Marketing’s Crisis of Morality?

business_ethics_highlights_2This reflection on the evolving ethics of the advertising industry may be amusing to cynics (because it suggests that the advertising industry has, or at least had, ethics), but is actually a serious consideration of the perhaps eroding relationship between agencies and their clients. It could be used to initiate a classroom discussion about professional norms in advertising, client service, and (il)legitimate client expectations. It’s also good for the reference and link to Leo Burnett’s famous “When to Take My Name Off the Door” speech. >>>

LINK: How a crisis of morality is slowly killing marketing (by Bruce Philp for Canadian Business)

A few years ago, when I was departing the ad agency I’d co-founded, a friend sent me the link to an obscure YouTube video entitled When to Take My Name Off the Door. The scratchy black and white film records the 1967 farewell speech of advertising legend Leo Burnett. “When you are no longer what Thoreau called a corporation with a conscience,” Burnett admonished his firm, “when you begin to compromise your integrity…stoop to convenient expediency and rationalize yourself into acts of opportunism for the sake of a fast buck,” he thundered, “[I’ll] demand you take my name off the door.”

Recently, even this modest idealism seems about as fashionable as Leo’s diction. Consider the case of an AB InBev agency review in London last spring. When InBev asked candidate firms how much extra work they’d be willing to do without compensation and how much longer than the company’s already astonishing 120-day payment terms agencies would be willing to wait for their money, the ad biz was in high dudgeon. Leading shops proposed a strike, denying the prestigious client access to the industry’s best talent.

It was a nice idea. But, as satisfying as the notion of showing some backbone may have been, InBev’s cynical bet on the industry’s ethics turned out to be well placed. The “strike” was sheepishly abandoned before it had begun.

What do you think?


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