Thursday, November 15, 2007

Essay 4704

Black business leaders have had tough trials and tribulations lately. Time ran out for Time Warner’s Richard Parsons. Merrill Lynch “retired” Stan O’Neal.

Add another struggling CEO to the list: Uncle Ben.

Earlier this year, TBWA\Chiat\Day launched a new campaign starring the stereotypical icon, recasting Uncle Ben as the noble overlord of his own rice empire. The web site featured a stately executive suite, while print ads displayed quirky side-dish musings.

The concept turned out to be as bland as, well, white rice.

Consumer feedback was less than enthusiastic, prompting the advertising agency to re-cook the work. And now TBWA\Chiat\Day has even enlisted a minority research firm to conduct nationwide studies to gauge Blacks’ reactions to the revisions. God forbid anyone might have sought consumer insights before resurrecting the controversial critter. But at White shops, arrogance trumps ignorance.

One can only imagine the multicultural makeover. Perhaps Uncle Ben has become more contemporary, modeled after hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons. Maybe the storyline will introduce the perfect love interest—Condoleezza Rice. Relevant line extensions could include Stepin Fetchit Stuffing Mix and Amos ‘n’ Andy Couscous. The politically-incorrect possibilities are endless.

Then again, the best course of action would involve microwaving the campaign and relegating Uncle Ben to brand name/logo status.

Show the man a little respect already.

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