Feb 1, 2007

Irrational Men

For the past two months, various commentators, most notably the posters on George Parker's Adscam blog, have exhibited an irrational hatred of former Wal-Mart marketing exec Julie Roehm and have taken a rather sadistic delight in her downfall.

I'm truly at a loss to understand the intensity of their disdain for a women whom none of them have ever met, let alone worked with. I mean really guys (and you're all men): what's up your respective asses?

To begin with, you want to talk sleazy? We're in a business where every single one of you can recite the story of the notorious BDA creative director who fired one of his creatives for defying his orders not to attend her sisters wedding so that she could spend the entire weekend in the office working on a soft drink commercial. (Even though she left the wedding early and came straight back to work.) And how this same CD had an affair with the wife of one of his account guys and then fired the account guy when they got caught. And how his reward for all this was to be made the Executive CD of yet another BDA.

Or how about the ECD of another BDA who'd assign agency producers to go help his girlfriend shoot the (non-ad-related) movie she was making. Or conscript agency art directors to design his book covers.

Not to mention the various coke-heads and adulterers who've sat in the corner office.

And you're upset about Julie Roehm boffing one of her underlings and playing favorites during a pitch? Crucify her for going to dinner with Howard when she only went to Shelly's $100,000 hoe-down? I mean that's pretty small potatoes compared to the sins sleazy agency creatives have committed. Sins for which they rarely get punished and often get rewarded.

Then there's another reality check: I'd much rather have a client like Roehm, someone who desperately wants the creative department to love her and think of her as "the cool client." Have you all only worked at hack shops with wimpy little clients who'll only approve something if it tests well?

I haven't. And the only clients who ever buy the good work, the risky work, are people like Roehm who are out to make a name for themselves and don't want to take the safe route.

Is the "Lingerie Bowl" a good ad? Not at all. But she didn't fucking write it. Some lame-ass agency in Dee-troit did and sold it to her as the greatest, coolest car spot ever. If they'd done something that was actually good, chances are she'd have bought that instead.

Ditto Kerri Martin. Don't like Dr. Mengele for VW? Me either. But she approved all the Mini work that Crispin did. And that stuff rocked. But not that many clients would have taken that risk.

Are people who call themselves "change agents" and paint their offices silly colors people you'd want to hang out with? Probably not.

But I'd much rather have them making decisions on my advertising than some wimp who says "well, I like it, but let's see how it does in qualitative."


George Parker said...

Check out AdScam!!!

HighJive said...

Well, it’s in keeping with George’s character to question individuals who claim to represent the revolutionary regime — particularly when they turn out to be typical poseurs. Based on her record and the work she’s approved, Roehm would definitely fall into that category. Not convinced you’re right in your perspectives about her. I know people who worked with Roehm on Wal-Mart. According to my sources, she was not a visionary. She’s the type of client who demands that nothing be done without her direct approval; yet she’s almost impossible to track down. Granted, I’ve never worked with her. But I’ll take a weenie client — most of whom can always be handled if we’re doing our jobs right and building trusting relationships — over a client who craves the spotlight and probably thinks she knows more about creative than creatives. I mean, for Christ’s sake, the woman handed creative responsibilities to Draft FCB. That says a lot about her creative judgment. As you pointed out, Carrie Martin has Mini on her resume. What’s on Roehm’s?

That said, I don’t think George hates Roehm. He’s just having fun criticizing the fools, like an Old School version of David Spade. He’d only truly hate her if she tried to steal his gin.

Toad said...

Yeah she's acted like a knucklehead since the firing and probably even before, but the level of vitriol doesn't seem commensurate with the sins she's committed.

And HJ, the Julies of the world are easier to manage-- you just have to tell them it's "cool." The "I need to see it tested" types are the death of us all.

Make the logo bigger said...

It's a fair question TT, so here's what's up me butt.

First, it's true, I've experienced scenarios just like the ones you outlined, and worse. The boss who got caught in a multi-million dollar kickback scheme and screwed the company, plus all of my 401K funds before closing shop, still gets to me this day.

The interactive director at one of the top three agencies in the country admitting she didn't know what a podcast was.

And so on.

But here's why the Julies of the world really kill me: hubris.

I don't care if you hire people smarter than you because you're not up to speed, but don't keep acting like it when you’re not. Fake it 'til you make it is supposed to be in your first job, not throughout your career, no?

I'm also sick of being the one along with my team there in the 11th hour jamming on a pitch watching the white Knights like her ride in as change agents or consultants, pretending to be the end-all, be-all, then when it goes south, and it almost ALWAYS does, bolts with a nice parachute while the grunts are left to pick up the pieces.

All because she didn't respect the brand.

I bitch about certain clients and love others. But I respect the fucking brand at all costs. If the rules say make the logo bigger, then, I argue the point, make it bigger and move on.

And if they say don't even accept drinks from vendors - and several Wal-Mart employees have written how strict they are on something this simple - then you don't accept the drinks.

I don't care how much the Jonah AdAge apologists of the world brush it off by saying "It's done all the time in our biz." Yes it may be in NYC, but not in Wal-Mart-ville. Fucking respect that.

Even the way she condescendingly said she now plans to live anywhere NOT ending in 'ville' is a slap in the face to the blue collar people of the company who pay her salary.


Not to mention the media cheerleaders in denial who put her on a pedestal as the next coming of marketing greatness.

Speaking of, part of what makes a great DOM with their shit together is someone who recognizes and champions great creative. (I'm a Crispin fiend so I pretty much like most of what they do, so the VW stuff doesn't bother me like it does others.) But even though BK and Mini were willing to take chances on creative, the agency is the one who comes up with it, not the change agent.

