Tuesday, January 4, 2022


When I was just a boy, there were some lucky kids in the neighborhood who had fathers who were handy. They could take the engine off of an old lawnmower or out of a twenty-year-old Hoover, and with it they'd build their kid a Steve McQueen-sounding mini-bike. 

I remember saying to one such kid who was riding his growling mini-bike down the street, "How fast does it go?

"My old man removed the governor. This thing flies."

Being raised by a non-mechanical father, I had never heard the word "governor" in that context before. I heard governor and I thought Nelson Rockefeller. But I soon learned that most engines have mechanical speed limiters built-in. The Swedish/Chinese Volvo company limits its cars to 112 miles per hour. BMW is more liberal. Ostensibly you can hit 155 in their vehicles.

The point is, many engines and many systems have governance built-in. What you can do and where you can do it is governored for your protection and the protection of others.

In advertising, however, we don't have governors--mechanical or otherwise. Though I have no data on the matter--and the ostensible trade-press is entirely absent, I'd imagine that today the ratio in agencies between "creatives," and "managers" is dramatically different from what it was when I entered the business.

I have no data to go on, but in the US military in WWII, the ratio between enlisted men and officers was 10:1. In today's US military, the ratio is 4.7 enlisted persons to 1 officer. In other words, we now have twice as many managers by proportion as we had when the US was the strongest military force in the history of the world. As Mark Thompson, an analyst for the Project on Government Oversight recently said, the US military is "larded with far more pencil-pushers than trigger-pullers."

Today, despite the surfeit of managers in advertising much of our creative work and much of our media placement seems to happen with no management and no governance at all.

Just recently, I noticed this advertising juxtaposition. 

A news story announcing Bishop Tutu's death and an ad for a potato chip imploring viewers to "own their ridges."

That seems about as callous, ugly and thoughtless as a communication can get.

Ruffles is owned by Frito-Lay which is owned by PepsiCo. I'd imagine those giant corporations and their giant corporate advertising agencies have literally hundreds of well-paid people working on Ruffles. Many of those people, I'd imagine, are called brand managers.

The problem is, nobody's managing.

Everybody's too busy.

Likewise, this shit by Audi. Somehow someone or something approved this ad and someone or something placed it. 

Audi is a prestigious brand. Or was. I don't understand a single-word in the ad above. In fact, if I embraced what's next, I'm sure I'd be sent to HR, whether or not I did my embracing during the season of Audi.

Somehow, these gigantic companies and gigantic ad agencies are without any governance.

Their standards are gone.

Their taste is absent.

Their salesmanship is completely missing.

I wrote this before the Pabst Blue Ribbon ass-eating debacle. So I'm adding this late in the game. 
 Brands are about control. Controlling image. Message. Distribution. Quality. 

Agencies used to govern that. 

We've ceded that authority. To our detriment and the detriment of the companies we work for. We bought the canard that the customer is in control. We need to be the governors. And governorship needs to be tightly held. 

Agencies are supposed to be agents. We're supposed to enhance brands, promote brands and protect brands. Instead most of what we do detracts, harms and denigrates brands.

I know what GeorgeCo., LLC, a Delaware Company does for the brands I work for. But I honestly don't know what our business does anymore or why it exists.

Maybe more companies should embrace what's next.

Who will guard the guards?

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