I prefer real intelligence every time

David Wethey thinks AI can’t replace real people, real intelligence and human empathy

We have just moved house.

It has been a major hassle, because we have relocated to another part of the country from where we have lived for many years. Virtually all arrangements have had to be changed: HMRC, bank, utilities, stores, phone and broadband, doctor, TV, credit cards.

We have also acquired a completely new stable of tradesmen, craftsmen, removers, local shops, furniture and carpet suppliers, kitchen and bathroom specialists. And the difference? Staggering. Automated bureaucracy versus the personal touch. When you have been dealing with helpful, talented individuals, whose motivation seems overwhelmingly to offer great service, the frustration with computerised process becomes massive.

Endless keying of email addresses, passwords, multi-digit numbers – and still our instructions are disregarded, we don’t get what we asked for, and it has to be done all over again.

The tech cognoscenti, digital zealots and futurologists are falling over each other to advocate new applications of artificial intelligence. Believe me, I’m not a luddite. But I do feel that the case for applying AI, simply because you can, is something we should challenge.

I have two problems with AI – I don’t accept (based on my experience) that automation necessarily does things better.

Secondly I am not convinced that making people – hundreds of thousands if not millions of people – redundant is a price we should contemplate paying.

What is the point of offering tertiary education to more and more young people if the biggest companies invest heavily in not employing them?

Artificial Intelligence? We should be careful about where we apply it. Let’s hear it for real people, real intelligence and the empathetic, collaborative behaviour that comes from being human.

Read more at https://www.marketingsociety.com/the-library/i-prefer-real-intelligence-every-time#bIF6hO7Fd2ue2rhd.99

Ideas can go down as well as up

‘Ideas are like jokes and gifts’, David Wethey explains.

Researching the world of ideas and creativity for my new book THE VERY IDEA! has been a fascinating experience. I think we’ve all worked out that only a small minority of people in business are what you would call natural and consistent idea generators. My goal in writing the book is to encourage far more executives and managers to liberate their inner creativity, rather than fall back on the brief / feedback / micro-manage / approve routine. I have really enjoyed interviewing the planners, creatives and inventors who come up with the great ideas that drive change and progress. There are some brilliant tips to pass on, and I have every confidence that many of my readers will rise to the challenge and become consistent and prolific ideas people.

There is a ‘but’ however. Not all ideas – even ideas that we think are big ideas – are good and valuable. The same mental process – making connections between what we know already and what we have recently learned from looking at a problem or brief – that triggers powerful, game-changing ideas, can also produce bad and dangerous ideas. That’s why we need the filters and litmus tests that colleagues provide to scotch potentially disastrous flights of fancy. It is no good my egging on everyone to dream up more and more ideas if we have no mechanism for spotting the dangers of a rogue when we still have time to abort and go back to the drawing board.

A popular myth is that there is safety in numbers, in terms of making sure that contentious ideas are exposed to a lot of people to make sure that they won’t lead to disaster.

How different the world would be if that were true!

How much less hazardous life would be if the democratic process (you know elections, referendums and so on) saved us from truly awe-inspiring mistakes like Brexit, Trump or a hung parliament with the balance held by the DUP. There are obviously a myriad examples of one-off bad ideas. But what intrigues me is the bad idea that just gets worse as it plays out and triggers ever worse consequences and side effects.

Take Brexit for instance. The Referendum simply asked voters to decide whether to leave the European Union or remain within it. “Brexit” had a ring to it (more than “Leave”) and the behaviouralists tell us that positive action is instinctively more motivating than just carrying on doing the same old thing. 51.9% voted for Brexit. It’s probably fair to say that the vast majority did not understand what the Brexit idea meant (other than a vague Rule Britannia feeling), or what the short and long term consequences were likely to be. Suffice it to say that no divorce in history was ever so protracted, complicated or expensive. And worse still, Britain doesn’t even have someone else to sleep with.

Ideas are like jokes and gifts. The joke teller and the present giver are the last people to decide whether the joke is funny or the gift hits the spot. Only the recipient can do that. We have all worked out that idea generators are full of ideas. The first one off the production line is pretty unlikely to be the best we can do. We need a reasonable level of choice, and the time to look at pros and cons. Assessing reward and risk are essential to good decision making. Nearly all the politicians campaigning before the Referendum wanted the good bits of Europe without the bits that hacked us all off. The Referendum campaigns on both sides were badly planned and run, with no indication that a vote for Leave would turn into a bungee jump without the bungee.

