Thursday, October 19, 2023

Shut up.

When I was young in the business, maybe it was my first choice agency job back at Marschalk in 1984, I had a moment of premature wisdom.

Going into a holiday weekend, there were some shitty trade ads to do. Or right before a big pitch, there were some small loose ends to tie up. Or proofs needed to be signed off on, or a block of copy was badly ragged and the people who were supposed to be in charge of getting that shit done were nowhere to be found.

I said something aloud long before I had the ostensible experience to have noticed. "Agencies are responsibility vacuums. There's never anyone around to carry the heavy load. When someone's needed to do something, they usually show up missing."

And, I said again, "Agencies are responsibility vacuums. All the work will rush toward those people willing to do it."

Along with that, I created my own personal agency yoga position. Hand up. Head down.

Ask for work--hand up.
Do it--head down.

Always be willing to do. Always work to get it done.

Don't be a patsy. But don't be so aloof and hard to find that getting you involved is more trouble than you're worth.

Or as Woody Allen is reputed to have said, "Showing up is 80% of life."

The slaughter of thousands of Israelis, the rapes, the torture, the, yes, beheadings have not impelled the leadership of the giant holding companies to issue statements in public. 

They've shown up, once again, missing.

Or missing the plot.

Or so solipsistically obsessed over their latest idee fixe that they've lost site of the actual world. 

Holding company leadership seems to be speaking and speaking and speaking about everything but what's really important.

Why take responsibility? Why be kind? Why show sensitivity? It's so much easier to go out and play golf. And then read from that great, canned HR-approved teleprompter in the sky.

For instance, amid the horrors in the Middle East:

Just as the same leadership does not speak out against platforms and networks and channels spewing lies, hate, racism, climate denial and more.

Often, people rebuke me for my hardheadedness. But then I ask them something simple.

If you were south of the Mason-Dixon in 1970, would you shop at a store that didn't allow Black people to try on clothing? Would you eat in a restaurant that didn't serve Black people? Would you stay in a hotel that was white only?

Someone once said somewhere, ?Whatever you did to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did to me.”*

*Void where prohibited. Some restrictions apply.

Would you go gentle into that racist realm?

Likewise today, do you equivocate when babies have their heads chopped off? Do you stay silent when thousands are murdered? Do you hear about grandmothers being raped and say "there are two sides"?

Worse, do you ignore the world altogether because it's fraught not to and besides you have considerable "self" to promote and specious awards to accept and podcasts to propagate.

Of course, we have work to do and businesses to run and ads to write. Of course, the world is too much with us. Of course, this is particular situation has gone on for dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of years, depending on how you count.

No matter what your reason, there's no reason strong enough that permits you to say nothing.

Unless, as above, you believe the agency world, like agencies themselves, are responsibility vacuums. And why speak out now? About this.

We have awards to boast about.

When you're up to your neck in shit, in other words, don't make waves.

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