I Am Not An Infidel! (from the archives of the old AdTex Interactive Blog)

Thoughts on “Freelancing.

In the past and occasionally here lately, I tend to “hire out” my skills in trade. That trade is advertising copywriting. During those times, I have been called a “freelancer” and I don’t particularly cotton to it! I prefer “independent contractor”, “outside representative”, “consultant”, or even contract laborer”. By it’s very definition, the word freelancer conveys a sense of disloyalty and infidelity. Among a certain crowd, “freelancer” has such a negative connotation. Plus, the reciprocal nature of the inherent freedom in freelancing isn’t often considered.

Please allow me to explain. My research of the word, which admittedly wasn’t exhaustive, reveals that it is derived from the medieval term “free lance”. A free lance was a mercenary knight whose lance or sword was not sworn to a particular king or lord. It’s sort of like “hired gun” in the westerns. I understand the term “free lance” was used way back in Sir Walter Scott’s 1819 novel, Ivanhoe. The implications is that these roving soldiers of fortune were only in it for the money and their loyalties lay only with the highest current bidder. Sometime “freelance” is even used synonymously with “rogue”. Is that how I’m viewed when I take a temporary/hourly or per-page gig? Well, I beg to differ! Once under contract (whether written or implied) I would like to think I am certainly dedicated to carrying out the terms of the agreement between the client and I. Like nearly any full-time employee (except for those with military commitments and the like). I also have the option of terminating the agreement, walking away and forfeiting contingent compensation. The client has the same option and many are mighty quick on the trigger to exercise it, with little or no advance notice.

Curiously, the freelancer label has been most-often linked to creative professionals; “freelance graphic artist”, “freelance copywriter”, freelance journalist”. Also the noun “free lance” has morphed into common use as an adjective (“a freelance artist”), a verb (“a writer who freelances”) and an adverb (“he worked freelance there”).

The client/freelancer relationship is characterized by the lack of long-term commitment. Sound familiar?

“DJ, we love your writing style and your penchant for alliteration. But, frankly, we want the freedom to see other writers.”

Ever hear that “see others” line in an amorous relationship? It’s usually the relationship’s death knell. It reeks of “Infidelity” and “Playing the Field”. Well, two can play that game!

The key is absence of exclusivity. Which is understood in this type of relationship. A client often doesn’t have as much invested into the freelancer — no benefits, no training costs, no guaranteed seat at the office Christmas party, etc. Thus, there is no real commitment. The advantage afforded both parties is flexibility. A full-time staffer isn’t likely to let the employer push their payday back even 24 hours. Whereas my “freelance” experiences often involved my 30-day-net invoice finally being paid after 45-50 days…often only partially, then. It’s the nature of the business.

Don’t get me wrong…and please take my observations in the tongue-in-cheek spirit intended. Mostly it was an opportunity to share with my peers, the history of the word. Most of my past freelance gigs were profitable, fruitful and even educational. Freelancing help me establish lasting relationships with people who have proven beneficial to our business. But remember, as a local auto dealer says in his radio ads (commenting on his vehicle inventory), “I ain’t married to none of ‘em!”

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Hoodies and Handshakes: Money is the Tie That Binds (from the archives of the old AdTex Interactive Blog)

I write this post in the midst of the media maelstrom brought on by the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an apparently unarmed Florida teen who was slain in a confrontation wit a possibly overzealous community crime watch captain. At this point, emotions are running rampant and all the facts of the incidence have not come to light. Reports indicate possible racial overtones, as the shooter (identified as a “white Hispanic male), might have even uttered an ethnic slur during his 9-1-1- call about a “suspicious African-American male”. Notable was Trayvon’s attire that night. He was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, known in modern vernacular as a “hoodie.” Across the country and all over Social Media, protests are being organized to demand a more-thorough investigation and the arrest/possible prosecution of the shooter. We’ve seen “Million Hoodie Marches” and Facebook profile photos or people in hoodies. The hoodie has become somewhat of a symbol of solidarity in a perceived “cry for justice” in the Trayvon Martin case and beyond. I have but one opinion of express about Trayvon Martin. His death seems to be the catalyst for a discussion about the perception of the value of an African-American teen’s life. Having once been an African-American teen, I believe it’s invaluable. But, I would humbly like to present a personal experience as juxtaposition to the cultural rift highlighted by the Trayvon Tragedy. It involves young African-Americans in hoodies. But instead of Skittles® candy and iced tea, it involved Malt Liquor and money…lots of money.

