Tuesday, May 29, 2012

10152: An Open Letter To Jerry Stoner.


MultiCultClassics knew it would regret the decision to actually watch another episode of AMC series The Pitch. This blog does not, however, regret its review of the Bozell versus Muse spectacle. Plus, MultiCultClassics stands behind its opinions of the drama.

Yet there are aftereffects that must be categorized as annoying and offensive—and these matters warrant attention. Specifically, the online comments at the AMC blog and Agency Spy show a pattern of ignorance ignited by Jo Muse’s observations about the JDRF clients and Bozell team.

To recap, after the briefing at JDRF headquarters, Muse called his partner in Culver City to discuss the meeting. During the conversation, Muse remarked that the clients and competitors were very “Midwestern”—and he even used the words “White” and “vanilla” to describe them. Critics have branded Muse a racist, and Bozell Executive Creative Director Jerry Stoner has joined the debate. Responding to Muse’s phone chat, Stoner typed, “It bothered me. … So sad the ‘race’ issue played a role. Honestly, I never thought about it. For me, it was about helping JDRF. I was born in Detroit and to some extent understand the problem, but it had [no] place in this pitch.” When a woman argued that Muse was not being racist, Stoner replied, “Mr. Muse made the ‘Vanilla’ comment. Perhaps you can explain that.”

OK, Mr. Stoner, MultiCultClassics will attempt to explain that to you and anyone else requiring the social tutorial.

For the record, this blog does not know Jo Muse or Jerry Stoner. Additionally, the following opinions are based on personal speculation rooted in having spent too many years in the advertising industry.

On The Pitch, Mr. Stoner appeared to be a reasonable, thoughtful and God-fearing man. So MultiCultClassics will try to appeal to his intellectual side.

To begin, Mr. Stoner is strongly encouraged to pick up a copy of Corporate Tribalism by Thomas Kochman and Jean Mavrelis. Reading the book will enlighten him on the nuanced and blatant differences between Whites and Blacks in corporate scenarios. Refusing to read the book will demonstrate that Mr. Stoner is a culturally clueless jackass. The ball is in your court on this one, Jerry.

Stoner and Muse have been in the ad game for roughly the same amount of time. However, it’s safe to say that the two have vastly distinct careers and experiences. MultiCultClassics will bet that Stoner has never:

• Faced racial discrimination from clients and peers

• Been asked by a client to explain what’s “Black” (or “White”) about a campaign concept

• Had a client refuse to let him work on a project or piece of business because he’s White

• Been shut out of pitches because of his agency’s racial or ethnic identity

• Consistently dealt with budgets far lower than the industry standard

• Been the only White guy in the agency—or even in the room

• Received instructions from a client to do something musical

• Been mistaken for a mailroom attendant, janitor or security guard

• Had to produce a colored pool-out of the White agency’s big idea

The list could go on, but everyone—including Stoner—will hopefully get the gist. Now, MultiCultClassics will bet that Muse has encountered everything noted here. Regularly.

Mr. Stoner, when you walk into a conference room and see the clients and competitors are all White, you don’t flinch. Honestly, you never think about it. You’re right at home. But Mr. Muse has spent his career handling multicultural marketing—and coping with the list above. He’s used to engaging with diverse groups in inclusive settings. Hence, he might notice. And he might share his observations with his partners. It’s no big deal to him. It shouldn’t be a big deal to you.

When reviewing The Pitch installment starring Bozell and Muse, MultiCultClassics wondered, “Are there any minorities at Bozell?” A visit to the Bozell website revealed the image below:

A visit to the Muse website revealed the images below (sorry, MultiCultClassics couldn’t fit the entire staff into the collection):

So what’s more disturbing? A guy who notices he’s in a room full of White people, or a guy who doesn’t notice he’s in an agency full of White people—when our industry has been seeking to embrace diversity for over 60 years?

