Jonah Bloom, the editor of Advertising Age recently took an outrageous position backing advertising that either severely denigrates men, pictures them as subjects for sexual or social abuse, or portrays them as fools in a world of wonderful women.
In his article “When It Comes to Whining About Ads, Father Knows Best”, Bloom makes the grave mistake pontificating there is something wrong with real live men who object to men being generically treated like manure by writers unable to find one ounce of respect for anything other than women. Perhaps Bloom would so ardently support agencies if they crudely portrayed women as brain-dead sex objects, or broad-brushed blacks with Klannish racist insults?
Mr. Bloom has an expensive lesson to learn. It should start by costing him his job. Both racism and sexism are unacceptable under any circumstances. Since Mr. Bloom has ardently endorsed sexism, Advertisers must call for him to step down.
Corporations rely heavily on advertising agencies to invent creative advertising. When that advertising alienates or disaffects half the customers, the agency must be fired.
Years ago, I was a sales manager for a medium-sized chain of retail stores. I gained the position by having equal concern for the customer and equal concern for the sale. I wrote and laid out a lot of print and radio advertising. Much of it was funny or somehow striking. I never once insulted customers and did not need to. When you touch the heart or funny bone of all potential customers, the merchandise disappears quickly.
Advertising agencies often forget who the customer is. Agencies care far more about their contract than the customers of the client. To lock-in the client, agencies sell slick theories and self-generated “surveys” to convince clients that their style of anacanapanastan is more effective than the whizzlepoofle offered by the next agency. Agencies that forget who the customer is are the ones who lead advertisers into ugly gimmickry that end up hurting the advertiser.
We are the customers. The best pitches ultimately make us feel smart, wise, or better-off for purchasing a product. Insults or sexual harassment repulse us from your products. This is not a theory – men talk about these things around the water cooler every day. We dislike it, and avoid offensive products like the plague. Any agency that tells their client otherwise should have been fired millions of dollars ago.
There are parallels in the world of finance. Are you going to believe in Bear Stearns or Morgan Stanley? The answer this week is unquestionable now that the cat is out of the bag.
It is astonishing that Corporations accept shoddy advertising that clearly violates their own corporate harassment policies. Corporations must treat potential customers with the same respect they treat their own employees. In fact, any employee of a corporation who finds an advertisement by their own corporation sexually harassing may have grounds for a lawsuit against their employer. There may also be grounds for suit by the general public as well.
As a creative person, I know how much work it takes to give birth to a captivating original advertisement. Corporations should not settle for advertising agencies who take the cheap route of banal misandry.
The great legacies of comedy and advertising – the ones we all remember, never did their work at the expense of others. Consider Red Skelton, the Three Stooges, David Letterman, Lucille Ball, and Johnny Carson – all who moved tons of merchandise by simply being there. Recall Tom Bodett, whose entrancing fiddle tune and “leave the light on” tag line filled up Motel 6 for years.
Now, consider actors who are not liked by the public – actors you will never see shilling for anything other than their own struggling careers. Roseanne Barr’s comedy career was founded on insulting men. Phyllis Diller never made it past insulting her deceased husband either. Sam Kinison, whose rants about women were legendary, never sold anything to anybody.
In contrast, look at the 2007 Clio Award Winners. In radio, Bud Light ran off with most of the awards doing advertising attractive to men and women. Television and Cinema winners were often silly, but not insulting to men. All the billboard winners are also male-friendly. Where Bud is the #1 beer, does that not suggest that Anheuser-Busch’s advertising sets a standard that should be an unwritten industry rule?
I now call on responsible corporations and major advertisers to call for the immediate resignation of Jonah Bloom, and to terminate their contracts with agencies who have fooled them into thinking that below-the-belt sexual harassment of men is anything other than “absolutely unacceptable”.
To prove my case, I now offer two brilliant advertising campaigns to major corporations in the soft dessert and deodorant businesses that will empty the shelves. The advertising I once did had cars lined up down the street and we emptied the shelves. Let me show you an award-winning campaign you will never get from the self-serving agency wasting your advertising budget.
David R. Usher is Senior Policy Analyst for the True Equality Network.