|Photo: Jim Spellman|
Donny Deutsch is the chairman of Deutsch Inc. and host of CNBC's 'The Big Idea.' | ALSO: Comment on this article in the 'Your Opinion' box below.
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How Will Advertisers React to Imus' Comments?
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Don Imus doesn't matter here. They carried Imus out like they carried Kozlowski and Ebbers, like they carried Boesky out in '87. Whenever they take out one of the poster boys, it means it's a moment in time -- the end of an era. But forget the circus, forget the core cast of characters; the two stars here were the outcome and the rooting sections. Other than his circle of friends, it seemed most were rooting for Imus to be taken out on a stretcher, not just because of the tantalizing blood-sport appeal, but because this country is ready and begging to be a less hateful land.
Nice is becoming the new black.
Jerkiness, snarkiness, screaming, yelling and taunting are tired and old. I think Bill O'Reilly and Geraldo practically coming to blows on TV last week and then congratulating each other afterwards is passe. (By the way, speaking of O'Reilly, I owe him an apology. In a magazine interview a couple of years ago, I called him some horrible names. Who was I to say jerky things about this guy I didn't even know? I should have said, "Look, I disagree with most of what he has to say, respect his success, and disagree with his tone -- period." Sorry, Bill.)
I know you're thinking, "OK, we've followed this guy Deutsch over the years -- the 'industry bad boy' [I can't believe I just wrote that] -- and this guy is preaching about nice?"
Look, I've said and done some pretty jerky things over the years (like ripping my shirt off in an interview in this very magazine). I've tried to be a decent human being (like I believe 99% of folks have). Yet I could fill this page with jerky -- not hateful, but jerky -- things I've done or said (like I believe 99% of folks could). Maybe I'm seeing the world differently at 49, with my first child on the way. Maybe it was the bad pizza I ate last night.
Advertisers own the game
But I think hate and vitriol have jumped the shark. What we all figured out at the end of last week's Passion play were that the only votes that really mattered was not the politicians' nor the network execs'; they belonged to -- as everyone who reads this magazine knows -- the advertisers.
They voted, and they voted correctly. Because they had to. It was a no-brainer. When the letters arrived on the desks of the A.G. Lafleys, the Rick Wagoners, the Ken Chenaults, saying, "We will no longer buy your soaps, drive your cars, use your credit cards, if you continue to support this hate," it was game over.
Knowing many of these Fortune 100 CEOs beyond just their business acumen, I can say that you don't get to where these folks are without also being decent human beings. I believe these CEOs, as people, parents and Little League coaches, are sick of it. And they spoke.
Call to action
And guess what? You top 100 advertising folks in this country control 100 billion ad dollars -- and that means you can make a change. We all know you can slice and dice a media plan any which way. You never need a program; a program needs you, as last week clearly proved.
Tell your chief marketing officers: "Hey, folks -- just put your thinking caps on when spending your ad dollars." Does this mean we're anointing the CMOs as the culture police in this country? No. Merely suggest to them that, as folks whose job it is to figure out where we're going vs. where we are, hate media is starting to run its course. Use your conscience; use the marketplace.
Oh, and by the way, if after a year or so Mr. Imus has truly experienced how hate ruins lives firsthand, see what he does with his life. If behavior and deeds truly suggest a changed man motivated by conscience and enlightenment, not just job survival, give him another chance. It would be the nice thing to do.