting, soul-dampening, pulse-deadening conference speak that, in apparently unintentional ways, did more to throw a light on the industry’s problems than its opportunities. With the exception of a Brooklyn-based high school for advertising, the program yielded very little buzz. That’s curious for what’s essentially an industry PR event.

One panel, titled “The Grandmasters,” wherein “leading luminaries opine on the current and future state of the industry,” is a case in point. It featured a quintet of ad veterans who, doubtless, know a thing or two about a thing or two. Problem was, all these men were a) men, b) white, c) members of the ad establishment.

Now, this is a business that suffers from both a well-known lack of diversity and well-founded sense of anxiety about its relevance in the digital age. Is this the message the Advertising Week organizers really want to send about the future of the business?

The advertising industry can only benefit from an image that’s a lot less country club and little more Facebook. And that will help to change Advertising Week, simply by making it a demonstration of what advertising is when it’s at its best -- something a little bit exciting.

Essay 4528

Passing judgments in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas rips sexual-harassment accuser Anita Hill in his new autobiography, labeling her a mediocre employee and political pawn. Thomas goes on to call the infamous nationally televised hearings a “high-tech lynching” orchestrated “not by bigots in white robes but by left-wing zealots draped in flowing sanctimony.” According to Thomas, his adversaries employed “the age-old blunt instrument of accusing a black man of sexual misconduct.” Glad to see he’s been able to move on from the incidents of the past. Yo, Clarence, chill out with a pubic-hair-covered can of Coke.

• Prosecutors and lawyers for O.J. Simpson are scheduled to meet with a judge on Monday to arrange a preliminary hearing for the accused men. However, a preliminary hearing may not be held, as prosecutors are weighing the possibility of conducting a secret grand jury hearing to decide if there’s enough evidence to send things to District Court. Everyone is also probably trying to determine the best course of action to maximize CourtTV appearances.

• Jackie Chan proclaimed that he’s not a big fan of his Rush Hour movies. “When we finished filming [Rush Hour 1], I felt very disappointed because it was a movie I didn’t appreciate and I did not like the action scenes involved. I felt the style of action was too Americanized and I didn’t understand the American humor,” wrote Chan in a blog. “Nothing particularly exciting stood out that made [Rush Hour 3] special for me … I spent four months making this film and I still don’t fully understand the humor.” Chan admitted that he agreed to make the sequels after being offered an “irresistible” amount of loot. Guess he understands that American tradition just fine.

Essay 4527

From The New York Times…


Disney Tolerates a Rap Parody of Its Critters. But Why?


The Walt Disney Company has prospered by keeping an extra-tight leash on its animated critters. Publish a comic book depicting Mickey Mouse as a sadomasochistic smoker, as a group of underground cartoonists did in the 1970s, and prepare for a not-so-magical encounter with copyright lawyers.

So why is Disney tolerating YouTube videos that turn Bambi, Simba and Winnie the Pooh into rap stars? YouTube users started posting the videos, set to “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” by the rapper Soulja Boy, about five months ago.

The postings (called mash-ups) are made by editing together snippets of animated movies and TV shows. The finished products look like music videos in which the cartoon characters do the singing. As “Crank That” climbed the music charts over the summer — the song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 this month — the videos started gaining in popularity and users edited together versions using characters owned by other big media companies. A version using clips taken from Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob SquarePants” has been viewed more than seven million times.

Nickelodeon, part of Viacom, sees the humorous videos as fair use of its copyrighted content. “Our audiences can creatively mash video from our content as much and as often as they like,” said Dan Martinsen, a Nickelodeon spokesman. “By the way,” he added, “that was a very nice edit job by whoever did the SpongeBob mash.” (That laissez-faire reaction, it should be noted, comes from a company whose corporate parent has a $1 billion piracy lawsuit pending against Google, the owner of YouTube.)

Disney’s view is starkly different: any unauthorized use of Disney property is stealing. Still, the company picks its battles carefully. While it closely monitors the Web for infractions, Disney will not discuss how it evaluates potential cases of copyright infringement and declined to comment on the “Crank That” videos.

The fact that the postings have not been removed — YouTube regularly yanks videos that media companies identify as pirated material — highlights the situation mash-ups pose for media companies: are these videos parodies of cultural icons and thus protected under copyright law, or do they trample on intellectual property?

Anthony Falzone, a copyright expert at Stanford, said, “media companies have been fairly tolerant of Internet mash-ups and parodies so far. Wholesale piracy is a much bigger issue, so that is where they are focusing most of their efforts.”

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Essay 4526



Making Strides in Diversifying the Workplace

Talk at AAF’s Mosaic Awards Shows a Cautious Optimism for Change in Ad Industry

By Megan Mcilroy

NEW YORK ( -- Workplace diversity is a journey, not a destination, said the panelists at this year’s American Advertising Federation’s Diversity Achievement and Mosaic Awards.

“One of the key things about diversity is that it’s a progression,” said Constance Cannon Frazier, exec VP of the AAF’s Mosaic Center and Education Service. The AAF celebrated this year’s winners yesterday with two forums on diversity in the workplace and a luncheon in their honor, part of Advertising Week 2007.

In the morning panel, Rochelle Larkin Ford, associate professor of advertising and public relations at Howard University, presented preliminary findings on a diversity study underwritten by the Mosaic Center. The results, based on surveys and interviews with the AAF's most promising minority student honorees of 2007, advertising recruiters, human resources departments and C-suite executives from media and advertising companies and marketers, showed cautious optimism about diversity in the advertising industry.

While perceptions about inclusiveness and acceptance are changing, Ms. Ford found that a more holistic approach to is needed. She noted that while 87% of companies interviewed had diversity programs, only 12% were fully developed. The full results of the study will be released in February.

“We’re on the road, but we need to pay more attention,” Ms. Ford said.

This year’s winners, listed below, were honored at a luncheon later Wednesday afternoon.

