Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Senate and advertising.

In 1951, the most popular man in America was relieved of his command of US forces in Korea by one of the least popular Presidents in American history. Truman fired MacArthur for disobeying orders from his Commander-in-Chief, for forgetting that in the United States, the military is meant to be under civilian control.

For some long, perilous periods it looked like America was teetering on the brink of becoming a South American banana republic. It looked like there was the potential, literally, for a military coup. There was a mass outpouring that MacArthur should usurp the President and take the presidency and that Truman was a traitor and should be impeached.

Telegrams to the US Senate were running over 100-1 in favor of MacArthur. Old Washington hands were truly worried about the future of our American democracy. (BTW, if you're interested in a Hollywood version of this story, get your hands on the John Frankenheimer movie "Seven Days in May," which stars the great Burt Lancaster as the usurping general James Mattoon Scott and Kirk Douglass as his adversary Jiggs Casey. If that isn't enough star-power for you, Ava Gardner plays the love interest, Fredrick March plays the President and Martin Balsam plays the President's "fixer.")

In any event, MacArthur was given the floor of the US Senate to promulgate his message. That he should have had his way, invaded China, taken on the Russians, used nuclear weapons, to finish the "police action" in Korea. And that Truman and the State Department (in particular Secretary of State Dean Acheson) were in the thrall of communists.

The Senate heard and cross-examined MacArthur. It cross-examined each member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And in so doing the bloom fell off MacArthur's rose. He was widely discredited as a fanatical kook.

Here's my point. The Senate, as conceived by Alexander Hamilton, was meant to be a deliberative body. It was meant to be a group of people who pushed themselves away from the dinner table and gave themselves time to digest the issues of the day. It was meant to be a counter-balance to the whims and caprices of popular sentiments and notions. It was meant to balance out the House which is more susceptible to the mood of the nation. In other words, the Senate was meant to provide distance. A long view.

I often wonder who in agencies today has a long view. Who does not fall prey to the trend-du-jour. Who can measure, weigh and really think through an issue.

At the highest order of what agencies can do--when they are truly partnered with a client who wants a partnership--is provide guidance to a client to help them define their place in our market and our minds.

Brands should not chase trends like a hyper-active puppy chasing its tail. They should have principles and stand by them.

A real true "agent" of a client will help secure that.

There's too little of that in advertising today.

From clients and from agencies.

No comments: