Tuesday, November 6, 2012

An advertising failure.

A little less than 12 years ago, after the 2000 Bush-Gore voting debacle, I was working on the IBM account and well-connected with people at Ogilvy who were well-connected to the most eminent people at IBM.

I had a cockamamie idea that it would make sense for IBM to lead a nationwide campaign for modernizing America's voting system. (I'm sure "modernizing" isn't the right word, because our system is so obsolete modernizing would still leave it short. As firing people is now called "right-sizing," perhaps up-dating our voting system should be called "right-teching.")

I thought if IBM led such an effort--a cause, in effect--it would make a number of positive statements about the company that would help its brand. Not only would IBM look politically small "d" democratic, it would speak to both their leadership and their technological prowess.

The idea was embraced at Ogilvy and went up to the CEO of IBM who, politely I'm told, appreciated it but summarily rejected it as too politically charged.

Anyway, now it's three elections later and our systems are more backward than ever.

Entering a church basement or a school lunchroom to vote is like an episode of "The Twilight Zone." You walk through a door and enter a different century.

I guess there's an advertising point here.

To my mind, advertising agencies should lead industries (and perhaps the nation) to a better place. I believe that the highly-paid CEOs of holding companies should be speaking out against the lack of fact-checking in politicians' commercials. Literally billions of dollars are spent on ads that are subject to less verification and substantiation and regulation than an ad for furniture polish.

It's our job as an industry, I believe, to speak and promulgate the truth.

It's our job to lead. Not to be lead.

There is much blather about the death of the traditional agency "model," and so on. I think what has died is spine, intelligence and leadership.

We are so busy chasing the specious new, new thing that we have completely forgotten the old, important verities.

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