Industry Career Achiever: Beatriz R. Perez, senior VP-integrated marketing Coca-Cola Co. North America
Industry Influential: Diego Scotti, VP-global advertising, American Express
Role Model: Madhu Malhan, minister of culture, Ogilvy
Trendsetter: Julius Pryor III, VP-global diversity, consumer and personal care group, Johnson & Johnson
Educator: Baruch College
Corporate Leader Agency: DDB Worldwide
Pioneers of Diversity: Tom Burrell, Founder, Burrell Communications Group, Earl Graves Sr., founder, chairman-CEO of Black Enterprise Magazine, John H. Johnson, founder Johnson Publishing Co.

Essay 4525

Legal briefs and other dirty laundry in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• The New York Post reported the jury in the sexual harassment case involving New York Knicks president and coach Isiah Thomas may be leaning in favor of the plaintiff. The jury apparently sent a note to the judge asking for instructions “if the elements of the claim have been met.” Thomas is probably muttering, “Son of a bitch!”

• R. Kelly’s lawyers are attempting to keep an expert witness from testifying at the someday-to-be-held child pornography case. The witness, a developmental and forensic pediatrician, is slated to give expert opinion on the age of the girl in the infamous video based on behavioral cues. Additionally, the witness will note similarities between the vein patterns in the hands of the man in the video and those of R. Kelly. If the veins don’t fit, you must acquit.

• A jailed inmate who accused a former Los Angeles cop of being involved in the murder of rapper Notorious B.I.G. now says he lied about it, claiming his statements were part of a deal to receive a portion of any settlement from the city. In reference to his accusations, the inmate said, “It was a lie, and I’m ashamed of it.” Plus, he’ll probably receive more money by appearing on CourtTV to comment on his lies.

• Senator Larry Craig wound up being indirectly responsible for redesigning the toilet stalls at the Minneapolis Airport. Airport officials announced the walls between stalls will be lowered to prevent future incidents like the one Craig initiated… um, experienced. Guess we can add it to the senator’s political legacy.

Essay 4524

Someday your baby girl will grow up to be Chef Boyardee.

Essay 4523

From The Chicago Tribune…


Giving soft bigotry a break

By Clarence Page

Does ignorance about race make you a racist? That boiling question bubbles at the heart of the controversy that Fox News star Bill O’Reilly’s kicked up with his poorly received compliments of black diners in a New York restaurant. My answer is, no, ignorance about race does not always make you a racist, but it can make you sound like one.

That’s O’Reilly’s problem. O’Reilly has been vilified recently by the liberal-leaning Web site Media Matters for America for insinuating how surprised he was to discover how (Gasp!) civilized black folks behaved while dining in Sylvia’s, one of (Double gasp!) Harlem’s best-known restaurants.

“I couldn’t get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia’s restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City,” he marveled. “I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it’s run by blacks, primarily black patronship.”

Yup, they had knives, forks and everything! Just like white folks!

“It was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people [who] were sitting there,” he said, “and they were ordering and having fun. And there wasn’t any kind of craziness at all.”

Nope, no lap dancing, either.

“There wasn’t one person in Sylvia’s who was screaming, ‘M-F-er, I want more iced tea!’” O’Reilly said, sounding almost disappointed.

No, ignorance about race might not make you a racist. It only makes you ignorant. That’s why I think O’Reilly deserves a break. When someone is ignorant you should try to teach them. Instead, a lot of otherwise good-hearted, fair-minded and charitable people want to tar and feather O’Reilly.

Peace, people. I know O’Reilly. I’ve argued with him about various topics on his radio and TV shows. I relish a good “gotcha” moment against inflated egos as much as anyone does. But I also believe that this Sylvia’s kerfuffle is a bum rap.

You see, in the context of a later lengthy chat with author Juan Williams, a black National Public Radio reporter and Fox News commentator, O’Reilly wasn’t trying to sound racist. Quite the opposite, he actually was criticizing all of those white people who don’t personally know many black folks.

What O’Reilly doesn’t seem to understand is the weariness black Americans feel over constantly being compared to our community’s worst role models.

That’s a big reason why it seems curious that O’Reilly, after years of roiling up public outrage against raunchy gangsta rappers and other frightening figures, suddenly expresses what sounds like genuine surprise that some black people are not scary at all. At worst, O’Reilly appears to be afflicted with what President Bush calls “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

But that’s OK. How else will O’Reilly, I or anybody else learn anything if we don’t make a few boneheaded mistakes once in a while? My greater fear than hearing O’Reilly talk himself into a politically incorrect hole is the silence of those afraid to say anything about race for fear of offending someone. We need more candid talk about race and class, not less.

Besides, look at his upbringing. Through no fault of his own, O’Reilly came from a socially and economically isolated background. He calls himself “working class” in his first book, “The O’Reilly Factor,” although compared with my factory laborer dad in Ohio, O’Reilly’s family was well-to-do. He grew up in white middle-class Levittown, on New York’s Long Island. Like other socially handicapped folks, O’Reilly is a product of his environment. To borrow a line from “West Side Story,” “He’s depraved on account of he’s deprived!” Liberals, of all people, should avoid blaming the victim.

Nevertheless, let’s give O’Reilly credit for trying to widen his horizons. It turns out, he was dining that night at Sylvia’s with Rev. Al Sharpton, who has made re-educating white folks his life’s work.

Does that dinner date surprise you? Who would guess that, after railing against Revs. Sharpton and Jesse Jackson as some sort of race hustlers and poverty pimps, O’Reilly would take the “A Train” up to Harlem to go cattin’ around with Rev. Al? Hey, that’s show biz. Don’t take it personally. Or seriously.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Essay 4522

Morning O.J. in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• Polls show Blacks and Whites have different opinions about O.J. Simpson again. 70 percent of Whites think Simpson is guilty of the current charges against him, versus only 41 percent of Blacks feeling that way; plus, 73 percent of Whites think he’ll get a fair trial, versus only 36 percent of Blacks agreeing on the point. The percentages indicate that CourtTV will have one of its best seasons ever.

• O.J. Simpson’s girlfriend, Christie Prody, is clearly in the minority regarding her positions on Simpson’s innocence. “People need to know he hasn’t done anything wrong,” declared Prody. Hey, give him time, give him time.

