Monday, November 5, 2007
Same lawsuit, totally different interpretations
It's not that often that you see such divergent write-ups of the same basic story. But that's exactly what happened with Ad Age's and Adweek's accountings of Biegel vs. Dentsu this week. In case you've been living in a cave, Steve Biegel, a former Dentsu creative director, sued the agency for sexual harassment last week, citing forced trips to brothels and bathhouses during business trips, arranged by a superior, Toyo Shigeta, who, along with North American CEO Tim Andree, is named as a defendant in the case. To hear Ad Age tell it, Biegel is a married father, who coaches his son's flag football team and finds himself now fighting a huge corporation that will do anything to stop him from winning the case. Adweek's account comes off as being almost completely dismissive of Biegel's claims. It portrays him as a disgruntled ex-employee who concocted a list of outrageous charges in an attempt to get more severance after he was dismissed by Andree. "If Steve Biegel had exhibited as much creativity and effort when he worked here as he has on manufacturing this frivolous complaint, the company would not have fired him," Andree told Adweek. To understand why these two reports would be so different, you have to look at the very short, boring history of Dentsu and the ad trades. While agency reporters spend many hours speculating about the fate of Lowe, or the latest management change at Young & Rubicam, Dentsu has never really warranted much scrutiny, or interest; the execs at the agency weren't exactly the kind you spent quality time cozying up to. But in mid-September, Adweek ran a story of over 5000 words about Dentsu's aspirations to finally matter on the global stage. It not only quotes Andree extensively, but also included a visit to Dentsu's Tokyo headquarters. Ad Age's acquaintance with Andree boils down to a few mentions in stories about management reshufflings, and one account of a reporter being stuck in an elevator with him and a bunch of PR people. I'm not taking sides here—the fact is, I know people at both publications and know how hard their jobs are. But a little insight goes a long way.