Why does the public look at advertising people as the dregs of the business world? The answer, I believe, is that the public is exposed to a large portion of trash that goes by the name of advertising. It looks like advertising. It sounds like advertising. It appears in the public media as paid for time or space. So, as far as the public is concerned, it is advertising.
You and I know that it is not "our" advertising. It is a nightly barrage of carpet merchants, car dealers and retailers hawking their wares. It is a gaggle of credit dentists and lawyers offering to terrorize your victimizers. It is your wannabe politicians lying, slandering and despoiling the countryside. And this is what the public sees as advertising.
The American Association of Advertising Agencies, American Advertising Federation, Asso-ciation of National Advertisers and National Advertising Review Council should consider creating a service mark that would identify advertising created in compliance with the codes of ethics endorsed by these organizations. Perhaps, it would be a mark that communicates truth in advertising. It would appear in a prescribed position in each media communication.
The mark and the advertising and public relations that support it would help to differentiate ethical communications that have been subjected to standards from communications that have not been subjected to standards. Caveat emptor might be a good slogan for such a project.
The reactions of peers in the advertising industry have been kind but "we all have more important things to worry about." Maybe one reason why profits are down, stock prices are down and budgets are shrinking is that the advertising business no longer has the modest respect that it once had.
If we are not, as an industry and as individuals, willing to defend our reputation, we might as well change the name of advertising to Lying, Screaming and Bullshitting. That's what too much of the public thinks of us now.
Adjunct Professor of Business Administration
College of William & Mary
Editor's note: Mr. Fitzpatrick, before retiring in 1998, held a series of top agency posts at Interpublic Group of Cos., including chief creative officer at two shops as well as exec VP of McCann-Erickson Worldwide and vice chairman of McCann-Erickson North America.
Globalizing businesses need the right balance
Congratulations to Scott Bedbury for his article "Brands in new world" (Forum, AA, Feb. 4). As a "victim" of the so-called global-ization, and also of "European-ization," his opinion impressed me very much. It is not very common to read such things in this American magazine. I totally agree with him, and I believe that globalization has more good than bad things. But we have to find the right balance between Gore Vidal's theories and the profit ones.
Besides that "social role" that companies should search for, and that Scott Bedbury defends, I think it is very important that U.S. advertising people understand the profound power they have in shaping the world through their advertising. Many people working on Madison Avenue don't know (or even don't care) that what they create will be spread all over the world.
Altruism has its costs unless it helps profits
In "Brands in new world" (Forum, AA, Feb. 4), Scott Bedbury implies it is somehow wrong to elevate bottom-line profitability above environmental impact and a firm's societal contributions. He is abso-lutely correct regarding environ-mental degradation, which causes harm to others and is therefore immoral. However, for publicly held firms to spend stockholders' money on improving the quality of life is also unethical. Such altruistic activity bestows benefits for the general welfare at the expense of the groups for whom the firm should care: shareholders (who pay with lower shareholder wealth), employees (who pay with lower pay) and/or customers (who pay through higher prices). Only when corporate philanthropy enhances profits via its public-relations value is it ethically justifiable as a win-win situation is created for all of these stakeholder groups. Unfortunately, too often corporate do-gooders are simply on a personal public relations ego trip.
Geoffrey P. Lantos
Professor of Business Administration
North Easton, Mass.
Truth about `Talk'
I loved Scott Donaton's assessment of the death of Talk magazine ("Blame death of `Talk' on lack of big idea, not the recession," Viewpoint, AA, Jan. 28). It was a totally insightful evaluation of a publishing event that's been reported incorrectly by journalists who are not so savvy about this publishing business. This was not a noble experiment and 9/11 was not the reason for its demise. Thanks for telling the truth, and for acknowledging the amazing achievement of Martha Stewart.
New Business Development
American Express Custom Publishing
* In "HP feud reinvents M&A ad rules" (Feb. 18, P. 1), the identity of Walter Hewlett's ad agency was omitted. The agency is Gardner Geary Coll, San Francisco.
* In "Shattock earned biz chops driving tanks for U.K. Army," (Feb. 18, P. 19), an incorrect photograph was used due to a production error. A correct photo of Matt Shattock, Unilever's chief operating officer, is shown here.