• The Navy is reworking a 40-year-old barracks facility that currently looks like a swastika from high above. “We don’t want to be associated with something as symbolic and hateful as a swastika,” said a Navy spokesperson. Of course, they have no problem being heavily associated with hateful wars.

Essay 4521

Essay 4520

Handing out glass bottles of chocolate milk for Halloween is kinda scary.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Essay 4519

Episode 10 of AMC series Mad Men was devoid of any minority depictions—but there were a few semi-racist statements.

When discussing Oscar-winning movie The Apartment, Roger Sterling remarked about Shirley MacLaine’s character, “A White elevator operator?”

Later, Joan Holloway’s date made condescending comments about a Polish janitor.

Holloway also had to rebuff lesbian overtures from a girlfriend.

In a classic case of bad media planning, a commercial for quitting smoking with prescription medicine Chantix appeared during the show. Everyone who has suffered through even a single episode knows Mad Men is a weekly glorification of cigarette puffing. What dumb, White Pole was responsible for that media buy?

Essay 4518

Men behaving badly in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• Isiah Thomas, testifying at the sexual harassment trial, sought to undo the PR damage sparked by his earlier commentary on calling women bitches (see Essay 4479). “It’s very offensive for any man, Black, White, green or purple, to call a woman a bitch,” declared Thomas, but claimed that if the man is White it “compounds the issue because now you have perceived racial undertones added to it.” Guess there would be extraterrestrial undertones for green or purple men.

• Bill O’Reilly fired back at the group that initially criticized him over remarks about a Black restaurant in New York (see Essay 4513). O’Reilly declared they “fabricated a racial controversy where none exists,” and he labeled the critics as “smear merchants.” Isn’t that pretty much O’Reilly’s job title?

• Sen. Larry Craig announced he will remain in office until a judge rules on his attempt to withdraw the infamous toilet-stall guilty plea (see Essay 4513). The senator originally said he would step down on September 30. Yo, Larry, it’s time to turn in your Senate bathroom key.

Essay 4517

The brief must have read: Depict every aspirational Latino male character imaginable.

Essay 4516

Essay 4515

Latinos will sell all of their worldly possessions for an Extra Value Meal.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Essay 4514

From The New York Times…


Towns Rethink Laws Against Illegal Immigrants


RIVERSIDE, N.J. — A little more than a year ago, the Township Committee in this faded factory town became the first municipality in New Jersey to enact legislation penalizing anyone who employed or rented to an illegal immigrant.

Within months, hundreds, if not thousands, of recent immigrants from Brazil and other Latin American countries had fled. The noise, crowding and traffic that had accompanied their arrival over the past decade abated.

The law had worked. Perhaps, some said, too well.

With the departure of so many people, the local economy suffered. Hair salons, restaurants and corner shops that catered to the immigrants saw business plummet; several closed. Once-boarded-up storefronts downtown were boarded up again.

Meanwhile, the town was hit with two lawsuits challenging the law. Legal bills began to pile up, straining the town’s already tight budget. Suddenly, many people — including some who originally favored the law — started having second thoughts.

So last week, the town rescinded the ordinance, joining a small but growing list of municipalities nationwide that have begun rethinking such laws as their legal and economic consequences have become clearer.

“I don’t think people knew there would be such an economic burden,” said Mayor George Conard, who voted for the original ordinance. “A lot of people did not look three years out.”

[Click on the essay title above to read the full story.]

Essay 4513

Pleading innocent in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• Sen. Larry Craig hopes to flush away his infamous toilet-stall guilty plea, as his lawyers will meet with a judge today. Perhaps he can have the plea revised to “guilty pleasure.” No word on whether the senator will seek to revise his contention that he’s not gay.

• Bill O’Reilly is catching heat for remarks he made about Sylvia’s, a Black restaurant in Harlem he recently visited. O’Reilly said, “I couldn’t get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia’s restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it’s run by Blacks, primarily Black patronship.” Sylvia’s staff probably thinks there was no difference between serving O’Reilly versus any other ignorant bigot in New York City.

• Nike is creating a shoe designed specifically for Native Americans. The Air Native N7 has a larger fit for Native Americans’ unique foot shape, plus a “culturally specific” look. The shoe will be available at assorted casinos nationwide. Just kidding.

Essay 4512

Allstate presents the stereotypical milestones in stereotypical fashion.

Essay 4511

From The New York Times…


Hearing Focuses on Language and Violence in Rap Music


What a difference a week makes.

Last week, the purveyors of rap music cheered as new CDs from Kanye West and 50 Cent burst onto the top of the Billboard chart. But on Tuesday, rap artists and entertainment executives found themselves fending off Congressional criticism that they exploit violence and sexism for profit.

In a hearing convened by Representative Bobby L. Rush, Democrat of Illinois, lawmakers asked music industry executives about their companies’ role in the production of explicit rap, at one point inviting them to read aloud from 50 Cent’s lyrics. The lawmakers also asked whether marketers were doing enough to shield young listeners from graphic content.

“This hearing is not anti-hip-hop,” said Mr. Rush, a former Black Panther who several years ago fought a challenge from a then little-known Barack Obama to hold on to his House seat. Still, he said, violence and degradation have “reduced too many of our youngsters to automatons, those who don’t recognize life, those who don’t value life.”

Mr. Rush, echoing comments of others on the panel, praised freedom of expression but asked the chief executives of two music companies whether they would consider a ban on certain words considered derogatory.

“We don’t think that banning expression is an appropriate approach,” said Edgar Bronfman Jr., chairman of the Warner Music Group. Tasteless language, he added, “is in the eye of the beholder.”

Under questioning, Mr. Bronfman and Doug Morris, chairman of the Universal Music Group, stood by the industry’s existing method of handling explicit content, including the voluntary labeling of graphic CDs with parental-advisory stickers. Though they defended the industry’s practices, Mr. Bronfman and Mr. Morris lamented that efforts to restrict young listeners’ access to explicit music had become futile amid the proliferation of copyrighted songs and videos online.