So why do we allow ourselves to fall for politicians with daft ideas? Is it ignorance, or apathy? Is it the feeling we can’t make a difference? Or as in the case of the EU referendum or the US Presidential Election, is it simply that a choice between just two unattractive options is not really a valid choice at all – unless at least one of the ideas is well articulated?

Both being directly critical and sitting on the fence have a bad name. We are always being urged to make a positive choice – this idea, this candidate. But the next time you are asked to vote for an idea or a person that smells wrong now and could smell a lot worse down the line, tell it as it is, and stay on the fence (eg vote Remain) till something better comes along!

Read more at https://www.marketingsociety.com/the-library/ideas-can-go-down-well#kvhjEkbJqFUAsL0B.99

Do you sincerely want to make millions of pounds?

I am very conscious that the advice and tips I regularly offer might have helped you in some way (at least I hope so), but are unlikely to have made you rich.

This may all be about to change! As Brexit bites, salary increases become harder to achieve, and white pad person joins white van man in the firing line, I feel under pressure to improve the economic situation of my readers. I have considered six routes to fortune:

  1. Selling your agency
  2. Lotteries
  3. Investment
  4. Sport
  5. Crime
  6. Ideas

#1 is a practical option for those of you who own agencies or shares in one. It’s a tried and tested route. WPP, Publicis, Omnicom, IPG, Havas and the smaller caps are all out there looking to buy talent, new clients and a strong revenue stream. So go for it. The earn-out can be tough going, but well worth the slog if you’re on a roll

#2 – the lottery route – involves less outlay, no work at all, no risk, and the remote possibility of riches beyond imagining. But don’t give up the day job

Then there’s #3 the investment path (not something, I must confess, I am really qualified to describe). I watched fascinated at Cheltenham on Paddy’s Day as fewer favourites than usual romped home, and the whimsical flutters (‘really love the name Thomas Crapper’) failed to deliver as usual. My conclusion: it’s really tough to make a living as a punter but the bookies do well. Bit the same really with the kind of gambling regulated by the FCA. Shares not only can go down as well as up but frequently do. It is true that investment bankers, like the bookies, do particularly well, but for some of you it may be a little late to change your career path.

Sport is an interesting one. Footballers undeniably earn shedloads – at least the gifted players with good agents do. (Or was it the good players with gifted agents?). But an awful lot of wing backs and midfielders don’t. And the same is true of rugby and tennis players, cricketers, and golfers. It is doubtful if we have even ten members of the Society who have pocketed even £20 from playing professional sport. Five?

This is an equal opportunity column, so it is only fair to put forward crime (our #5), as a possible route. High rewards if you are prepared to take the risk and go for it. Significantly better odds of riches than #2-4, and you don’t have to be an agency owner to qualify. Downsides can be awkward.

But it won’t amaze you to know that I view ideas – or to be more precise valuable ideas – as outstandingly your best chance of becoming significantly wealthier. There is no growth or progress without ideas. There are no game-changing transformations without ideas. And everyone can do it. Everyone can play.
Read more at https://www.marketingsociety.com/the-library/do-you-sincerely-want-make-millions-pounds#4PUhQ6B2gCLGkTqP.99

Idea begins with I

Surprisingly so do so many of the words associated with generating and developing ideas, for example:

Imagination, inspiration, innovation and invention.
Insight, intuition, intelligence and inclination.
Immersion, inclusion, introspection and interpretation.
Inversion, intervention and intrusion
Infusion, immersion and implosion.
Illusion, impression and illustration.

There are more. It’s almost uncanny.

There’s an urban myth that being an ‘ideas person’ is a highly differentiated ability, confined to very few people.

Having been researching the amazing world of ideas for some time now for my new book THE VERY IDEA!, I am convinced it is untrue. We are all wired to come up with ideas, share ideas, and develop ideas. How else would we be able to navigate the complicated world away from work? How could we solve problems and spot opportunities? How could we think laterally and surprise family and friends? It is the facility that all of us have to produce and embrace ideas that makes us what we are.

So it’s no coincidence that idea starts with I. Or that all those words above that describe some idea-related activity or process also start with ‘I’. Every one of us is an ‘I’ – however hard sometimes it is to believe it, when our individuality seems to be marginalised by the pressures of the world of work. There may be no ‘I’ in team, as the cliché goes. But when it comes to thinking and being creative, to start with at least, it’s just me and my brain.

