Category Archives: culture

Happy Labor Day

I always remember my father with fondness on this day because of his tenacious embrace of the labor movement.

As the American economy becomes more and more service based we may forget labor’s historical gravity. The first Labor Day celebration was on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, promoted by the Central Labor Union. The Union held its second Labor Day celebration the next year on September 5, 1883. Labor Day has been celebrated on the first Monday of September ever since. Its launch came at a time when America was moving into the industrial revolution and the conditions of workers were often difficult.

My dad, a WWII vet, frequently teased me about Rosie the Riveter and powerful women. I was young and didn’t understand how much her iconic image meant to him. I’m guessing that in some small (and not so small) ways I must have reminded him of the power she signified. Doing a little research on her image this morning, I learned a few things I didn’t know before.

There were two iconic Rosies.

Rosie Riveter norman rockwellThe first Rosie – the one most of us remember – was painted by J. Howard Miller. He was commissioned by Westinghouse to make a series of posters promoting the war effort. Miller inspired the Saturday Evening Post, whose covers tended toward civic inspiration. With WWII raging the Post hired Norman Rockwell. Rockwell’s Rosie appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post (May 29, 1943). It was the Memorial Day issue. She’s muscular and dressed for a hard day’s work, just like the Rosie most of us might recall. We also know she’s Rosie because of the name inscribed on her lunch pail. However, what might surprise many of you, as it did me, this Rosie is stepping on a copy of Adolph Hitler’s book Mein Kampf. Now this is serious symbolic propaganda.

We_Can_Do_It! J. Howard MillerOn the heels of Post’s highly successful cover, stories about real life Rosies began appearing in newspapers across America. The U.S. government took advantage of Rosie’s popularity and embarked on a recruiting campaign named after her. The campaign, done by J. Walter Thompson under the auspices of the Advertising Council, used J. Howard Miller’s Rosie. The campaign brought millions of women into the workforce. To this day, Rosie the Riveter is considered one of the most successful government advertising campaign in history. On May 25, 2012 the Ad Council threw a 70th Birthday Bash for Rosie, noting that Rosie the Riveter remains an enduring emblem of empowerment for women everywhere.

Dad, thanks for teaching me the value of a hard day’s work. I miss you.

Happy Labor Day everyone!

Jean

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relevant, simple, human ideas

Book smallOur 4th edition of Advertising Creative is out! It reflects growing digital integration with a stand-alone chapter on mobile and a plethora of new images. We also expanded our survival guide offering practical advice for multicultural creatives breaking into the business as well as tips for millennials, the next generation of advertising professionals. Here’s what some influential industry folks have to say about your latest edition

“From ideating to execution Advertising Creative is the ultimate guide to walk you through the critical steps of a 21st century campaign.” Laura Agostini, Chief Talent Officer, J. Walter Thompson, New York

Advertising Creative “helps us understand the complexities of an industry that needs culturally relevant, simple and human ideas.” Leila El-Kayem, Founder & Creative Director, The Adventures Of, Berlin

“A new standard for integrated marketing in the digital age.” James Kulp, Vice President, Account Director, Wunderman West, Los Angeles

“An engaging text about today’s hyper-empowered consumer that offers a roadmap for survival for advertising, public relations and digital professionals.” Thomas Gensemer, Chief Strategy Officer, Burson-Marsteller, New York

Pick up a copy and help us celebrate!

Jean

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Beirut

You must be the change you wish to see in the world. Mahatma Gandhi

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Hermosas Palabras. Beautiful Words.

I am revising the final chapter – the survival chapter – for the fourth edition of Advertising Creative. In this chapter we speak the truth about the challenges women and minority creatives will face in advertising. To do this well, one has to go to the source. So I reached out to my friend Laurence Klinger, EVP Chief Creative Officer at Lapiz. True to who he is, Laurence did not provide me with his words. Rather he reached out to the talented team of creatives who work at Lapiz.

I am humbled by the power, wisdom and beauty of their words.