The hearing, before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, reflected the continuing debate that has swept the rap world since CBS fired Don Imus, the radio host, for making derogatory comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team. Mr. Imus’s ouster prompted discussions about performers’ use of misogynous or violent language in songs and music videos.

All of that culminated in the hearing on Tuesday. It touched just lightly on the Imus case, in which a white radio host insulted black women. Instead, the spotlight fell on a panel of white executives defending music principally recorded by black men, and in some instances considered offensive to women. The focus was not only on record labels. Also questioned were executives from Viacom, the parent of MTV and BET; Radio One; and the video-game maker Take-Two Interactive Software.

At least one performer at the hearing told lawmakers that rap music had been unfairly singled out as a scapegoat for deeper social problems. “Gang violence was here before rap music,” said David Banner, a rapper who records for Universal Music and whose real name is Levell Crump. “I can admit that there are some problems in hip-hop, but it is only a reflection of what is taking place in our society. Hip-hop is sick because America is sick.”

A different note was sounded by Master P, previously a dominant force in rap, who has recently struggled to find a hit. Master P, whose real name is Percy Miller, said rap artists needed to consider how fans might be affected by their music. While societal woes contribute to violence and other problems, he said, “we are inflaming this problem by not being responsible.” He said he had devoted himself to producing cleaner music with positive messages.

Mr. Miller also apologized to “all the women out there,” and added, “I was honestly wrong.”

Essay 4510

Essay 4509

This drunk driving ad appeared in Latino publications. Wonder if there are Asian saki and Black malt liquor versions.

Essay 4508

Re: The commentary inspired by Alberto J. Ferrer’s latest perspective on forced stereotypes in minority advertising, which appeared under The Big Tent at (see Essay 4501).

Forgot to mention one additional culprit behind the rampant stereotyping in minority advertising: White adpeople—specifically, the folks running the White advertising agencies.

Sure, the preference is to label the White agencies as producers of “General Market” or “Mass Market” communications. But the overwhelming majority of the work ignores the complete and true audience, opting to predominately target Caucasian consumers instead.

If the self-proclaimed General Market/Mass Market agencies acknowledged the diverse cultures that make up the General Market/Mass Market, there might not be a need for segregated minority advertising. Of course, acknowledgement might be easier gained if there were employee diversity within the White agencies. Unfortunately, Madison Avenue has failed to make that happen for over 40 years. No reason to think change is coming soon.

The exclusive White agencies continue to churn out exclusively White messages. As a result, the minority shops must fill the voids, which often prompts all the players to overcompensate with overtly cultural—or stereotypical—imagery. (Plus, it doesn’t help when the minority shops are under-compensated in terms of budgets.)

Perhaps it’s time for clients to ask, “What’s Mass Market about it?” when presented with concepts from White agencies. Or better yet, the clients ought to be wondering why their White agencies are so White.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Essay 4507

The brief probably read: Latinos LOVE telenovelas.

Essay 4506

As if we needed more reasons to hate focus groups, check out the ads designed to sell them.

Touting the facilities like hotel accommodations is common.

Why, you can even enjoy a spa-like experience.

Forget roundtables and M&Ms—now conduct groups from 50,000 feet.

Looking for breakthrough advertising insights? Partner with research companies exhibiting clichéd advertising concepts.

Dealing with these guys is like trying to master a Rubik’s Cube.

The deeper insight here? Sex sells focus groups.

Deep thinking on the obvious is plentiful too.

Finally, you have to wonder how this ad would have fared in copy testing.

Essay 4505

Former heavyweight and heavy-breather in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• Former New York Knicks intern Kathleen Decker (pictured above) testified that she had sex with Stephon Marbury, but it was consensual. “I was in control,” said Decker. Plaintiff Anucha Brown Sanders, who is suing the team and Isiah Thomas for sexual harassment, sought to show Decker had been pressured to romp with the baller, but Decker’s testimony contradicted any such claims. It did, however, indicate that Thomas should have spent less time pursuing Brown Sanders and more time with the team interns.

• Former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson pleaded guilty to drug possession and DUI charges from a traffic stop last year. Tyson faces up to four years in prison when he’s sentenced in November. Um, did anyone else think Tyson was already behind bars for some other offense?

Essay 4504

Essay 4503

This ad is over 50% bullshit.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Essay 4502

Fucking News and Jews in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• An intern (pictured above) who had sex with New York Knicks star Stephon Marbury is slated to testify in the sexual harassment suit aimed at the team and Isiah Thomas (see Essay 4484). The intern will probably admit the sex was consensual. Meanwhile, a Madison Square Garden executive testified that accuser Anucha Browne Sanders routinely used a lot of the same language she blasted Thomas for spewing. She allegedly referred to various team executives as “fucking bitch,” “fucking pussy” and “fucking buffoon.” Which are the nicknames fans designate for various Knicks starters.

• Google blocked an attempt to trademark “JewTube,” arguing the name is too close to their video site YouTube. A group that organizes events for Jewish singles sought to secure the name. Their back-up options probably include “Jewgle.”

Essay 4501

The Big Tent at presented another perspective from Alberto J. Ferrer, this time covering forced stereotypes in Latino marketing. MultiCultClassics chips in a few thoughts below too…


Please Hold the Sombreros

Making Your Creative ‘More Hispanic,’ One Stereotype at a Time

By Alberto J. Ferrer

There has been a lot of debate on this blog (at least in my posts) about the issue of language. My point was that people should be able to communicate in the language of their choice -- and marketers should be able to communicate with them in that language -- without fear of reprisal. I’m grateful to all who weighed in with their opinions (on both sides of the issue).

Today I’d like to steer the discussion in a different direction. Let’s take the issue of culture versus language up a notch and explore “Hispanic-ness” as it relates to marketing.

Not too long ago, we presented some creative concepts to a client. The work was well-received and complimented, and we felt good about a job well done. That feeling soon changed.

A couple of days later, our client called to say that other colleagues, who were not present at the original meeting, had seen the creative. These clients felt that the work as “not Hispanic enough.” We were floored.