Here’s the set-up; our company is a member of Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), the +/- $30 billion Automotive Aftermarket trade association. SEMA has a massive annual trade show at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

While we were attending the 2006 show, I had an educational view of the power of money to breach social/ethnic bulwarks. It was about 11am on a mild October weekday morning. At the MGM Grand Casino, I boarded the packed Las Vegas Monorail to the Convention Center. Standing and pole hanging, I found myself inches from four very “hip-hop”-looking, young African Americans. All three of the young men (one was a young lady) wore hoodies. They might have had dreadlocks, twists or cornrow hair styles. They wore the saggy trousers and the Timberland® work boots that were popular then. They also had official SEMA “BUYER” badges. The SEMA show is an industry-only affair and you must provide tax records or business-formation documents for credentials to attend. After a few moments observing the young people, I identified the apparent chief executive/spokesperson. He was the one sipping from a forty-ounce can of malt liquor (I was thinking, “That’s quite a potent potable for a weekday morning at a professional trade show.”) Sensing a learning opportunity, out of the blue, I asked “Forty”,

“What size are we up to now, young man?”

He knew of what I spoke and replied “we’re going to look at a ‘32”, today.”

Now, my planned destination for that day wasn’t the enormous “Wheel and Tire” section of the show. I was looking forward to meeting some lead contacts in “Hot Rod Alley”, the Restoration and Electronics areas. But the following verbal exchange necessitated an agenda shift. To keep the conversation rolling, I asked “Forty”,

“How much does something like that cost?”

He said, “The one we’re looking at is two million dollars.”

Stunned, I mumbled (seemingly to myself), “ Two million dollars for a set of wheels?”

Young “Forty” replied, “That’s two million dollars PER WHEEL, dawg.”

Trying to fathom such ridiculousness, I said (again, mistakenly thinking I was muttering under my breath), “Who can afford something like that?” “Forty” (who must have superhuman hearing), said,

“We don’t ask questions, dawg. We just make it happen for our clients.”

“Their clients? They can’t be ‘legit”” I found myself thinking (and not out loud, this time).

As we arrived at the Convention Center and piled off the crowded monorail, I caught a glimpse of the one of their badges. I recalled seeing the word “Dubs” and the state listed as “MD.” I made a mental note to look them up on the Internet, later that night. I believe this is their company.

Entering the Convention Center, I made a beeline to the Wheel and Tire exhibit hall. I saw lots of righteous rubber, some of the most innovative wheels ever manufactured, famous rappers, pro athletes and plenty of curvaceous female spokesmodels (I think I heard someone call it the “Rumps and Rims” area). But, the most interesting thing I saw was “Forty” and his associates and loads of other “hoodies”, shaking hands and closing deals with wing-tipped, buttoned down, mostly Caucasian-male Wheel/Tire-industry representatives.

This day, the “hoodies” were not being treated as “suspicious”, but as “VALUED CLIENTS.” I found myself thinking, “Now this is different. I bet if those reps encountered these young people on a city street corner, there would be wholesale rolling up of windows and car-door locking. They would be judging these kids on the way they are dressed and would be more concerned about being “jacked” for their rims, instead of selling them.” Then, I felt guilty and repentant about such stereotypical thoughts toward both parties. I was guilty of “profiling.” Not justifying those thoughts, but you see, even though I am a pre-hip-hop baby boomer, I experienced the expedited-car-window-rollup/door-locking scenario, myself.

So, what’s my point and what has it to do with the Trayvon Martin tragedy?

Again, I just offer my SEMA-Show experience as a comparison to the division illustrated by the incident in Florida. A young, black American in a hoodie doesn’t have to be “suspicious.” A middle-aged white man in a suit doesn’t have to be the “victim”. We can all do more than just “getting along”. We can work together in business. I would rather tell the many young African –American men I have mentored to keep wearing your hoodie, keep grooming your ‘dreads”, keep your ‘flava”, but be sure to keep your integrity and be the best you can be in your business dealings. (I would also ask them to consider a nice fruit-juice beverage or coffee, instead of a “forty”, before a weekday-morning business meeting. But that’s just “me.”)