Having said all of this, two heads ARE better than one. Two people is the human world’s most effective and blissful coupling. Just imagine. Double that idea capacity. Double all those other ’I’ abilities. When have you ever shared an idea with a colleague, partner and friend, and not been stimulated and inspired to look at this aspect differently, to see more potential in that one?

But that doesn’t mean five or six heads are necessarily better than one. Frequently having more people in a meeting results in more egos, more hot air, less clarity and less progress.

If the meeting hasn’t delivered, go back to you and your brain, get the ideas flowing, use some of the ‘I’ words, and when you are ready, add a friend and his/her brain. You won’t go far wrong!

Image: Stockimo | www.picfair.com

Read more at https://www.marketingsociety.com/the-library/idea-begins-i#RlIVSs0whHRpUxJt.99

What do you do at the office, Daddy?

It’s the classic daughter’s question. (But why daughter, rather than son, I don’t know.)

It was easier to answer in the old days of directors, who directed something specific, or managers who had something to manage. But we live in a team world. Being the office equivalent of a left wing back is harder to explain than being the on-site Federer or McIlroy. I remember in my early days as an aspiring agency boss being sent on a course called Finance for Non-Financial Managers. It was an excellent course and I learned a lot about the numbers I needed to take seriously, and the ones I could leave to somebody else.

Having written books on better decision-making and meeting practice (and having grown up in advertising, where target-marketing is second nature) I must admit to having had potential readers in mind. And here I’m not talking about generalisations. I had particular people in view – actual people with whom I have worked, and who were neither the most decisive individuals, nor kings or queens of the conference room. Is decision making a skill that we can all improve at? I firmly believe so. Equally knowing how to prepare for and run an important meeting is a hugely valuable ability, as those of us who frequently sit in such meetings when no such paragon is involved, will swiftly agree.

So if it’s helpful to explain to your daughter how crucial meetings and decisions are, is there one more key acquirable attribute you should mention as part of your in-office armoury? Apart from being good with people, which should include being empathetic, considerate and well-behaved, there is one additional skill I would advocate above all others. It relates to IDEAS – being good at coming up with them, being good at helping develop other people’s ideas, and always being ready to think your way around a problem and into an opportunity. Ideas are vital if we are to progress. If things get tough, ideas are essential for our survival. Of all the things we humans produce, ideas are at the same time the most fun to work on, and the most valuable.

The funny thing about idea skills is that a great many people are unduly modest about their own ability in this regard. Very few people will admit to being unpopular, or a bad parent or a poor driver, but you often find people saying that coming up with ideas is not their strength. Why, I can’t imagine. Admittedly a whole industry of external idea buffs has grown up. And within companies there is often a self-appointed coterie of thinkers outside the box, or whatever. For what it is worth, my decades of experience of working with client companies, and inside and with agencies tell me that almost every educated, ambitious, conscientious staffer (at whatever level) is very much an ideas person. Or, at the very least, they are people with potential. Let’s face it, you can’t survive outside the office without having ideas, so why should it be any different when you settle down at your desk or work station?

So I suggest you tell your daughter that the company pays you to have ideas, to work them up in meetings – alongside colleagues and their ideas – and to play a part in making important decisions. With a good showing in those three skill areas, you will be doing well, and your daughter should be impressed. Especially with the bit about being good at ideas!
This is David’s Marketing Society post for February. Read more at https://www.marketingsociety.com/the-library/what-do-you-do-office-daddy#YX6Stxpphkdx055L.99

What’s the best idea you never had?

2017 is my year of the idea. Having researched and written endlessly and passionately about decision making and meetings for the last six years, I am now going to be concentrating on the rocket fuel for both Smart Decision Making and the Mote Meeting System – powerful ideas.
I am fascinated by how we come up with ideas, how we share them by thinking together, how we develop them, and how we use them to achieve the outcomes and successes that business continually challenges us to achieve. It’s a big subject!

I am also fascinated by the other side of the coin – the times when we should have had a great idea, but didn’t. Also interested in the times we had the germ of a great idea, but didn’t succeed in selling it or exploiting it. That is why I have asked you the question in the headline. Can you think of occasions when your business or personal life might have been transformed if only you’d had a killer idea or successfully pitched it? What went wrong? Was it your fault – or someone else’s? Was there anything more – or different – that you could have done?

