Tuesday, October 2, 2007

'NYT' to ad execs: off with your heads!

I know I read this on some blog or other yesterday, but it's worth repeating here. Neil Genzlinger, a staff editor at The New York Times who was given the task of reviewing "How Starbucks Saved My Life" by former JWT creative Michael Gates Gill, calls it "one of the most scathing indictments of the advertising business to appear in a long time." To elaborate: "Gill, with the grating babe-in-the-woods persona he adopts in this book, would have us believe that top advertising executives like him have no idea that there are black people in the world and that some of them run small businesses; that every weekday thousands of people gather at places like Grand Central Terminal for a ritual known as rush hour; that an overwhelming majority of lives are lived in the service of train schedules and bill collectors. If the rest of Madison Avenue royalty is as clueless about the real world as Gill makes himself seem in this book, off with their heads." Actually, though I'll admit to generally liking the premise of someone finding they like a simpler life better, the fault for this portrait of ad execs lies squarely with Gill. First, as someone who grew up in Bronxville, a commuter town if ever there was one, Gill should be amply aware of the commuter's life, even within the upper strata, since the median household income in Bronxville in 2000 was around $200K a year. And, anyone who rides Metro-North into Grand Central can attest to seeing top ad execs riding among them. The only way Gill could not have known that is to hide behind the fact that he was working for JWT in L.A., but, since he was an east coast native, that just doesn't wash.


Anonymous said...

The Times, being an advertising medium, is in a good position to indict the profession it has chosen.
The book, as I may have noted somewhere, is more like a college application essay from a Junior at Hotchkiss who wishes to impress admissions officers with his humility, but instead merely exudes
the condescension of his class.

Alan Wolk said...

I thought the review itself was pretty grating. Sounds too much like someone has an axe to grind regarding ad execs than an actual review of the book.

Gill's ignorance comes from the fact that he's Brendan Gill's son and lead a very privileged, very unsual upbringing-- not from the fact that he's an ad exec.

The book is also a good reminder of how far we've fallen from the "Man Men" days when advertising creative directors actually made eye-rolling salaries. Not that we're starving now, but one of the biggest fallouts of the whole holding company thing is that salaries have taken a major hit, especially in comparison to other industries, where salaries have continued to climb. And as I've written before, it hurts the industry because recruiting quality people becomes that much harder when you can't hold out the hope that someday they'll be rich.