Mind you, the team working on this was 100% Hispanic (an issue for a later post), working from a Hispanic market-specific creative brief which was rooted in a Hispanic insight that resonated with the target. We felt the concepts were relevant, engaging, and on strategy.

Still, these other clients felt there was a sort of “Hispanic-ness” missing from the work. Our main clients were asking us, in essence, “What’s Hispanic about this?”

I’m sorry to say that this is actually not that uncommon in our industry. Clients, after all, have a general market agency that creates work for the mainstream market, and a Hispanic agency that does the work targeting Hispanics. They want the work to be the same, but different. While I touched on the strategic side of the matter in an earlier post, here I’ll address the nuances of execution.

When a client (usually non-Hispanic) makes a comment about lack of “Hispanic-ness,” generally he or she is referring to things like darker-skinned talent, louder and livelier music, environments that are less “high-end,” stereotypical cues like family, food, clothing, etc.

There’s a fine line here. It’s perfectly reasonable to expect that the music used in a commercial targeting Hispanics be one that deeply resonates with the target. It’s not reasonable, however, to expect that it will be lively and loud because Hispanics like Salsa music. Targeting what we show in a commercial or how we portray our talent is just smart marketing. Putting abuelita (grandma) in the creative just because Hispanics care deeply about family is just silly.

Hispanics run the gamut on many scales of identification or definition (for example: all types of skin color; different tastes in food, clothing, and music; all levels of income). Be careful not to take the easy (and wrong) way out that is “add a few stereotypes to make it Hispanic.” We’re not talking about instant pancake mix (just add water) here.

It goes back to basic marketing and targeting. Putting darker-skinned folks wearing Mexican sombreros dancing to loud music with a large group of family members in a modest home may fit the bill for a specific situation. It will not fit every situation.

Challenge yourselves and your agencies to deliver communications that effectively engage the Hispanic target consumer without resorting to the cheap, stereotypical, and often insulting cues that an uninformed marketer might conclude makes something “more Hispanic” while the consumer finds it irrelevant or even insulting.


Ferrer’s perspective, while thoughtful and provocative, is hardly a new gripe in the world of minority advertising. In fact, the arguments are almost stereotypical at this point. TBT (The Big Tent) contributor Pepper Miller literally wrote a book titled, “What’s Black About It?” Frequent TBT comment poster Hadji Williams has covered the subject repeatedly. Of course, MultiCultClassics has spotlighted it too, beginning way back in Essay Eight. If there were more creative department representatives at TBT, the topic would have surfaced countless times already.

Ferrer claimed that when the client said the agency’s work “was not Hispanic enough,” he and his associates “were floored.” That’s probably an exaggeration. As Ferrer admits, this is not an uncommon phenomenon in the business. Ferrer was likely “floored” because the criticism hadn’t come up sooner. Sombreros may be standard in every production notes’ wardrobe section. Additionally, Ferrer’s agency reel possibly contains commercials with stereotypes—whether client-imposed or not.

But who’s really at fault for the global dilemma? Anyone familiar with minority advertising must grudgingly admit there’s no single source responsible for the cultural clichés so prevalent in the work. And there are more Catch-22’s than a Joseph Heller convention.

The stereotypical images were not always stereotypical. In fact, the multicultural agencies invented most of them. It may have started innocently enough. When minority representation in media was virtually non-existent, the multicultural shops unleashed relevant and authentic depictions of fill-in-the-minority life. Before you knew it, every advertiser wooing such audiences was requesting a family reunion/fiesta, basketball/soccer players, soul/salsa music, etc. The multicultural shops became victims of their own initial successes. (To be clear, while the above examples are Black- and Latino-focused, similar clichés could be identified for any minority segment imaginable.)

Today’s multicultural agency employees are not completely guiltless of continued wrongdoing. Plenty of them are totally willing to sell clichéd and contrived crap. But hey, the same bullshit occurs at White agencies too. One need only flip through popular magazines or watch prime-time television to witness stale, repetitive and insulting ideas. Our competitive industry, forever desperate to generate billable hours and retain accounts, has never been shy about appeasing clients—and to hell with integrity. To ultimately view multicultural agencies as equal to their White counterparts, we must be open to the reality that hacks lurk everywhere, not exclusively in the White agencies (however, White hacks far outnumber minority hacks).

Here’s another big problem: folks have difficulty separating cultural cues from racial and social issues. That is, the people behind minority advertising are extraordinarily paranoid about doing anything that could potentially lead to offended consumers staging public protests. As a result, the decision makers—on agency and client sides—will choose “safe” ideas that are tried and true. Plus, they’ll prefer to “honor” minorities by showing them as aspirational figures (e.g., hard-working, family-oriented, education-embracing, business-successful, tech-savvy, walking-on-water demigods). This inevitably births more clichés of ideal, iconic minorities.

Yes, clients are indisputably the top influencers of stereotypical advertising. They tend to fall into two camps: producing minority advertising for professional motives (i.e., it’s a business endeavor, the audience has proven to be profitable, etc.) or for political motives (i.e., it’s about satisfying minority-vendor quotas, fulfilling diversity goals, avoiding Jesse Jackson, etc.). The political clients are not inclined to rock the boat, and they usually display low interest in the creative concepts—and no interest in breakthrough thinking. They’re quick to suggest gospel choir events and telenovela promotions. Sadly, while the professional clients may proclaim their objectives are pure, they’ll also jump for gospel choirs and telenovelas.

It’s always peculiar to see clients hire agencies for their expertise, then dictate the content of the messages. While Ferrer blames “usually non-Hispanic” clients for the multicultural meddling, rest assured that minority clients are messed up too. In fact, minority clients running minority advertising may be the most blatant violators when it comes to pushing stereotypes, as many feel a heightened obligation to validate the efforts—and justify their jobs to their White peers.

There are infinite other factors igniting stereotypes in minority advertising. But as the opening remarks indicated, the arguments are becoming stereotypical. And we’re growing tired of perpetuating the problems.

