The Tao of Seifert: Code of conduct not exactly an ethical benchmark

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Well, it ain't "Confessions of an Advertising Woman," that's for sure.

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."


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

Download the entire 20-page document at, QwikFIND aaq89a

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