PERSPECTIVE: One bad write-up is all it takes to set the industry back years

David Ogilvy once boasted of a compliment paid to his agency by a rival agency chief: ’You are not only the leaders of our industry, you are gentlemen, you are teachers and you make us proud to be in the advertising business.’

David Ogilvy once boasted of a compliment paid to his agency by a

rival agency chief: ’You are not only the leaders of our industry, you

are gentlemen, you are teachers and you make us proud to be in the

advertising business.’



So Ogilvy preached the value of reputation - his agency’s and that of

the industry in which he worked. What would he have made of the picture

of advertising woven around Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper’s Mark Wnek in The

Sunday Times last week?



Wnek was portrayed as little more than a testosterone-driven throwback,

a reminder that the days when advertising was the media’s shorthand for

living the life of Riley have not quite left us.



Wnek is ’a life commando’. His mortgage, apparently, is ’so big I can’t

bring myself to say it out loud’, he has 300 shirts at home and another

100 in the office, all his pants are Calvin Klein and all his shoes

Gucci. If his creative team doesn’t hack a brief, ’they get fired

That’s why they drink a lot and smoke a lot and go round the bend.’ And

if you’re not the brightest star in the agency ’then the least you can

do is sit there until midnight’.



Wnek is mortified by the piece and claims that he has been

misrepresented and I hope he has been - certainly he’s never struck me

as the sort of guy stupid enough to say such things in print, though

it’s possible that a heavy dose of irony might have been misinterpreted

by the journalist.



I hope that the picture that emerged from his interview is unfair and

inaccurate. I hope that the ethos of hard work, creativity and real

energy that Wnek does manage to convey is not so closely tied with the

arrogance, conspicuous consumption and brutish man-management that

colour the piece.



But the fact remains that the article has undoubtedly instilled in the

minds of hundreds of thousands of Sunday Times readers a very powerful

image of the advertising industry and one that is unlikely to make many

people feel proud to work in the business.



Anyone in advertising should know that publicity and vulnerability are

often bed fellows, yet this isn’t the first time advertising’s

reputation has been burnt in the media. Remember Peter Marsh’s

performance on the Radio 4’s Moral Maze and the contribution made by

Saatchi & Saatchi’s Stephen Colgrave to last year’s BBC2 documentary

about advertising to children? And what about Channel 4’s toe-curling

fly-on-the-wall about St Luke’s?



At a time when the ad industry has developed a sharper focus on

effectiveness, client service and investing in its employees as more

than just job titles on business cards, such portrayals of the industry

in the media are truly destabilising. Now more than ever the industry

deserves a fair public hearing as a professional business founded on

quality and integrity, and that’s a responsibility that everyone from

the IPA to the industry’s new recruits should bear.



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