Despite all the challenges, there are simple tactics for multicultural agencies to consider. First, don’t deliver stereotypical garbage. Strive to uncover fresh insights and dramatize the targeted benefits in outstanding ways. Granted, this requires that clients adequately fund research. Second, don’t hide from the “What’s fill-in-the-minority about it?” question. While it implies a concept must showcase overt cultural cues to gain approval, it can be repositioned. The inquiry should be, “Why will this concept strongly appeal to the fill-in-the-minority audience?” If the presentation answers that, you’ll be on the path to better solutions. Unless you honestly have a shitty client—or a caca client, for the Latino agencies.

Essay 4500

Essay 4499

Did the brief include an insight that Latino dogs are more prone to urinating indoors?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Essay 4498

MultiCultClassics has always viewed the notion of an American melting pot as a crock, since all citizens tend to maintain their unique cultures. But here’s the classic Schoolhouse Rock rendition of The Great American Melting Pot. Click on the essay title above to view the animated feature via YouTube.

My grandmother came from Russia
A satchel on her knee,
My grandfather had his father’s cap
He brought from Italy.
They’d heard about a country
Where life might let them win,
They paid the fare to America
And there they melted in.

Lovely Lady Liberty
With her book of recipes
And the finest one she’s got
Is the great American melting pot.
The great American melting pot.

America was founded by the English,
But also by the Germans, Dutch, and French.
The principle still sticks;
Our heritage is mixed.
So any kid could be the president.

You simply melt right in,
It doesn’t matter what your skin.
It doesn’t matter where you’re from,
Or your religion, you jump right in
To the great American melting pot.
The great American melting pot.
Ooh, what a stew, red, white, and blue.

America was the New World
And Europe was the Old.
America was the land of hope,
Or so the legend told.
On steamboats by the millions,
In search of honest pay,
Those 19th-century immigrants sailed
To reach the U.S.A.

Lovely Lady Liberty
With her book of recipes
And the finest one she’s got
Is the great American melting pot
The great Anerican melting pot.
What good ingredients,
Liberty and immigrants.

They brought the country’s customs,
Their language and their ways.
They filled the factories, tilled the soil,
Helped build the U.S.A.
Go on and ask your grandma,
Hear what she has to tell
How great to be an American
And something else as well.

Lovely Lady Liberty
With her book of recipes
And the finest one she’s got
Is the great American melting pot
The great American melting pot.

The great American melting pot.
The great American melting pot.

Essay 4497



Why Diversity Remains Elusive

By Dale Buss

The Race for the Best and Brightest
The marketing industry and employee diversity ought to be a fantastic match. Advertising works the cutting edge of societal evolution, after all. And over the past generation, the expansion of ethnic populations has become one of the most powerful social and economic dynamics in America.

But this hasn’t been a groundbreaking relationship. Minority members accounted for 13.9% of total creative employment at the large agencies surveyed by the American Association of Advertising Agencies last year, up from 11.3% five years ago. Total minority employment at the agencies improved to only 20% from 18.2% in 2002.

“The industry doesn’t cast a wide enough net looking for talent,” says Ronald Owens, former VP-diversity inclusion at TMP Worldwide, a marketing-recruiting agency, and now an independent consultant.

Some marketing executives concede Mr. Owens is right. “As an industry, we’ve been more reactive rather than proactive about this,” says Bill McDonald, exec VP-brand strategy for Capital One.

Doctors, lawyers
At the same time, “Advertising hasn’t been at the forefront of [minorities’] minds as a career point,” says Peter Krivkovich, president-CEO of Cramer-Krasselt, Chicago. Moses Foster can explain that. “A huge part of our [African-American] population is the first generation to go to college,” says the president-CEO of West Cary Group, a new Richmond, Va.-based agency. “And if you tell your mom and dad, ‘I’m going into advertising to be a copywriter,’ they might rather you be a doctor or lawyer.”

How can the industry close the deal with minorities? The first thing is to realize that the benefits of doing so go far beyond meeting quotas -- and to understand that those advantages don’t stop with gleaning the insights a member of a given ethnic group might be able to provide about marketing to his or her family and friends.

“I want to work with other good designers who take their work seriously,” says Cheyney Robinson, an African-American who is a creative director at the Atlanta office of Avenue A/Razorfish. “It’s less about me being or specifically wanting to work with a person of color. Inherently, in making diversity important, agencies will have a better product.”

Other agency executives agree. “People from different backgrounds and cultures, speaking different languages, tend to have different creative talents,” says David Becker, president and co-founder of Philippe Becker Design in San Francisco.

Good resumes
Indeed, certain minorities may define one of today’s premium candidate pools. “The best résumés I’m seeing now are from foreigners; so during the last couple of years I’ve hired a lot of Indians, Pakistanis and other Asians who have come here for school and don’t want to go home,” says Beau Fraser, managing director of Gate Worldwide in New York.

The second priority is to work harder to bring in minorities and keep them. “It has to be a business imperative, and management needs to actively drive it,” says Laurence Boschetto, worldwide president-chief operating officer, DraftFCB, Chicago.

To improve its odds, DraftFCB emphasizes internal mentoring of ethnic staffers and external outreach to employees’ friends and at minority-dominated colleges. Partially as a result, Mr. Boschetto says, DraftFCB has women and minority members “at almost every level of management,” most of them homegrown.

Reaching out to minorities, Mr. McDonald says, is one big reason he makes a lot of speech and seminar appearances. That’s also why Mr. McDonald understood when Mr. Foster, the former interactive communications manager and head of Capital One’s creative shop, AT Capital One, decided it was time to leave.

Mr. Foster founded West Cary Group in April and also has launched Remar (Reflections of the Marketplace), a program associated with Virginia Commonwealth University’s marketing department that is aimed at reaching minority high-school and college students.

“We want to demystify and take away the shroud,” Mr. Foster says, “show that this business is exciting and that you can make a good living at it.”

The 4A’s increased participation in its multicultural advertising-internship program to 150 collegians this year from about 100 last year and just 12 in the first year, 1973. And now the organization is pressing younger. “To be successful in identifying people of color, it needs to start before they get into college by making high-school students aware of advertising as a career,” says Angela Johnson Meadows, manager of the 4A’s diversity programs.

