Certainly you all remember that recent Association of National Advertisers annual meeting at which PepsiCo's Brad Jakeman trashed the ad business and the ad agencies within for being outdated, lacking diversity and running on dinosaur fumes.
He also took issue with diversity, or the lack thereof, saying, "I am sick and tired as a client of sitting in agency meetings with a whole bunch of white straight males talking to me about how we are going to sell our brands that are bought 85% by women. Innovation and disruption does not come from homogeneous groups of people."
Motivity Marketing CEO Kevin Ryan took issues with Jakeman's remarks and blasted him in an iMedia Connection column for being out of touch with reality and seemingly living on another planet.
Ryan notes not all agencies are bad and his just shy of 20-year experience has been very different, writing, "My meetings are full of color, culture, and walks of life. You want to know why? I seek it out. I look for that experience, and I hire people with that in mind. It's not any more complicated than that and anyone looking to make it so, is looking for headlines and click bait, not a genuine experience."
Of his experiences with diversity in the advertising workplace, Ryan wrote, "I've only been in the business for just a shade under two decades, but I'm living in a different world. My world is filled with powerful male and female role models of all colors, shapes, and sizes. My first CEO was not of the white guy persuasion (though I wouldn't have faulted him for being so), and she serves as an inspiration for me today. Sir, get your head out of the dark place and execute change. Don't just sell it to me."
Oh and Kevin didn't stop there, continuing, "All of this sanctimonious marketing hegemony would be so much easier to take if weren't coming from the guy trying to sell watered down sugar at a thousand percent markup. So much of the world lacks clean drinking water and the guy selling the nutritional equivalent of poison is bagging on my industry. There's a metaphor for the modern age for you."
Angry words or harsh reality? Typically pontification from on high at a marketing conference is filled with over simplified bombastic statements that, well, sound a bit like a certain Presidential candidate on the campaign trail. Usually a dose of reality is needed to counterbalance the sensationalism.
Ryan also urges big wigs like Jakeman who are tired of working with aging, monolithic agencies to give the little guys a chance. He raises issues of procurement, payment terms and spec work as barriers which should be lifted.
So which is it. Is the ad business still a bunch of white straight guys clinging for dear life to old paradigms or are there pockets of progress and transformation?