For Adland, 2020 will probably be labeled The Year of COVID-19, as evidenced by a constant cavalcade of crappy, contrived and clichéd coronavirus campaigns. Yet cultural cluelessness continued to infect the advertising industry like a nettlesome virus, ultimately creating casualties, crises and comedy.
The most prominent deaths included Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben (sort of), Rastus, the Land O’Lakes Native American maiden, the Eskimo Pie Eskimo, Annie the Chicken Queen and the Washington Redskins. The jury is still out on Mrs. Butterworth. Meanwhile, the Pine-Sol Lady appears to be smelling sweet as ever, baby.
The racist erasures raced alongside racist executions—specifically, former Deutsch CCO Brett Craig and former The Richards Group Overlord Stan Richards. Craig was caught criticizing the Blackness of casting, while Richards criticized the Blackness of a campaign concept (and the supreme Whiteness of client customers). To show that offensive ignorance extends beyond racism, former Mindshare CEO Nick Emery displayed cultural cluelessness—and maybe his ass and dick—to earn a pink slip.
The global field feigned deep concern when White advertising agencies publicized EEO-1 data confirming they were White advertising agencies. The admissions ignited a flurry of memorandum, heat shields and Chief Diversity Officer appointments. The latter, ironically, was offset by the hightailing of high-profile DE&I delegates including Tiffany R. Warren, Carl Desir and Doug Melville. Why, even ADCOLOR® Change Agent John Seifert is calling it quits.
To further deflect the discriminatory deficiencies and systemic racism, Chief Divertsity Officers were announced ad nauseam. Boards Blackened and broadened big time. Resident minority elevations escalated. Job titles were fancifully fabricated and job listings were eloquently embellished. Clients applied divertsity demands to staff figures and storyboard frames.
But wait, there’s more. Advertising executives of Asian descent experienced anti-Asian hate. WPP CEO Mark Read—at age 54—made ageist remarks. Rosa Park leaders claimed they’d never heard of Rosa Parks. An ANA study predicted the pandemic would prompt marketers to decrease spending with minority vendors—compounding the regular ANA studies revealing that marketers underspend with minority vendors. And, as always, Wendy Clark did nothing meaningful or measurable to advance the cause, opting to advance her career.
The arguably most noteworthy event involved 600 & Rising dropping to 599 when co-founder Nathan Young resigned after taking heat for a critical tweet positioning ADCOLOR® as a delusional and deceptive heat shield. Watch for 599 & Rising to emerge from its strategic restructuring as an ADCOLOR® wannabe.
Expect Adland 2021 to resemble Adland 1921.