Embrace your competitive advantage and believe in yourself. When someone asks you where you want to be in 5 years – reach for the stars, not the next level.  ANNETTE FONTE

Women and minorities should speak more and loud! Their opinion always comes with a different perspective and it is normally undermined because of prejudice. GUILLERMO BETANCOURT

Studies have shown time and time again well-sounding advice -“lean in,” “speak up,” or “act like a man” – usually ends up in the same result: harsh consequences for said minority/woman. I think the best thing we can do is get the Quintessential Man in Power to open up his eyes about his own biases and prejudices. INES BELLINA

The game is rigged right now against both minorities and women. There is no way of succeeding in advertising in the same way as a White male. Change begins when we acknowledge how gender roles are fostered in families. KELLI SZYMCZAC

It’s on us, women, to take the lead in voicing our opinions, our dreams and aspirations, as well as, pushing back and questioning the “norm.” ISABELA VILLALOBOS

To prepare for success women and minorities need to learn how to negotiate. NATHALY GAMINO

Your standard of work (and of self-presentation in general) needs to be higher than that of other people. FELIPE DIAZ ARANGO

More exposure of actual or current women and minority creative leaders is essential to grow a new base of leaders. They cannot be what they cannot see. DIEGO FIGUEROA

In order to prepare women for success in leadership, we have to first break down these preconfigured stereotypes. In order to do this, we must promote workplace equality and build the awareness that women are equally capable of performing the role typically assigned to a man. TERESA CUEVAS

Women and minorities in creative need to have more mentors (guides who are willing to aid their development) and sponsors (people in power who are willing to advance their careers). From day one. RENETTA MCCANN

Give women (and minorities) projects to lead and ask them to get creative, that you want to be surprised, and they are the ones to do it. CRISTINA GRIECO
Working together, we are a big number of the population and therefore a real power, a real change. I believe that if women help others, we can change the power structure of our world and expand opportunities for all. LUCILLE GRATACOS

Being self-aware is key. Maybe college should focus a bit more on helping women and minorities find their inner strengths and develop their confidence. ANA MATTA

I hope my class on Gender in Advertising for the Inside/Out and the fourth edition of Advertising Creative begin that process.

Jean

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Educational Opportunity for All

This really does matter.

Vicki Madden’s op-ed in today’s New York Times is worth a read. As she says, “In spite of our collective belief that education is the engine for climbing the socioeconomic ladder — the heart of the ‘American dream’ myth — colleges now are more divided by wealth than ever.”

Joanna Neborsky

Joanna Neborsky, New York Times

Do only the wealthy have bright, inquisitive minds? I think not.

I am first generation college having grown up in a blue-collar, middle income family. As I graduated from high school earning a PhD was not something on my horizon. However, after an adventurous journey involving three prior careers – two of which involved the advertising industry – and four institutions of higher education, here I am. Yet today, for young people of modest means, the climb up the educational ladder is steeper, longer and fraught with many more challenges. In fact, from 1990-2012 there has been little change in the enrollment of students with less resources. Moving forward it looks as though little will change.

Successful advertising involves speaking to consumers with a resonant voice. How can we do this when the industry does not reflect the diversity of the American cultural landscape? (Nor does it reflect the diversity of the global cultural landscape.) Change must involve a serious commitment to hiring a diverse pool of talent.  Change must also involve a commitment to getting behind educational opportunities for all. That, in fact, may be our next biggest challenge.

Jean

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Czechs: The Code of Contradiction

I say black. You say white.                                                                                                                                               You say beer. I say wine.                                                                                                                                                        I say happy. You say sad.                                                                                                                                                You say dog. I say cat.

And always with a knowing wink and an ironic nod.

 

McCann croppedThis is the Czech Republic. A country and culture of contradictions, the meanings of which are often inaccessible to outsiders. For the past ten days I have immersed myself in the Czech Republic. I explored Prague (it is too beautiful to miss), Brno (it is too desolate to disregard) and Beroun (it is too quiet to forego), each with ethnographic treasurers abound. I visited three ad agencies: Leo Burnett, McCann and Ogilvy – Agency of the Year, and two global clients: Mondelez and Unilever.