In a LinkedIn SEMA group comment thread on my “Down With Diversity” blog post, I reminded automotive “e-tailers” that it doesn’t matter if the guy placing an online/phone order for your product is wearing a hoodie or a Brooks Brothers suit.Who cares if he just left the country club or just left his job at the automobile plant. It doesn’t matter if he’s “black”, “white”, “brown” or otherwise. It’s all “green.” In your marketing, try to include something for everyone and treat them all with as much respect as possible. Can this formula work for social inclusiveness as well a business?

Now, if you or someone you know needs the services of a great Interactive Marketing company, with a seasoned Business Development Executive who knows how to listen to business people in the “’hood” as well as the boardroom, I can recommend one.

If Behavioral Ad Targeting Works, I Must Have a Secret “Other” Life

This digital ad-targeting thing is crazy!

By now, you know that every time you fill out a “profile” to join something on the internet, you divulge lots of information for targeting you with ‘PERSONALIZED” ads.

So, I used Yahoo! to search for a retail company. I clicked on the “CorporationWiki” link to view the company info. The first ad was for SEO services.

“Alright…they know I have a website.”

The second ad featured a row of photos of about five busty white women, with copy that read, “We don’t want younger men, we want you!”

The third time, it was a flashing red banner that said, “Click here to view your arrest record now.”

So, here’s what Yahoo! “knows” about me: I’m an old, single, buxom-white-woman-loving, ex-con, internet geek.

HOODWINKED OUT OF OUR JOBS? (from the old AdTex Interactive Blog Archives)

I’m no economist or financial historian. I’ve often been accused of oversimplifying complex situations. So, with those two disclaimers out of the way, please consider my humble layman’s assessment of the current state of the job market and overall lack of work for companies like ours.

Personally, I believe we have been bamboozled out of our jobs!

We’ve been hornswoggled right out of work! The cause: someone convinced us that America should not manufacture anything. Maybe the ever-present mainstream media, helped us buy into the notion that the “new economy” will be based solely on concepts like “intellectual property”, owning licensing rights, “content”, stock and the belief that everyone can make a good living by the Internet. Was it not apparent to anyone in charge that the nation’s commerce system depends upon us making stuff for domestic consumption and to sell to other countries? Am I again “oversimplifying” things when I think that a gargantuan trade deficit might be due to one party not manufacturing enough product to sell to other parties? Is there some underlying dynamic that I am not intellectually qualified to grasp? Did anyone stop to consider that eliminating American manufacturing would in effect eliminate an entire social class? Do you think it’s that same endangered social class of which we heard so much during last year’s political campaigns? Why wasn’t this situation deemed a “crisis” before it was an election platform?

Why I Believe the “Big Box” is a Bad Idea

I’ve also been accused of hating the “world’s largest retailer”. I think most misunderstand my principal-based refusal to shop at the behemoth “big box” store and my accompanying soapbox pontifications on the subject. The point I have been trying to make for about a dozen years is simply that I believe the long-term effect the retailer’s business model has on the country is an adverse one. I always hear “But they have the lowest prices.” My answer is usually something like, “Yeah, but years from now, it won’t matter how low the prices are. We won’t have jobs to make money to buy any of the foreign-sourced stuff they’re peddling.” I believe that those low prices are made possible only by the disproportionately low salaries the foreign workers are paid and the lack of so many stifling governmental restrictions imposed upon domestic manufacturers. But, I could be mistaken.

Interactive Advertising Made in the USA

I have mentioned both the “lack of work for companies like ours” and “manufacturing” above. Many may see “Advertising” in our company’s name and think we’re the type of agency that gets paid big bucks just to sit around, brainstorming up the next “cutting edge”, witty creative campaign to sell to some deep-pocketed client. That just ain’t AdTex Advertising. It’s not who we are. We’re more like the hard-working, “front-end feeders” for an old-fashioned, print-based manufacturing operation. Our income (still virtually non-existent, by the way) is predicated on those house-size web presses running at our print partner’s Midwest location. The creative process represents a substantially small percentage of client cost. That’s why we keep overhead so low and run so lean. That’s why our total service package is so economical. Our history is actually in Home Textiles Manufacturing (see the “LDB” article here), an industry, which I hear, is nearly extinct domestically. We were the in-house advertising department for the premiere American manufacturer of bedding and bath products. Some great towels, sheets and comforters were made right here in the US of A by hard-working, relatively low-paid, taxpaying citizens. I wonder if more of those tax dollars could have been used to save their jobs. It seems the reciprocal effect would have a substantial upside — more workers continuing to work and pay more taxes.

