Friday, April 06, 2007
The item above appeared in the Letters section of Adweek. The writer makes some interesting points; however, he’s technically wrong on a few notes.
Richard Smaglick asks, “Are ad agencies really so fearful of patriarchy that they can’t show a respectable father or husband?” The answer is no, but not for the reasons Smaglick might suspect. Ad agencies probably do a lousy job of showing respectable fathers and husbands for the same reason they do a lousy job of showing respectable minorities: cultural cluelessness.
Sadly, the industry that thrives on perpetuating stereotypes can’t even manage to accurately and/or positively depict the group comprising its own majority. Although to be fair, being male does not necessarily translate to being a father. And being a father — especially in a business where professional demands can lead to neglecting your family — does not mean you know how to be a respectable one.
To elaborate, many of the men in advertising may not yet be fathers. So these young turks more than likely create images based on sitcoms or perhaps even their own dysfunctional relationships with Daddy. Just as they’ll present racist stereotypes of minority groups based on a lack of personal insight, understanding and sensitivity, men in advertising have managed to let their narrow perspectives result in trashing father figures too. The same basic premise applies to the admen clocking 70+ hours per week on Madison Avenue — these sad patriarchs may be equally unaware of healthy parental characteristics.
Smaglick also charges “Madison Avenue is abusing its power because it has an agenda and because it sees itself as accountable to no socially accepted standard.”
The writer may be half right with this contention. As we’ve seen with the industry’s lethargic response to initiating diversity — opting instead to continue with blatant lies and covert racism — there is indeed a lack of accountability to socially accepted standards.
However, it’s unlikely Madison Avenue has an agenda. The truth is, the boys in charge are just plain ignorant.
Perhaps Richard Smaglick should team up with the New York City Commission on Human Rights and give admen a much-deserved spanking.