NAPLES, Fla. (AdAge.com) -- DDB Worldwide Chairman Keith Reinhard defined himself as a rule breaker, enemy of censorship and defender of free speech before telling agency leaders they are "solidly on the hook" for producing -- and often celebrating -- tasteless and offensive advertising.
"We need to change the message we are sending to the young people who represent the future of our industry," he said. "Too often, by the ads we honor we send a message to our aspiring creative stars that is disturbingly clear: The more rude and shocking you can be -- the more smart-ass potty humor or prurient sex you can get away with -- the more successful you'll be in advertising."
Sexually explicit shoe ad
While he was clearly reluctant to single out the work of rival agencies, Mr. Reinhard did present several examples of ads he believes crossed the line of good taste, including a sexually explicit print ad for Candie's shoes.
"We can't keep copping out by saying that compared to what goes on in prime-time television or the movies or the pages of our magazines, we still look pretty good," Mr. Reinhard said.
He added that standards will vary across companies, but that agency executives need to define boundaries and accept responsibility for their decisions. He called on members of creative-awards juries to understand that by the work they honor they are "setting our industry's standard for creative excellence."
'Stumble into the gutter'
He even encouraged journalists who cover the business to offer their "clear-eyed critiques when we stumble into the gutter."
"Taste and decency," he said, "is a choice we have to make."
~ ~ ~
Laura Petrecca, Laura Hughes and Scott Donaton contributed to this report.