Media X: Scam and Circumstance

The week began promisingly, with the prospect of a vicious ad industry bloodbath. The stage was set for a brawl between Nancy "Huh? What?" Hill and George "Drunk, Angry and Envious Is a Great Way to Go Through Life" Parker.

But no. The one thing that never changes is that ad creatures are all bark and no bite, so no go on the showdown.

Last week at the 4A's annual Leadership Conference -- and isn't that title an irony overdose -- Hill, CEO of the ad industry's version of "Les Miserables," went after the inexplicably well-read ad blogger. Without naming him, she singled out Parker as an example of the negativity of all 4A's-hatin' online ad bloggers.

Who are legion.

Hill did this, in large part, by pointing out and dismissing all of Parker's trademark bits, including "Big Dumb Agencies," "well-intentioned" rants and a variation of the English insult "wanker," which the Cambridge Dictionaries Online helpfully notes comes from a verb that means "to excite your own or someone else's sex organs by hand."



You'd think that would provoke Parker. I certainly hoped it would.

But no. He seemed to think he was being complimented. Posted a link to Hill's speech on his Adscam blog. Said it was "pretty funny."

Parker is often entertaining, but he's not a real critic. He's just a cranky senior up in the Idaho woods with the Nazis and the Mormons and the elk, longing for his old ad industry. The one with Big Smart Agencies that treated women like canapés, thought minorities made great janitors, deliberately pitched poison to millions, enabled abusive, narcissistic CEOs and creative directors, produced lousy advertising except for a handful of famous exceptions, and believed that accountability was for suckers.

The 4As, meanwhile, continues to be the funniest act on the bill. You'd think the group and its, ahem, "leaders," would be provoked to do something smart. I certainly hoped they would.

But no. A real insight wouldn't stick to this crew if you staple-gunned it to their foreheads.

I have a few suggestions, though.

For starters, 4As, stop shooting the messengers and dump the outdated arrogance. It prevents you from making real, painful adjustments in the way you do business. And anyway, you have nothing to be arrogant about anymore.

Secondly, start using public relations wisely, because up to now, every time you open your mouth, you choke on your foot. For example, you don't handle negative press by being defensive and whiny. On the contrary, calling out Parker publicly gives his one-sided arguments credibility they rarely deserve and would never earn on their own.

And you don't show how forward-thinking you are by going backward and combining your management and media conferences into one big annual clusterfuck, which the group also announced last week. Those two species of executives have evolved into ferocious competitors, fighting a total war for the top spot on the marketing food chain. They will not play nice.

Even Ad Age noted the absurdity of bringing media and creative agency heads together, cracking wise about how merging the two groups was "rebundling."

Then again, maybe we'll get to see that industry bloodbath after all.

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