LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

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The editorial "Banned by Bentonville" (Viewpoint, AA, May 12) reveals Advertising Age's blatant bias toward almost uninhibited freedom for marketers to sell whatever is legal, even if it is not moral and decent.

In taking Maxim, Stuff and FHM, which feature salacious headlines, photos of near-nude models and raunchy humor, off the magazine racks and kicking them out of its stores, Wal-Mart was, in fact, listening to its customers. Within the past two years, several major chains (Kroger, Food Lion, Big Y and others as well) have responded to pro-family groups' requests by putting blinders over sexually explicit covers so that only the magazines' titles are visible.

Wal-Mart is fulfilling its ethical obligation to society, i.e., being "socially responsible," by doing what is right, just and fair. They are not being "taste arbiters," as the editorial suggests, but preservers of common standards of decency, especially for our children. To carp about "taste" and "arts and expression," as the editorial does, implies relativistic standards under which there are no holds barred.

Geoffrey P. Lantos

Professor of Business Administration

Stonehill College

North Easton, Mass.

Wal-Mart has right to make value choices

I take it from "Banned by Bentonville" (Viewpoint, AA, May 12) that Advertising Age believes freedom, particularly artistic freedom, is under attack by Wal-Mart. And because Wal-Mart is the largest retailer, it must not make value choices.

To that I say, "Bunk!" on both counts. The artists who choose cutting-edge material have the right to do so. Wal-Mart has to right to sell it or not sell it. Freedom is such a funny thing, isn't it? Do freedoms only apply to the ones that are counter-culture or do we all have freedom?

If the customers are unhappy with Wal-Mart's decisions to carry or not carry certain items, the customers will shop elsewhere. Wal-Mart may be the largest retailer, but it isn't the only retailer. Uncomfortable cutting-edge (Ad Age's words) pop-culture products will find their sales outlets like they always have. Consumers who want to purchase them will find the outlets.

Linda Ballew-Johnson

Macungie, Pa.

Ann Fudge atop Y&R step in right direction

As the founder and president of the Lagrant Foundation, whose mission is to increase the number of ethnic minorities in the fields of advertising, marketing and public relations by providing scholarships, career-development workshops, enrichment programs, professional development, mentors and internships to African-Americans, American Indians/Native Americans, Asian-Pacific Americans and Hispanics/Latinos, I cannot tell you how excited I was to hear that the renowned Ann Fudge has assumed the title of chairman-CEO of Young & Rubicam. This is clearly a step in the right direction. A long time coming, however. Ms. Fudge is not only the first African-American woman to run a general-market agency, but the first person of color.

She is highly qualified and skilled to lead Y&R to an entirely new level. My hat's off to her! She is indeed a role model for many of us in the business. It gives a sense of hope to young people of color that they can reach the top. I hope this will be more of an indication of the "predominately white" advertising world seeking and promoting people of color in positions of an influence and leadership.

Kim L. Hunter

Founder/President

Lagrant Foundation

Los Angeles

Mr. Hunter is president-CEO, Lagrant Communications, Los Angeles.

Faulty parallels between Rx and consumer ads

Re: "Rx ads mired in `50s tactics" (Viewpoint, AA, May 5). While we can all agree the goal of pharmaceutical marketing is building sustainable brand equity and sustaining customer relationships, there's a danger in drawing too many consumer parallels, as the Jif peanut butter analogy in Jay Woffington's Forum essay attempts to do.

First, we're talking about patients. No one wants to buy Rx products. They need them for health reasons. Patients are worried about spreading illness, not peanut butter.

Second, the relationship and bond between patient and brand is not one-on-one as with package goods. It is threefold-between physician, patient and brand. Rx branding must foster an impetus to see a physician and motivate a dialogue between audiences. There must be a synergy between the professional and patient promotion to create the push-pull for brand success. And that's a modern-day branding strategy-not a 1950s tactic. Furthermore, there are billion-dollar health-care brands to validate the value of this strategy.

Third, we can learn more from Jif than the "spreadable love" insight-such as that moms who want to do the best for their families need to know the danger of peanut-butter allergies, and what to look for. Consumers need to be informed of disease states and everyday health issues. Education is an integral responsibility of today's health-care marketers. And effective advertising can't overlook efficacy. You won't feel good about an Rx product if you don't feel better.

Lastly, as for Rx advertising just screaming a name and little more. If you had two minutes of side effects mandated with a greater product benefit disclosure, you might not ever start a great relationship between brand and patient. That's a modern-day strategic insight, too.

Choosy pharmaceutical marketers choose agencies that understand that Rx advertising is not the same as advertising consumer packaged goods. Sure, we can all learn lessons from each other. But the kitchen counter and the prescription counter are two very different places.

Robin Davenport

Exec VP-Executive Creative Director

Sudler & Hennessey

New York

Correction

* In "Hershey ups Kisses budget" (May 19, P. 4), Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide, New York, was incorrectly identified as the agency for Kisses. WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York, handles the brand.

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