If love is what makes the world go round, ideas are truly what enable us to understand it and change it. We live in a world of big money, big numbers and big data. Yet individuals – even very powerful ones – can’t have much influence over the money, the numbers and the data.

How very different with ideas! We can’t solve problems (or even understand them) without ideas. We cannot appreciate opportunities, let alone realise them, without ideas. We need ideas to take to meetings. In the meetings we have to contribute to the refinement and finessing of ideas. When we are part of a decision making team we must treat ideas as the raw material for solutions, outcomes and transformations.

There is an urban myth that only some of us are capable of coming up with any ideas, let alone great, game-changing ones. I have been extensively researching and trawling for insights among academics, business gurus, philosophers and psychologists. I believe strongly that we all can be idea generators, idea sharers, idea developers, and idea communicators. We just have to have confidence, and take some tips on board – the most important of which is that thinking together in a team is just as valuable a skill as dreaming up original ideas in the bath.

A lifetime in advertising has given me a deep respect for ideas, without which marketers can’t make their brands successful and competitive. But admen use the idea word both for ingredients (the ‘big idea’ in a pitch) and the finished dish. There is usually a lot of hard work in between the eureka moment and the awards ceremony. To become a true idea-meister we need put the same priority on the plated dish as on the promising ingredient. We also need to have as much respect for your idea and their idea as ‘my idea’.

And there is invaluable learning for us all from the missed opportunities, the botched decisions and the ideas we never had.
This is David’s Marketing Society blog for January 2017. Read more at https://www.marketingsociety.com/the-library/what%E2%80%99s-best-idea-you-never-had#rSokV5C7EbPo5Dzc.99

Five really awkward questions before you wake up in 2017

  1. Five months on, can you think of a single advantage in Brexit?
  2. Do you have any warm feelings towards Teresa May’s Government? Or for that matter towards any grouping in the House of Commons?
  3. How could America have elected Trump?
  4. Have any of the big Christmas ads knocked your socks off?
  5. Are you going to put up with yet another year of spending half your working life in conference rooms?

Sadly it is beyond the power of the British and American people to reverse the Brexit and Trump votes. That’s democracy for you. All that foreplay. All that climactic excitement. And the next morning it’s all sadness and regret. The people who voted ‘out’ and for the Donald have to live with the consequences of what they have done. Unfortunately, so has everyone else

Is it really surprising that we have all fallen out of love with politics and politicians? At least with brands and football teams you have some idea of what to expect. But what are we to make of a Conservative Party that suddenly seems to be against all the things it used to be in favour of? A Labour Party that is deliberately making itself unelectable? Lib Dems who have collapsed from Coalition to the fringes? UKIP winning one seat with nearly 4m votes, while the SNP got 56 with less than 1.5m?

I’ll also be honest and admit that I am allergic to the synthetic association between celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and the giants of the High Street and Shopping Malls. Who knows? You may sympathise with my views.

But if it’s meeting madness and ennui that bugs you, I am your man – and there is something we can all do about it. For a couple of years I have been banging on about MOTE: The Super Meeting. Conventional business meetings are a waste of time and money. People know it and want something better.

Either persuade your company to try out Mote, and enjoy fewer, leaner, better prepared, more productive meetings. You and your colleagues will have a far better life/work balance, get your real work done in the working day, and amaze partners and family.
Or become a Motivator – a one person ambassador for the Spirit of Mote.

  1. Remind everyone that unproductive meetings cost a fortune
  2. And eat into both work and leisure time
  3. Decline any meetings that won’t achieve anything
  4. Refuse to participate in back to backs
  5. Encourage meeting organisers to strictly ration the number of people attending. You only want contributors
  6. Prepare incredibly thoroughly for any meetings you accept
  7. Be a star and a delight at every meeting
  8. Think ‘team’
  9. Motivate everyone ‎to do the same
  10. Towards the end of the meeting insist that everyone agrees ‎what has been achieved, and what needs to be done next time.

This is David’s Marketing Society blog for December. Read more at https://www.marketingsociety.com/the-gym/five-really-awkward-questions-you-wake-2017#VqCoz8sW7HAVxaTJ.99

Penny for your thoughts

Do we spend enough time thinking? Do we spend enough – as a marketing community – on rewarding thinking? Do we actually value thinking and give it the respect it deserves? Or have we become a click and move on society, obsessed by action, and careless of planning and using our brains to think through problems and create opportunities?

