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A new print and outdoor ad campaign for Skyy Vodka depicts a woman clad in red leather tights and high heels getting ... um ... poked by a vodka bottle. The Marin Institute watchdog Bruce Lee Livingston said: "This is just ridiculous, it's porn-a-hol. Underage kids will look at this and associate sexual prowess with drinking Skyy."

Well, duh. Alcohol does increase sexual prowess but we guess that's besides the point. Livingston thinks the advertising industry can't regulate itself and said: "The FTC should be all over this."

The branding expert Steven Addis thinks the ad is crass and told USA Today: "It's just jamming a bottle in a woman's crotch. A great ad uses heart or mind. This one's starting below the waist."


Putting people first probably sounds the most bleeding obvious thing a planner has ever written. But while it may be, it's something we often forget. Great strategy, and great ideas, form a bridge between what people are interested in and what you as a company and a brand are interested in. I don't think there's any better example of this than Tate Tracks, probably my favourite bit of communication of the past five years.

This notion, though, of putting people first is increasingly important in a world where brands and ideas are abundant, and a culture that is increasingly participatory (Charles Vallance made the brilliant observation that we live in an uploading culture today rather than a downloading culture). This means you can create unfair advantage by creating ideas that are people, rather than product or media, powered.

As a planner, we need to think about creating strategies that have an enthusiasm bigger than the brand or their category. A cultural mission, not just a commercial proposition. And we have to get better at designing gaps for people to fill in, play with and participate in rather than the finite, complete products that make up the majority of advertising.


In one of my recent articles on advertising, the subject of kids came up in the comments thread. Kids, it seems, can cause some serious problems for people in advertising agencies. Those with kids want more time with their beloved offspring. Those without kids clearly couldn't give a rat's ass and, therefore, want everyone in the agency working at the same rate and with the same passion as they do.

As with any other important commitment in life, you need to balance work and your personal life. Balance, my friends, is key. And that's a nice segue to the real crux of the matter here: can you have kids and a GREAT advertising career? Not a regular career, but the kind of resume and portfolio that makes people drool and curse your name at the same time.

That, I think, depends on when you have kids and what kind of balance you decide upon. To be honest, if you have kids early on in your career, and want to be there for them, then you have your work cut out for you. You usually have to sacrifice a lot of your free time to build a good book and good career. That sacrifice will impact the quality of life you have with your children. Is it worth it? Ask yourself why you want(ed) kids and why you would want to see so little of them in order to produce posters and billboards.

Later on, after you've built a solid career for yourself, it's certainly easier to do great work and enjoy a better balance. People will cut you more slack if you're an advertising genius who has already proven what he or she can do. But there's still no getting around the fact that, unfortunately, great careers come from making great personal sacrifices. This industry demands more of your time than others, it always has and it always will. This is no reason not to have kids. As I have said earlier, you should be able to balance work and home life and still enjoy a good career.

But to be one of the greats? All I can say is, it's possible, but your kids may just grow up hating advertising because it robbed them of a mother or father.