BAILED RIGHT OUT OF WORK

The frustration with this situation recently hit the fan with my print partner, Mike. I believe the final straw was flipping to the backside of an American Automobile Manufacturer’s car brochure where he discovered “Printed in South Korea” in the small print. Mike works for a great, family-owned, 121-year old Visual Communications (read “printing”) company based in the same state as the “Big Three” auto manufacturers. He took his outrage to local lawmakers, where he got someone’s ear. He filled that ear with an informed and organized rant about his displeasure with having taxpayer “bailout” dollars appropriated for what was effectively the elimination of his job. He detailed his assertion that if our lawmakers would work to ease the financial burden of meeting the stringent standards to which our government demands, his company would be more than competitive. He’s sure that with a “leveled playing field”, the foreign printers couldn’t touch his prices. Mike challenged the lawmakers to tour his company’s facilities. He also invited them to bring their children along and pull samples of anything on the presses at any time. He assured them they would never find any smut or questionable material, just superior-quality American manufacturing. I guess I’m just old fashioned. (That was likely apparent when the younger readers pulled up Wikipedia to find “hornswoggled” or Googled “bamboozled” and the older ones grabbed their Funk & Wagnall to check my spelling). I still subscribe to and read the daily newspaper. A recent edition (Sunday, April 19, 2009) of the local daily included a Parade magazine article entitled “What’s Made in the USA”. It stated that “America still produces more goods than any other country — $1.6 trillion worth, according to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. It says that “America currently accounts for 20% of all manufacturing output.” Maybe we’re also the most automated and efficient manufacturer on the planet. Is that where the massive job losses happened? The article also mentioned some analysts’ predictions that “China will soon overtake the U.S. as the world’s leading producer.” The article never mentioned which countries are the largest consumers. Also note that the Parade magazine article was less than a half page, including a chart showing “What We Make”, “What It’s Worth” and “Whom It Employs”. A preceding article on “What is Royalty in the 21st Century” took two full pages. More fascination with foreign countries! (that’s one of those tongue-in-cheek jokes, ya’ll).

I close how I opened, saying I’m no economist/historian and I tend to oversimplify complex situations. That’s why I look forward to your feedback. (Notice how this blog entry is riddled with questions?) I’ve always been one to learn by asking. Maybe you’re an economist, scholar or have exhaustively researched the situation. Then you can enlighten a simple, old-fashioned advertising “manufacturing” guy about where more income is generated when we’re not manufacturing enough desirable products for someone, somewhere to buy.

Then let me know who runs the equipment to manufacture them?

PEOPLE ARE SHEEP (from the AdTex Interactive Blog Archives, 1/30/09)

I once learned a great marketing lesson from a very unlikely source. A good friend, John (now deceased) owned a luxury suite at Texas Motor Speedway. After enjoying a NASCAR Sprint Cup race, John and I left the suite for a fresh-air break. High above the speedway, the breezeway has these narrow little horizontal windows overlooking the parking area. We were leaning on the wall, watching thousands of cars attempting to exit the parking lot.

Note that a NASCAR Cup race at TMS seems to always draw the facility’s estimated 212,400-person capacity (approx. 138,100 seats plus infield spectators, RVs and fans in the suites). There are approximately 80,300 parking spaces.

We were watching at least 10,000 cars attempting to exit a parking lot. The portion we were watching has about four exits. But all of the cars were clogging a single exit.

Now John, though smart, wasn’t an introspective kind of guy. But, after a few moments of observing the goings on below, he said, “DJ, People are sheep.”

“What?,” I asked.

“People are sheep.”, he repeated.

“Look at all those cars, trying to squeeze out that one exit. One car went there and all the others mindlessly followed. The other three exits are empty.” “Sheep.”