MultiCultClassics ripped Muse’s shop for its performance on The Pitch. But this blog has always known Jo Muse is a staunch advocate for diversity. As Muse pointed out, his was the first multicultural shop to target Blacks, Latinos and Asian Americans. Some may recall the agency used to be known as Muse Cordero Chen & Partners. Anyway, the point is that Jerry Stoner beat Jo Muse on a reality TV show; however, when it comes to important stuff in the real world, Jo Muse kicks Jerry Stoner’s ass 24/7. It’s no contest.

Does that start to explain it to you, Jerry?

P.S., You might be interested in picking up a copy of this book too.


L.V. said...

The chairman at Muse makes the racially charged comment and through the most twisted logic imaginable you see fit to attack Jerry Stoner? Absurd.

Muse has built it's entire business model on racial identity and ethnic tribalism so I'm not surprised they would choose to inject race into a situation in which it was entirely irrelevant. But to make clumsy, condescending attempts to not only defend offensive behavior, but to disparage the other team in the process is truly pathetic.

Your use of the agency team photos to support your point about their respective racial makeup just backfired on you. Omaha is over 80% white and the talent pool skews to a higher percentage when you account for those with college degrees. In other words, their agency faithfully represents their community. Culver City, where Muse is located is 60% white, but you wouldn't know that looking at team Muse. Whites in Culver City are massively underrepresented at Muse. So which agency is really doing a better job representing its community? Of course, if the best person for the job is being hired regardless of race/gender then it shouldn't matter what the team photo looks like, should it? Even by your own evidence it's silly to attempt to pin the racial citation on anyone but Mr.Muse.

My advice for you is the same I would give the Muse chairman. Leave the racialist attitudes in the past where they belong.

HighJive said...

Thanks, L.V.

Mr. Stoner asked for an explanation. Never said the explanation was a clean or simple one. Just sought to present a counterpoint to the other opinions and presumptions out there. Additionally, the post included a qualifier that read, “…the following opinions are based on personal speculation…” That is, it’s one blog’s perspective, and there is no guarantee that even Muse agrees with anything written here. In these scenarios, things are more complicated than most people would like them to be. BTW, the book recommendations apply to all—including you.

P.S., Your facts and figures don’t work either. Bozell is not creating advertising for Omaha, just as Muse is not creating advertising for Culver City. A counter argument is that an agency might reflect the makeup of the audiences it is addressing. Additionally, if you are familiar with the advertising industry, you know that the issue of diversity continues to loom large. Your excuses in the form of rationale are typical of the norm, but not necessarily supported by all.

Unknown said...

On his own website Jo Muse states has an audio clip:

5 things agency CEO’S can do to become diversity pros overnight.

#4 “Stop hiring minorities.” I agree, we must always be open to anyone applying for any job should not be judged, as Martin Luther King Jr. put it, “by the color of their skin, but the content of their character.”

Growing up in Detroit and living in Los Angeles for 10 years I understand racial tension, but for any of us to view every situation through a color prism is wrong.

Imagine if Stoner had been in a room with a black majority and sad that the flavor were chocolate. This website would be ripping him a new one.

HighJive said...

Not really, but mostly because it would probably never happen. That is, you would probably never make a chocolate remark—and hopefully would not use a worse phrase—as it is likely not in your nature. Plus, it’s unlikely you’d be in a room with a Black majority, but that’s beside the point. The suggested book really will help you understand matters. You might not agree with matters, but you’ll better understand them. Be clear, too, that this blog never saluted or commended Muse for his statements on The Pitch. The post was simply attempting to guess why he made the remarks. Remember, Muse opened the show discussing why he got into advertising. It was a decision rife with racial components. Like it or not, his agency is also rooted in racial and ethnic components. So it’s safe to presume he views situations through a different lens than you. At the end of the day, that’s all this blog was pointing out.

Thanks for commenting. If you read the earlier review, you’ll note you were recognized as having plenty of strengths. That opinion has not changed.

P.S., You’re not the only ad executive to be questioned here. The list includes Dan Wieden, Jeff Goodby, John Seifert, Donny Deutsch and more—so for what it’s worth, you’re in good company.

