Advertising: Oh No, We’re McBama!

One night, while getting my overdose of election coverage, I learned that Obama was having an identity crisis. Wow, I’m shocked. Barack Hussein Obama? The African-American-looking man with the white mother and Muslim history who was born in Indonesia and grew up in Hawaii? The honor student from the Harvard Law Review who helped develop low-income housing in Chicago before running for leader of the free world? An identity crisis? If he has an identity crisis, I’m Reese Witherspoon.

Well, it got me thinking — and that’s never a good thing.

What if advertising was a presidential candidate? Think about it: We’re always asking people to vote, whether we’re talking to consumers, CEOs or CMOs.

So, is advertising more like Obama, the candidate of change — the man who wants to break with the past to get to a better future?

Or does the business more closely resemble John McCain, the candidate of experience — the elderly patriot with ideas and friends from the past that remind us too much of the present? A heroic and battle-tested veteran and let me tell you something, “my friends,” he’s even handling those flashbacks better these days. 

OK, we’re obviously the hip, young, cool guy. We’re Obama.

After all, who talks about change more than we do?

Plus, Obama’s all about inclusion — and who talks about inclusion more than us?

I bet I could walk into any Starbucks and catch a panel discussion with various agency staffers from “diversity action teams” talking about the need for more minority representation in advertising.

That’s it, we’re definitely Obama. I’m done, thanks for playing.

Wait … just one 15-second pod. It’s not that black and white.

Now, I happen to work at one of the most globally diverse agencies I’ve ever seen. An impressive array of cultures deliberately assembled. I’m very proud of that. In fact, I carry six Berlitz books with me at all times. And I know there are other agencies similar to ours.

However, for most of our industry, executive meetings still look like Thanksgiving dinner at the Osmonds, sans Marie.

Well, if three-quarters of our industry still doesn’t mirror life, then our campaign bumper sticker is going to say: “Advertising. Change for a quarter.” And who’s going to put that on his or her BMW?

OK, so diversity, from a minority viewpoint, is taking far too long to achieve. I have no solution or reason why — but it has.

Perhaps the recent surge of global diversity will lead to a renewed “sexiness” in the world of advertising, making us an industry of choice for the best talent in the world — and that includes everyone.

Imagine, true diversity that leads us back to “sexiness.”

That’s would be real change. I like it.

Unfortunately, the candidate of change always crashes into the establishment.

Compensation, the key to change, hasn’t really changed; the writer/art director team system, a blockade to change, hasn’t really changed. (Hint: if at the very least, an inspiring and creative media person isn’t sitting at the table early in the process, much less sitting in your building, or if the closest thing you have to an expert in entertainment is a writer who does stand-up at night, you’re not changing today.)

As a candidate, advertising is neither Obama nor McCain.

We’re a youthful face with a long, heroic history. The candidate who has been tortured by sinking economies and world events but hasn’t given in. We’re also the candidate of change(ing).

Maybe slower than most people want — but every year, we’re making more progress than the last.