Essay 4496

Killjoys in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• As if we needed more news about O.J. Simpson, the New York Post reports of potentially violent episodes involving Simpson and part-time girlfriend Christie Prody (dubbed by the newspaper as a “Nicole look-alike”). About six weeks ago, Simpson confronted a man for allegedly sleeping with Prody and threatened, “Come over here. I’m going to fucking kill you.” You’d think at this point, O.J. might consider erasing the word “kill” from his vocabulary.

• To counter all the positive stories detailing how the Internet has helped spread the news and organize protests to support the Jena 6 families, there’s a nasty incident involving a White supremacist website. The website apparently listed the names and addresses of the Jena 6 teens and “essentially called for their lynching,” said an investigating FBI spokesperson. O.J. Simpson probably could have saved a lot of time and energy by posting his threats online too.

Essay 4495

Like a good Latino neighbor, State Farm is there on the soccer field.

Essay 4494

From The New York Times…


How Do You Say ‘Got Milk’ en Español?


“That boy over there?” John Gallegos said. “Straddler. His mother is a Learner. She’s going to be talking to him in Spanish. Watch.”

Gallegos stood quietly, in the wide central part of a mall, pretending to look at nothing. The mother and son passed close by. She had dark red hair and was leaning on the boy’s arm; he was 14 or so, and in blue jeans. Gallegos was right. The mother was chatting amiably in Spanish. Gallegos tilted his head toward four teenagers shambling along. “Those kids? All Straddlers,” he said. “Well, the guy with his cap backwards — he might be a Navigator. He’s probably more English-media-consuming.”

The mall was in the city of Downey, which is part of Los Angeles. It was an ordinary California midrange shopping center: clean floors, Starbucks, hip apparel chains. Gallegos had come in to examine a clothing store he thought might become a new client. He’s a publicista an adman. He runs a 60-person agency called Grupo Gallegos in Long Beach. His agency wins awards for its commercials, which are funny, edgy and require translating into English when international judging committees study them. This particular week, in the middle of summer, Grupo Gallegos work was advertising leche, transporte de autobuses, pollo, ropa interior, servicio de Internet de alta velocidad, consultorios médicos, gimnasios and pilas that would be California Milk Processor Board milk, Crucero bus lines, Foster Farms chicken, Fruit of the Loom underwear, Comcast high-speed Internet service, Quick Health medical clinics, Bally fitness clubs and Energizer batteries, which the Gallegos people had decided to promote via a long-faced Mexican man who walks down the street explaining that as he has figured out that he’s immortal (scenes of him being mashed by a plummeting second-story sign, impaled on a spear in a museum, etc.), he requires an especially durable battery for his camera.

Grupo Gallegos advertising runs on Spanish-language television, Spanish radio, in Spanish magazine pages and on Spanish or bilingual Web sites. Some of these enterprises are housed in places you might expect them to be: New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Houston. Many are not. There’s full-time Spanish television broadcasting now in Anchorage; Salt Lake City; Little Rock, Ark.; Wichita Falls, Tex.; Indianapolis; Savannah, Ga.; Boston; Oklahoma City; Syracuse, N.Y.; and Minneapolis. The area encompassing Portland, Ore., now has 10 Spanish radio stations, while four years ago it had only 3. The July issue of ESPN Deportes, with Hugo Sánchez on the cover, had a Gallegos underwear ad inside; so did the gossip magazine ¡Mira!, with Angélica Rivera on the cover; and a People en Español with RBD on the cover; and a Men’s Health en Español, whose cover article promised that James Bond would show readers how to be an hombre de acción.

If the only name on that list that sounds familiar is Bond’s the others are, respectively, the Mexican national soccer team coach, a telenovela star and a wildly popular pop-music group then Gallegos is interested less in selling you products, since you are likely not Hispanic, than in pointing out the exploding spending power of the demographic that is. The estimate worked up by the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies for 2007 is $928 billion. Those are dollars spent inside this country by Hispanic consumers, American-born citizens as well as green-card residents and the undocumented, on things they want or need: batteries, iPods, laundry soap, lawn chairs, motor oil, Bulova watches, new-home loans, Volvos, takeout pizza, cellphones, power saws, swimming pools, deodorant, airline tickets and plasma TV’s. It’s $200 billion more than was spent two years ago. Propelled by continuous immigration and larger family size, the dual factors that are making the Hispanic population multiply faster than any other in the United States, the spending figure is expected to top a trillion dollars within the next three years.

In comparison with some of his colleagues in Hispanic advertising, in fact, John Gallegos runs a moderate-size shop. There are more than a hundred United States ad agencies, not including the publicistas in Puerto Rico, that now work almost exclusively in Spanish. The bigger Hispanic agencies have accounts like McDonald’s (Me encanta, which roughly translates to “I’m lovin’ it”), and Chevrolet (Súbete, “Get in”). Bounty’s slogan in English, “The quicker picker-upper,” appears in Spanish as Con Bounty sí puedes — “With Bounty, yes you can.” T-Mobile does Estamos juntos, “We’re all together.” Toyota does Avanza confiado, “Advance confidently.” Wal-Mart reportedly spends more than $60 million a year on reaching Hispanics, and for some years the Wal-Mart Spanish tag line, composed by a Houston agency called Lopez Negrete Communications, was Para su familia, de todo corazón. Siempre. Which lofted the blunt English “Low prices, always,” into a line enduring enough for a tombstone: “For your family, from the heart. Always.”

[Click on the essay title above to read the full story.]

Essay 4493

From The Chicago Sun-Times…


E-mail and blogs rally support for accused La. teens

Without this computer savvy, the fate of six black Jena High School students might never have become a national cause celebre. As much as younger generations are criticized for being socially awkward -- spending too much time text-messaging and IMing -- they were inspired to make a road trip to Jena to march for a cause instead of passively clicking on an electronic petition. In this technically advanced era, even bigotry in small towns, like Jena, can’t hide from a community wired and without boundaries.

