Isn't It Time to Stop the Madness and Cut the Perks?

Otherwise, Like Marie Antoinette, We'll Face a Corporate Mob With Flaming Pitchforks

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Think of the planes that made their way back home from Beijing a few weeks ago: business-class sections full of marketing execs, media types, agency bigwigs and all of the assorted retainers who qualified for inclusion in one of the year's best perks.

Like royals returning to Versailles, did their associates greet them happily and obediently or did they catch grumbles of revolution?

Marketers enjoy perks that are so ingrained in our lifestyles that we pretty much take them for granted: expensive dinner meetings, catered brainstorms, getaways to locations more conducive to creativity.

Jonathan Salem Baskin
Jonathan Salem Baskin runs Baskin Associates, a global brand consultancy, and blogs at Dim Bulb.
The deal just gets better the higher up you get on the food chain, doesn't it? Tickets to luxury boxes at sports events. Signed balls, golf pullovers and other swag for our offices and for our kids. Meeting the stars. Going to the Olympics or the Super Bowl or a Rolling Stones concert. Anything our brands can sponsor, we can make into a perk.

So while the folks in operations try to shave seconds off customer-service calls or wring hundredths of a cent from manufacturing, we order another bottle of wine when we meet with our ad agencies. Not always, and perhaps not as often as we did a few years ago, but it's more the norm than the exception.

Our work is different from all other departments'. They penny-pinch because, well, that's what they do. What we do soars far beyond their numbers -- remember, these are the same folks who chronically complain that they don't "get" the why or what of our bold commitment to spending money on branding -- so we deserve what we get, just like they deserve their lot, too.

So who cares if they grumble? Well, as Marie Antoinette showed us, ignorance is no excuse before an angry mob armed with flaming pitchforks. The other corporate departments might tire of their forced thrift. Maybe our 20-something new hires will balk at our wanton disregard for more responsible behavior. Our CEOs might decide it's just not good PR and force us to cut back on our servings of cake.

We can't let that happen, of course. We're the experts, dammit, and if we can't come up with a way to creatively brand our lifestyles, then what good are we?

I'd like to propose an informal Manhattan Project, with this goal: How do we cover up our champagne lifestyle when the people around us are trying to make do on beer budgets? There's this thing called a recession happening, or so I'm told, so we kinda have to get moving on it.

More important, the Super Bowl is only four months away.

Questions about: Execs

PRODUCTIVITY: How can we get lots done when we're away?

SELECTION: Can we ID things we're willing to cut first?

DEMOCRATIZATION: Can we share the perks more broadly?

ACCOUNTABILITY: Might better metrics on sponsorship help defend expenses?
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