Now, I’m supposed to be the big thinker, here. Maybe that’s why I felt the need to respond with some sage wisdom of my own.

I said, “John, we’re up higher. We can see the other exits. Maybe they couldn’t.”

I made my point. But John’s point really stuck with me.

Those TV reality shows come to mind. The number of them is ridiculous. Eclipsed only by the absurdity of some of the premises. I understand that they’re cheap to produce (compared to half-hour sitcoms and hour-long dramas), and thus plentiful. The concept has been around for ages — think Candid Camera, This is Your Life and the original American Gladiators. But it seems that once an excessive amount of deception, backstabbing and conniving was added to the recipe, they took off and spawned one crazy program after another.

The apparent result of another stroke of marketing brilliance was the relatively sudden proliferation of “Sports Utility Vehicles”. What sport? I’ll concede the “utility” in some cases. You see, Chevrolet’s Carryall-Surburban debuted around 1935 and was quite the utilitarian vehicle. But the trend did not explode until some 50 years later. I have been called peculiar and told I look at things from a perspective unlike the rest of the world. If I would have lapsed into a coma as a child and emerged from it in the 90s, one of my first questions would have been, “Why are all the station wagons so tall?”

But, back to the “Sheep” principle: Maybe that’s why we work so hard to convince anyone that will listen that our “old-fashioned”, print-based services are still valuable, viable and effective. Especially when integrated with digital mediums.

Many marketers are like the driver of that second car to go to that single exit. They saw someone go that way and figured it is the ONLY way to go. Then everyone else got in line behind them, leaving the other ways undiscovered.

We’re trying hard to show some new client another (not necessarily overwhelmingly better) way.

We’ll have to show them that way from a “higher perspective”.

Down With Diversity! (from the old AdTex Interactive Blog Archives)

These days, when one ethnic group or another appears slighted in representation or compensation, companies tend to call for “Diversity”. You’ve’ heard the catchphrases: “diversity initiative”, diversity training, diversity program.”

First, let’s get the requisite working definitions out of the way.

From Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary: Diverse: “Differing from one another. Include: “To take in or comprise as part of a whole.”

As king of my own little advertising realm, I hereby decree diversity be put to death and replaced by INCLUSIVENESS. Long live inclusiveness!

Too bad my realm is mostly imaginary. Companies are likely going to continue to do what they’ve seen the others do, because basically, People Are Sheep.

The BizMart Story:

Please indulge me in another one of my true tales. It’s one that will hopefully illustrate the difference between diversity and inclusiveness.

Back in the early 90s, I was a copywriter for a now-defunct (they eventually became OfficeMax) national chain of office-supply superstores called BizMart. Once, we were at a local store, shooting a TV commercial. There were lights, cameras and lots of action around our company spokesperson, baseball legend, Nolan Ryan. I believe there were a couple of paid actors playing store-staff members and some store employees were used as extras. I was moving about with the company “brass” and the creative director, who noted that the gigantic store didn’t look busy enough. There were not enough customers. The call went out to recruit some more already-being-paid employees (read: free talent) from the corporate office (which was only a couple of miles away) to fill in as extras. Then came a discussion about which employees might “look good” in the commercial.

Everyone involved in the discussion just happened to be a white male.

Everyone they recommended happened to be a white male or white female. This was understandable. Most of the people they dealt with daily were so. In the 12-person or so Advertising Department, I was the only non-white for most of the time I worked there (an African American college student briefly worked there, part time).

I surveyed the situation and observed that there was only one notably “ethnic” person in the building and I was likely the only African American. But, when I chimed in with my unsolicited suggestion, I didn’t take the obvious path.

I said, “How about the attractive lady in the wheelchair?”

You would have thought I had “let one rip” in church!

There was silence. Then, after they realized I was still standing there, waiting for an answer, an awkward “pro/con” discussion commenced. The discussion included the possibility of the mobility challenged employee “turning off” some potential customers.

A little background: I had noticed the attractive young white lady, who happened to be mobility challenged, at the corporate office. I didn’t know her name, nor had I ever spoken with her. I didn’t know in what department she worked. Many mornings, we arrived at the same time. What got my attention was her car. I love V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive American muscle. She drove the closest thing to it, in the 90s, a new Monte Carlo SS. Her Chevy had such a wicked-sounding exhaust note.