The youths’ online commentary kept alive details about the teens arrested and charged with attempted second-degree murder for beating up a white classmate at Jena High School in 2006. (That student, Justin Barker, was treated for a concussion and bruises, then attended a school function later that night.)

People wanted to know why a schoolyard fight had been elevated to criminal charges. They questioned why white students -- who incited the racially charged atmosphere months earlier by hanging nooses from a landmark shade tree traditionally used by whites -- were ultimately let off because school officials said the ropes were simply a joke.

“It should never have gotten to the point of going to court for second-degree murder,” said Tamikka Jackson, a Chicago State University student who made the 20-hour trek to Jena last week as part of a bus convoy.

Like many others who took the long trip, this was Jackson’s first foray into protesting. The case of the Jena 6 has aroused the passions of many who previously hadn’t exercised their support for civil rights.

As generations before them were energized by the fight for civil rights, women’s rights and anti-apartheid, these youths found their cause. It was a collective oh-no-they-didn’t moment.

So bus loads of regular folks -- the middle-aged, retired and the young -- rolled into Jena on Thursday to demand fair treatment for the black students. They came from as far as New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Miami, even Alaska. They packed their own food and toiletries so they wouldn’t contribute to the local economy.

“I just don’t feel comfortable standing up for something and not giving all I could,” said Charles Harrington, 23, of Chatham. “I didn’t have all the money in the world. I couldn’t go to court. But I could give my body, soul and spirit to show I’m behind it.”

The protest invites comparisons to the civil rights movement, but there are key differences. Jena protesters didn’t face water hoses and vicious dogs. And a court system that once perpetuated a racist bias now seems more inclined toward meting out justice.

The original charges have been reduced for four of the teens. A fifth was booked on sealed juvenile charges. The conviction of Mychal Bell, 17, was tossed out by a state appeals court. He was denied bail in juvenile court on Friday.

Chicagoans who made the drive to Louisiana say what happened in Jena could happen anywhere. The difference in an age of cell phone cameras, e-mail and the Internet is that, to paraphrase King, injustice anywhere really is injustice everywhere.

Essay 4492

From The Chicago Tribune…


Emancipation Proclamation Draws Crowds

By JON GAMBRELL, Associated Press Writer

As she looked at the Emancipation Proclamation, Catherine Jewell-Gill recalled her days of picking cotton in Arkansas as a child and later becoming a teacher and principal.

Jewell-Gill was among more than 2,100 people who filed through the Clinton Library on Saturday to see the three-page document that declared the end to slavery. Jewell-Gill, 72, said having the document in Little Rock during the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of Central High School pulls history together.

“I think it coincides beautifully,” she said.

More than 10,000 people are expected to file past the proclamation during its four-day stay in the city, a rare trip outside the National Archive.

On Saturday, people came from as far away as California for a chance to look at the document’s cursive script and President Abraham Lincoln’s signature. The calligraphy drew Abby Loyd’s attention.

“I think it’s amazing,” said Loyd, 30, of Little Rock.

The proclamation, issued in the midst of the Civil War, comes as Little Rock celebrates the 50th anniversary of nine black students braving angry white crowds to attend classes at Central High. President Dwight D. Eisenhower dispatched federalized troops to protect the students and uphold the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that segregated schools are unconstitutional.

That history drew Martina Westmoreland and her husband and son from Pasadena, Calif., to Little Rock for the weekend.

“It’s exciting to be a part of this anniversary,” said Westmoreland, 62. “I’m also very much impressed with Little Rock itself. … I always think of civil rights as being a problematic period, but I like the way that Little Rock is saying it’s celebrating 50 years of integration.”

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Essay 4491

Girlfriend get-togethers in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• Maureen McCormick, the actress who played Marcia on the Brady Bunch, is publishing a book that reveals she had a sexual relationship with co-star Eve Plumb, who played sister Jan. This story doesn’t really get interesting unless there’s a revelation of the ménage à trois with Ann B. Davis, who played Alice.

• Former O.J. Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark is taking advantage of the latest hoopla, commenting on Simpson via various media outlets. “Just seeing him in court again, facing charges, I can’t believe it. It’s just surreal,” said Clark. “He skated on two murder charges … How did he manage to get himself back in trouble again? How stupid do you have to be?” This story doesn’t really get interesting unless Marcia Clark reveals a lesbian relationship with Marcia from the Brady Bunch.

• A PETA commercial featuring a nude Alicia Silverstone was rejected for airing in Houston, Texas. This story was never really interesting, but we figured blog visitors might enjoy the shot of a clothes-free and talent-free Silverstone.

Essay 4490

From The Los Angeles Times…


L.A. to pay firefighter nearly $1.5 million
Mayor signs off on a deal in which Tennie Pierce will drop lawsuit claims and retire from the department.

By David Zahniser
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Averting a trial that could have revealed embarrassing details about hazing within the Los Angeles Fire Department, the City Council voted Friday to pay nearly $1.5 million to a black firefighter who was served a meal laced with dog food by his colleagues.

The agreement brought to a close a dispute that had caused racial division in the city, compelled Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to impose his first veto and prompted the departure of the city’s longtime fire chief.

Firefighter Tennie Pierce had filed suit stemming from an incident in 2004 in which he was served a spaghetti dinner that secretly included dog food while he was on duty at Fire Station No. 5 in Westchester. Although some colleagues described it as a prank that played on the 6-foot-5 Pierce’s nickname, “Big Dog,” Pierce alleged racial discrimination.

The case originally was headed for trial Monday. A spokesman for City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo said the settlement reached Friday afternoon pushed the total cost of the case to $2.8 million once $1.3 million in legal expenses accumulated by the city since December are factored in. That is slightly more than the $2.7-million settlement offered by the council last year but rejected by Villaraigosa.

This time, the mayor gave his blessing to the deal with Pierce, a 19-year firefighter who lives in Cerritos. Hours after the council vote, Villaraigosa released a statement saying the decision “reduces the original settlement by nearly half while protecting Angelenos from further liability.”

[Click on the essay title above to read the full story.]

Essay 4489

Using children to sell muscle-building protein shakes is weak.