After all, it'd be tough to classify any text that mentions "being thrown under the bus" on its first page as much of a mea culpa. You could even say that Shona Seifert's "Proposed Code of Conduct for the Advertising Industry" works as a code in only the loosest sense of that word. The 18-page document, written on orders from a federal judge following her conviction on fraud charges, does offer up some vague ethical guidelines, which, depending on your level of moral decrepitude, you may find useful. A sample: "Speak Up." "Stay True to Your Values." And then there's that old chestnut: "Don't Break the Law."
Of course, we have to go a bit easy on Ms. Seifert, who has never claimed to be a jurist or policymaker. What she is is a businesswoman who has lived in a world that too often regards the most serious crimes as the failure to succeed or innovate. Hence, the code's dedication page begins with a rallying call to fellow strivers, "To Frontliners Everywhere."
ON THE FRONT
There she writes: "If you are a frontliner you are more likely to find yourself in the line of fire. And it may be better for others that you take a bullet." Later, she writes, "It is true that senior management relies on the frontline as its first defense. It is also true that if you are a frontliner you may be relied upon to assume a position in the line of fire." It's safe to say these pages will be parsed by her former colleagues at Ogilvy & Mather.
Ms. Seifert is clearly addressing her own kind here. Ms. Seifert was ever the frontliner as a crucial player in Ogilvy's 1999 win of the White House's anti-drug account. After running the high-profile account for years, she would eventually run TBWA/Chiat/Day's then-struggling New York office until her indictment and conviction.
Ms. Seifert is likely speaking from beyond the professional grave. Yet she still writes often in a manner you'd expect from an ad woman. The tone is more motivational than moralizing, and the style is clipped. She doles out her counsel in bite-sized chunks, mixes with quotes from a variety of thinkers, from Jack Welch, to Dwight David Eisenhower, to Benjamin Franklin.
One line could even serve as tagline for her sad saga. "Boring work has never resulted in a prison sentence. Poor timekeeping practices have."
What she said
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