Meanwhile back at the store, I held my ground and argued my case. I asked, “People in wheelchairs don’t buy office supplies?” “Would customers be repulsed if she were a male war veteran, who lost limbs in Operation Desert Shield? “How do we know she’s not a disabled veteran?” I even played the “man card”. “Ya’ll ain’t noticed how pretty she is?”

The CD, who is a good guy and still a friend, convinced the brass to have someone locate the lady. She agreed to participate and everything was great! I think the company received a bit of praise for the “diversity”. I don’t know if it was relative, but it seemed like, thereafter I started seeing more and more mobility challenged models in retailers’ print ads and commercials.

Is the good part of this story the fact that she was included because of her diversity or difference?

Of course not! She’s not different. The good part is she was included for just that reason.

Personally, I have noticed a trend in advertising and entertainment that seems to actually signal a reduction in inclusiveness. I haven’t done extensive research, or looked at current statistical info. But to me, it looks like more ads with multiple models have fewer black people. I have also glanced at some of the newest ensemble-cast television shows (those that you wouldn’t label “afro-centric”) and there seem to be fewer black cast members.

It’s About Seeing Someone That Could Be You

My beloved sweetheart marvels at my observations and often comments, “Only you would notice that.” I usually tell her that, “It’s all just about seeing someone that looks like you.”

When you were a child, did you ever attend a function with your parents and were the first child there? Remember your excitement when the second child arrived with their parents? Even if the other child was a stranger, you felt more comfortable seeing someone like you. You didn’t have to have something against adults to feel this way.

Some folks know I was once on a NASCAR racing team. The driver, a good friend is a popular, veteran driver in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and is running a few Sprint Cup races, this season. He still invites my best friend Tim and I to races at Texas Motor Speedway, his “home” track. Years ago, we would roam the garage area and always made a point to visit with then-Truck-Series regular, Bill Lester. Lester was the only African American to race in one of NASCAR’s top-three series. He has started races in all three. There was something interesting that usually happened at the Texas Truck Race. During the pre-race ceremonies, the drivers would ride around the track, standing in the rear of pickup trucks, waving at the crowd of tens of thousand fans. Back the, very few African Americans attended stock car races. So, Bill Lester could always spot us in the crowd. He would point at us, give us a “thumbs up” and laugh. The last time we spoke to Bill Lester in the NASCAR (who, by the way, has a “Diversity Program”) garage, he said something to the effect of “I look forward to the day when this [him being the only black driver] won’t be such a ‘story”. I added, “And you won’t be so easily able pick Tim and I out of that big crowd.”

I bet Bill Lester, an engineer by trade, races for love of the sport and to make a living. I doubt he’s trying to make some kind of statement about race relations in racing. But I also believe it did Bill good to occasionally see some racing fans that looked like him. We had nothing against any of the other drivers, who are mostly white. But, although we were always there to support David Starr (and told everyone within earshot so), it did us good to see a driver that looks like us.

That’s HIStory and He’s Sticking Too It

As youngsters in our community, we were often reminded that “History” is just that “His Story!” Many accounts of events past are told only from the teller’s perspective, sometimes with very little consideration of the actual circumstances. That’s why it’s important to consider different perspectives. My late father served in the army during World War II, My childhood best friend’s dad was a Lieutenant Colonel who also served in WWII. Coming up, they told us stories about the war and their time overseas. (Most of them involved trucks and shipping.) When the movie Saving Private Ryan opened, I recall sitting at dinner in Memphis, with about six co-workers. They were all white and younger than I (I was born in 1962). They had all been drinking and were going on about how “realistic” the film was. Annoyed, I asked them “How do we know how realistic it was?” “Did you notice any African Americans in the movie?” I said, “My father was in Normandy.” So, the first time I watched the film, I found myself looking for one of the fictional characters that could have been my dad or Lt. Col. Brooks. I don’t know if I ever saw one. But I understood all those brave white battlefield soldiers had to get their supplies and ordnance from somewhere. But I reasoned that “Maybe it just wasn’t part of the story Robert Rodat (the film’s writer, who was born in 1953, eight years after WWII ended), Steven Spielberg (born in 1946) or whoever, was trying to tell. It was just “His Story”.  In your spare time, check out a reliable, historic account of the gigantic WWII supply convoy known as Red Ball Express. Then compare what you might have read to the 1952 film of the same name.