The Lingerie Bowl though? As a woman in a male-dominated business, you'd think one of the things she'd be interested in is 'changing' how women are portrayed in advertising. Guess not. And then, to take credit for merely greenlighting the Dodge Grab Life campaign as if the act of APPROVING it was important than the actual creative.

No bucks, no Buck Rogers, but c'mon, know your place.

There comes a point when taking chances is one thing, but what good is that when you can't recognize what you're taking a chance on is average at best, shite at worst.

So yeah, when I see someone like this pretend it's everyone else who's to blame I get nuts. By the way, has she even admitted doing anything wrong when it's clear plenty of people on the brand are saying otherwise?

HighJive said...

Well, I think I can explain the vitriol. In fact, there are probably at least two factions at work here, rooted in generational differences — specifically, Boomers and Xers.

George is a Boomer, but he’s somewhat atypical. This is a conclusion I arrived at after reading Madscam. Based on the book, George appears to be an Old School adman who has a strong passion for the business, particularly its Golden Age or heyday. He stresses the fundamentals of the craft. I believe he views individuals like Roehm as symbols and symptomatic of the bad devolutions the business has taken. It’s one thing to zag when others zig, but Roehm is clearly zagging in the wrong direction. So although Roehm is in a different league and generation than the Old School fuck-ups like Martin Sorrell, she represents the same net result: the death spiral of the ad industry. George probably doesn’t hate any of these people on a personal level; rather, he hates what they’re doing to our business.

A lot of the commentators at Parker’s blog appear to be Xers. This generation also harbors disdain for people and events that drag the business down. Their anger is usually targeting Boomers, but they’ll turn on their own generation if an individual is tainting the environment. Roehm, who is probably a younger Xer, makes things look bad for the rest in her generation. She’s had leadership roles that few Xers have been able to secure, as the Boomers refuse to retire and/or die. Yet she’s squandered the opportunities.

Incidentally, I can’t recite the stories of illicit affairs for BDA creative directors, though I have no doubt such events happen. Does that really lessen the impact of Roehm’s alleged indiscretions? If true, Roehm committed her sins in the Bible-thumping Wal-Mart community. A BDA creative director is essentially committing his sins in the Sodom and Gomorrah known as Madison Avenue. Like it or not, our twisted society draws differences in these instances.

Still not convinced about your perspective on Roehm. She’s not the kind of client who listens when you say it’s cool. Otherwise, she’d have a string of cool ads to show for it. I challenge you to present one cool thing with her fingerprints on it.

As always, this is all just my opinion. I don’t really know any of the players in this drama.

Toad said...

MTLB: I agree with everything you've said. Only I don't see Roehm as that big a player. She's a minor character who had her 15 minutes and to me she's pathetic more than anything else. That's why all the vitriol bugs me.

HighJive: I'm always impressed by your analysis. I had also thought about this as a generational thing, but came to a different conclusion. I think most of the Julie-Haters are aging Boomers. They've made her into a lightening rod for everything that's changed about the business, including the rise is status of the CMO. She's clearly an upstart X-er who hasn't paid her dues and that, in particular, is what pisses them off about her.

But (and I'm going to post this on Adscam too) what gets me is that I really just see Roehm as pathetic, and piling on someone who's pathetic (as opposed to dumb) just seems cruel.

Anonymous said...

//I'd much rather have a client like Roehm, someone who desperately wants the creative department to love her and think of her as "the cool client." //

Toad, if that were true, I'd have no problem. What make me despise this woman is that she chose an agency based not on great creative, but on great sushi, great car rides, and great graft.

Do you really believe Draft presented the best creative? Really?

And have you read about the concepts she championed through Wal-Mart (a husband reacting happily to giving his wife a red nightgown)?

She's a hack's hack, who's made her career through smoke and mirrors and screwing all the right people.

Just because there are many more like her in this busness doesn't make it right.

Toad said...

Anonymous: Deep breath and then let it go. I don't thing ANYONE presented "great creative" to Roehm on Wal-Mart. Ever.
Nor will they.

Yet you "despise" this woman. Why? Other accounts, accounts that actually do great creative come and go on the basis of who plays golf with who and who's sister-in-law knows who's wife from the country club. Why does Roehm's (admittedly flawed) decision making process cause your eyeballs to pop out in anger?

She's touching some sort of nerve in so many of you and yet in reality, she's a minor player (as evidenced by her not-very-major salary at WM) who's basically proven that she's pathetic.

And as I've said to your fellow Anonymi, please choose some sort of moniker for yourself so I can tell which one of you I'm lecturing at.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I was just lazy. This is Bob speaking (writing, actually).

"Despise" was an overly-harsh word on my part. I just find her public proclamations to far exceed anything she's ever done in advertising. Plus, she awards business based on non-biz concerns. Certainly not the first or last to do that, but I still don't have to like it.

BTW, I don't consider myself an "aging boomer." Still under 40, and not a Bommer, technically.

I'm just bitter and burned-out. Can happen at any age, believe me.

Make the logo bigger said...

I hear ya TT, guess I also just like to pile on.


Still, she's getting too much press for being a minor player, epsecially when Wal-Mart is such a mega brand, and getting it by 'journalists' in the biz responsible for hype that keeps people like her hired.

But, I'll be moving on to other targets. Monday morning after the Super Bowl spots run to be exact.


Jenne said...

it's Kerri Martin, btw. :-)

Toad said...

Thanks Jenne.
Correction made.