The recent Business Insider story on Deutsch NY CEO Val DiFebo led to a 2009 New York Magazine article on the advertising agency and its figurehead, Donny Deutsch—ultimately showing why diversity continues to fail on Madison Avenue. And why Donny Deutsch continues to be a douche bag.
Donny’s father, David Deutsch, had started a small advertising agency and, in 1983, hired his son—“I was a member of the lucky sperm club,” says Donny.
In short, Deutsch openly acknowledges taking advantage of nepotism and White privilege. The card-carrying lucky sperm club member is a dick.
Donny hired young, driven people, who worked 90-, 100-hour weeks. “Jews, chicks, and fags” was how Donny sometimes described the mix. “A big, dysfunctional, ethnic family.”
Notice the word “racial” was not included in the descriptors. Deutsch created and cultivated a tight-knit family based on exclusivity.
At Deutsch in the nineties, professional and private inevitably blended. The place was known for its masculine vibe—an “obnoxious boys’ club,” says one observer— where even the women described themselves as testosteronized. There was a “he-man eating club,” in which guys ordered pounds of meat and ate it with their hands. “People were having sex all over the place,” says one employee. At a Christmas party at a Park Avenue restaurant, another recalls, “I had to ask two people engaged in oral sex to move so I could get my coat.”
Deutsch put the ass in assimilation. Keep in mind, these discriminatory hiring practices didn’t take place during some pre-Civil Rights period or even Mad Men timeframe. It all happened in the 1990s—and likely continues today.
Deutsch today has 1,000 employees (two are his assistants), $2.4 billion in billings, and a new industrial space the size of a city block. “He was the only guy among the outrageous upstarts who figured out the big picture,” says Randall Rothenberg, Ad Age columnist and Booz Allen Hamilton exec. Donny has promoted mature, stable, capable team players—many of them women. Four of his six managing partners, and all those in New York, are women.
“I don’t think of myself as a woman,” protests Val DiFebo, director of client services, from her tiny office. Yet, in part, Donny is probably at ease with them—as at ease as his coiled energy permits—because they’re women. “Every alpha male brings emotional bullshit to work,” says Donny, “Women want to get the job done.” Donny introduces two of his female partners the same way: “We’re like husband and wife at work,” he says. “We finish each other’s sentences.” Indeed, they are confidantes. Brash Donny is often found dispensing boyfriend advice. (“Tell him you want to be with him, and walk if he says no.”)
Deutsch has bizarre professional relationships when it comes to women. His personal relationships with women are pretty messed up too. If females want to move forward at the agency, they must be “wife” material for the man. Wonder how many minority women have made it past the bridesmaid stage.
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