Can I SEMA Self In There?

In The BizMart Story, I alluded to my passion for things vehicular. Ours is a member company of SEMA, the gigantic Automotive Aftermarket trade association. As members, we receive SEMA News, their monthly printed publication. The June 2011 issue is approximately 184 pages. On the cover are 19 photos of the candidates for the SEMA Board of directors. They all appear to be white males. For kicks, I paged through the issue to see if anyone inside looked like me. There are approximately 73 photos with discernable people in them. There are about six photos that include persons appearing to be white women. There is a single “ethnic-looking” man in a single ad. He’s in a group shot for a ½-page or so Hankook tire ad. Now, I’m not saying SEMA is a “racist” or “prejudiced” organization. Quite the contrary, when I have attended their huge annual trade show in Las Vegas, I have seen people of innumerable races, cultures, countries, backgrounds and both genders. I’m just saying, “When it comes times to pay our annual SEMA dues, if just subliminally, I might be thinking, “Is this organization really for me?”

The Automotive Aftermarket isn’t the only industry run by mostly white men. But in print, broadcast and digital, need it be so blatantly emphasized? Could the organization benefit from a little more inclusion?

I’m a “big boy “and understand that there might be companies and organizations that simply don’t want my business. My money is effectively no good to them, because they don’t particularly want to be identified with “my demographic.” If they are a private business, that’s their business. I too have choices.

That’s NUDsense

A few years back, there was an email circulating about popular companies that practiced a secret “No Urban Directive” (“NUD”) marketing policy. African Americans were diligently sending the email to each other, but I quickly dismissed it as a hoax. Although, I did ponder the meaning of “Urban.” See, I was raised in what could be described as a lower-middle class, sometime crime-riddled, historically African-American neighborhood. Many of my schoolmates and peers have since migrated to the suburbs and are tax-paying, family folks with six-figure salaries, mortgages, 401ks, and foreign luxury vehicles. Are their dollars any greener than the young man or woman who still lives in “the ‘hood” and makes what we used to call “good money” at the nearby GM plant or gigantic defense contractor. If they’re ordering from you on the internet or from a catalog, does it matter if they’re wearing a Brooks Brothers suit or a hoodie?

My point is, “If you want to sell something to more people (demographic targeting and so-called NUDs aside), you might try to be more inclusive of representatives that might not look like you.” “Diversity Initiatives” are less important, because their purpose is to educate people about the differences.

Many may dispute my subjective assertions in this particular post, but many also may not see the picture from my perspective. Check Advertising Age or other publications that have done industry-specific demographic studies. Or just pick a group of advertising agencies’ websites in your area. Look for staff photos and see how many of them look like your humble blogger.

I can imagine how three white men, a black woman and maybe an Asian guy can leave an agency brainstorming session where they created an ad with ten people in it and neither is a Mexican woman. (Unless the product is one targeted to Mexican women).  I would suggest they get in someone’s SUV and cruise through neighborhoods…a bunch of neighborhoods…where their products might be consumed. Then note what kind of people they see and at least try to include a reasonable cross section in the ads.

I’m far from obsessed with race in the entertainment and marketing industries. But as a nearly 30-year professional practitioner of the latter…and having been black for over fifty years…I tend to notice certain things about both.

So, as some old African American preachers like to say after a one-hour sermon, “I said all that to say this”: smart marketers should look to INCLUSION as the modern model for selling more.

If you know anyone who is looking for a great little interactive agency that knows inclusion, I can recommend one.

Down with diversity and usher in the era of INCLUSION!

Five Reasons Why I No Longer Read LinkedIn Lists

5. Most are just opinions of some blogger.
4. I don’t need some blogger telling me why I’m unemployed or my Social Media marketing stinks.
3. No time to check LinkedIn, gotta’ read too many Facebook posts.
2. ‘Cause I know Richard Branson didn’t get rich reading LinkedIn lists all day.
1. Too dang many of them!

"Comfort Sones"

Another “10 Things List.” Question #1: What’s a “Sone?”