The more I learn about Czech culture the more normal the awards wall at McCann appears.

It is my third visit and still the cultural contrasts, the irony of nearly all things surprise me. This land was invaded and occupied during World War II, and on and off in the centuries that preceded the war. World War II was followed by a brief glimpse of democracy from 1945-48. Then communism arrived. Not until the velvet revolution of 1989 did the Czechs breathe anatomy and freedom. Its history fuels a deep and abiding cultural distrust, with displays of apathy from silence to brusque irony. But the truth behind these markers is not what you think.

As Clotaire Rapaille, author of The Culture Code, has said, people do not tell you what they actually think. Czechs are no different. But they are more extreme in this regard. No self-respecting Czech will tell you his or her personal truth. In fact, no self-respecting Czech is even likely to admit to speaking English, unless they are working and it is required or they know you. And even then, there will always be a wink and a nod.

This is not just an us versus them behavior. It is a cultural norm that pervades interactions among themselves. I once termed it “cultural shyness.” It may be. But on my third visit I have come to think of it as an all too knowing nod to the absurdity of their history, to life as they know it.

It shows itself in their advertising with over the top ironic self-deprecating humor. Consider Bohemia chips sending a Czech guy to Austin Texas, behaving ridiculously while handing out bags of Czech potato chips unavailable in America. It bubbles up in a barrage of characters and creators in sectors we Americans would never dream of. How about a cheetah (think Tony the Tiger) for Gepard mortgage services? And it reveals itself in the repackaging of the Clavin capsule (Czech Viagra) in the upright position. These are Czech, spreading joy wherever they go.

BrnoSuffice to say that the contradictions that surround you as you travel this lush land are beloved. They amuse the Czechs. And so, there is no surprise when riding the bus across the country the attendant rattles on in Czech, while the screen in front of you provides the following English translation: “Dear Passengers, please pay attention to the announcements that is being broadcast. Thank you.” You smile and think, but of course.

Nor was I surprised when in Brno two beautiful baroque buildings frame a lovely modernist structure. Indeed its colors compliment its neighbors and the rectangular shapes on the facade rather musically play off the windows of the adjoining buildings. Yet, it is a massive contradiction to the nearby structures. It is so Czech. B Esclator

In the end it is the escalators in Prague’s metros that perfectly signify the Czech cultural code of contradiction. The stairs move at one speed, while the rail travels at an all together different speed. But, of course, it is subtle. Keep your feet on the step and your hand on the rail and – with a wink and a nod – you will arrive at your destination on your face or your derriere, surly not upright.

In the Czech Republic you must always chose. In the metro the Czech generally choose their feet.

Jean

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Observational Stew

Prague is not the Czech Republic. This any seasoned ethnographer knows. However, it is a hard concept for students to grasp. Or perhaps they simply fell in love with Prague. This I understand.

BensovTo shake them loose I crafted an ethnographic experience outside of Prague. Dividing them in half my assistant, Alex, and I boarded two trains heading in different directions. Alex headed to Benešov (photo on the right), a former political meeting hub to the southwest. I set off for Beroun (two photos below), an old German merchant and garrison town east of Prague.

The goal, cook up observational stew. With four specific tasks they spent two hours exploring the town, collecting observations and cooking up insights to craft a town cultural code.

B FlowersOne, conduct detailed sensory observations. What does the town’s architecture look like? What do the streets feel like under your feet? What are the sounds of the town? What scents do you encounter? What does the food taste like?

Two, behaviorally document the people. What types of people are in town? How do they interacting with others or are they alone? What are they wearing? What is the cadence of their speech?

B StreetThree, interview the town’s people. Find out what it emotionally means to them. We wished them luck. It’s hard enough to get people in Prague to speak with you. Now imagine a town where few speak English! This task required tenacity and patience.

Four, photographically documenting the town and its inhabitants.

Once they collected their observations and cooked them into a stew of delicious observational insights they worked to define a town culture code. For Beroun, my students decided the cultural code was “library.” Learn why and check out more about the process on my class blog.

Jean

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