The above video clip from the 1969 Robert Downey Sr. film "Putney Swope" gives an interesting view on what would happen if a black man became the president of one Madison Ave.'s establishment advertising agencies. The clip opens on the beginning of the film as "Putney Swope" has been newly elected as the chairman of the board of the agency, after the former chairman passes. His election comes as a surprise to the remaining board members, who all nominated him, thinking that no one else would.
In this new position, he insists that they no longer accept business from companies that produce alcohol, war toys, or tobacco. The success of the business draws unwanted attention from the United States Government, which considers it "a threat to the national security."
This notion of the fear of a black man taking control because he might CHANGE things is all to familiar. Is the fear that comes in mainstream America that we are going to destroy or going to create As Obama suggested in his inaugural speech, "It's not what they destroy but what they build"!!! The time is now to build a legacy of responsibility in our advertising and media. It is time to build an ideal of philanthropy, civic awareness, social morality in our advertising. It is necessary to subversively create images of progress on our communities, informing people on what to think about and not, just what to think.
Our clients have needs to sell products, no question about it, but lets not sell out our community in the process. Let us still ensure that the way that we are depicted yields a standard of integrity and strength. Let us not be afraid to change and create change.
Let's take the example of Brother Swope to heart and think what a modern day view of this would look like. Oh, that's right, that is what WE are about to do. "Rockin' the boat's a drag. What you do is sink the boat!" Let's change this industry y'all! (And yes I said y'all, I'm from Texas!)