HighJive said...

One more thing, Mr. Stoner. Your interpretation of Muse's diversity pitch is arguably narrow. Muse suggested always hiring the best person for the job—which is a no-brainer. But he emphasized the imperative of opening the pool to be completely inclusive. That's where we often fall/fail in the advertising industry. You must read the post and book referenced at the very end of this post, particularly if your agency is a member of the 4A's, and you're an executive with hiring authority. Thanks.

Kristasphere said...


To your point about viewing everything through a "color prism": You, as a white person may have that choice, but people of color do not. We "are" the "color prism" if you will. It is easy to say what someone else should do if you've never been in their shoes. I'd challenge you to intentionally put yourself in a social situation where you are in the minority; think about how you feel, how you are perceived, how hopeful you feel. Then think about feeling that way every day, just from perspective of being "outnumbered" even.

Secondly, I do not believe you really know what racism is.

Muse's wheelhouse is minority advertising,right? To me the call back to the agency was to give his partner a heads up they probably wouldn't win the business because 1)it isn't their wheelhouse and 2) the connection or chemistry Bozell had with JDRF. He's clearly been in the ad game for a while; it isn't the first time he's seen an agency of any hue connect with a client off the bat. It's human nature.

What I am saying Muse was not the client; they had no power over you. In my experience, racism is most prevalent where there is an advantage to be gained or power to be wielded. If Muse was the client, and you lost the business because he felt you were too 'vanilla' and didn't 'get' them, different conversation.

Lastly, @LV I wish we all 'could' leave the racist attitudes in the past, but you only need to look at the disrespect hurled at our first black President for the last 4 years to see we are a long way from that happening.

Never forget that racism was the LAW in the US until 1964. It wasn't some random set of behaviors by a lunatic fringe, it was legislated and legal. Blacks had no rights that any white person had to respect anywhere, anytime.Old habits unfortunately die hard.

I am glad everyone is willing to at least have this discussion here. I think talking about racism is the only way to eradicate it.

on a lark said...

please add: mistaken for the front desk clerk/receptionist; invited to a client meeting because your group wanted to show how 'hip' or 'down' they were by having you on board; or my all-time favorite, chastised because some incendiary idea backfired and as the only person of color within several acres, you SHOULD have known...even though it wasn't your assignment.

the list COULD go on...

Anonymous said...

Race and racism will exist as long as companies use it for leverage; be it a 'multi cultural agency', magazines like 'Black Enterprise' or any number of race-related products.

It seems the only people playing the race card these days are those with darker skin. If the tides were turned and we started seeing magazines on the shelves like 'White Enterprise' that only featured white people that would be seen as racist, and rightly so.

I see plenty of diversity in the work place, let's get rid of these minority-only products and practices and perhaps we'll start seeing people as people.

HighJive said...

Interesting perspective, Anonymous; however, your position appears to be based on some unique thinking. That is, the presumption that multicultural agencies or Black Enterprise use race/racism as leverage seems, well, biased. Is it possible that such entities exist to fill a previously unfulfilled need? If you have an audience, what’s the problem? Perhaps you should replace race and racism with culture, and you’ll see it’s all good. If you want to eliminate, say, Black Enterprise, what will be next? Let’s dump Vogue and Elle—all women should be able to read one fashion magazine, right? The truth is, our world is growing increasingly fragmented, as people seek information, entertainment and content that appeals to them as individuals.

On the flip side, such “racial/racist” entities might be unnecessary if other sources truly served the “general market”—for example, if agencies like Bozell were actually integrated and inclusive, and they were qualified to speak to multiple audiences, then agencies like Muse might not be necessary. In the ad industry, people are quick to tag shops as multicultural, Black, Latino, etc. Yet few people want to admit the agencies calling themselves “general market” or “mass market” are really just White.

You say you see plenty of diversity in the workplace. You must not work in advertising—or certainly not at places like Bozell. If you can leverage the success of your workplace and hand the instructions to the advertising industry, you’ll be a hero.

Thanks for the comment.