We certainly value ideas, and the companies who come up with them. Today I was lucky enough to be the lunch guest of two of these clever people in a delightful pub in Richmond, and benefited from their lateral thinking. I should mention for the benefit of the Hercule Poirots amongst you, that we were three, sitting at a table for four.

I’m a steak kind of guy, but not a chip chap. The fries went out of the window along with the beer in my last vain attempt to become svelte. ‘Can I have a rare steak please’, I asked the attentive waiter, ‘but with mash instead of chips’. I had spotted that the exotic sausage option came with mash. He said he had to ask the chef and rushed off. Soon he was back, but with a discouraging message. ‘No’, he said, ‘only chips today’. ‘But some of the other dishes come with mash’, I pleaded. ‘I have no power over HIM’, the waiter said in a fair imitation of Manuel talking about Terry, ‘would you like green beans instead?’

And there it probably would have stayed if my companions the quality thinkers hadn’t thought out of the box. ‘We’ll also have the sausages and mash’, said my host. ‘Who for?’ asked the waiter, ‘our colleague’, said my friend, pointing to the spare place setting, ‘he’ll be here soon’. So it came to pass that I was able to add a capital portion of mash to my succulent steak, thanks to the house rule that mash is OK with bangers, but verboten with steak. How good it tasted. Almost like the first white truffles of the season.

That’s the power of thinking for you.
Read more at https://www.marketingsociety.com/the-library/penny-your-thoughts#mClZShm8x04qE4pj.99

Time to have a debate about debate

Debates are in the news. Trump and Clinton mark III takes place on Wed 19th October, and literally anything could happen after the appalling and unstatesmanlike name-calling of the first two encounters. We have just recovered from the tedium of several rounds of Jeremy Corbyn vs……what was the guy’s name now?

Momentum against what used to be called the Labour Party is the modern day version of Bolsheviks and Mensheviks.

It is hard to recall any political debate that was worse argued and more incompetently – and what is worse, more foolishly – conducted than Leave vs Remain. It is poetic justice (though tragic for the country) that the most inept and poorly argued case lost, from a virtually impregnable position. The fiasco robbed a pretty successful Prime Minister and half his Cabinet of their careers, just a year after a spectacular election victory. Debating debacles can be exceedingly costly.

I am sure there was some debating during the post-Farage farrago in UKIP’s lala land, but the eventual winner Diane James refused to participate, was elected anyway, and then resigned after 18 days.

PMQs have become a pointless exercise, as has so much of what passes as debate in the Commons. In fairness the superannuated politicians in the Lords perform with marginally more grace and style.

We’ve watched Kerry vs Lavrov snapping at each other in the UN while Aleppo burned. Question Time goes out every Thursday with a panel of five making predictable statements until Dimbleby major throws the subject open to the man in the red cardigan in the back row. Meanwhile brother Jonathan goes through a similar routine on Any Questions. Interviewers and presenters on Radio 4 and 5 Live practise bear-baiting on their prey, or conduct meaningless dialogues with contrapuntally opposed duos who will never agree about anything.

Unreasonableness has been institutionalised – even in company conference rooms. Bad manners, adversarial behaviour, interrupting, talking over and shouting down appear to have become the default setting. Courtesy, empathy, and civilised discussion are just so yesterday. And what is the point of it all? Is there any sense in which people argue and berate to convince each other? Or is it simply warfare with words – endless salvos of incoming rockets from both sides?

Have we simply to agree that it is a very disputatious age, and there’s nothing we can do about it? Are we permanently stuck with long faces and angry expressions? Should debate be all versus all? Or organised – officially or otherwise in parties, like a verbal equivalent of British Bulldog? Is collaborative and considerate behaviour an option any more? Is it even worth listening to what the other side is saying, if all you are going to do is adopt the even-handed approach of a Kim Jong-Un or the charming President Duterte in the hapless Philippines (how on earth did they come to elect him?).

At school, I loved the Debating Society. Once I’d worked out that international honours were unlikely to come my way at any known sport, I really got stuck into regular jousting with my most articulate rivals. And do you know how I learned to debate? It was from the rule that at every second meeting of the Society we had to either propose or second a motion that we didn’t personally agree with. That taught me, to do the research, to prepare, and to anticipate what the other side would say. It was like chess in words – wonderfully civilised, fun to do, and entertaining to listen to.

I think there’s a lesson here. Less passion leads to better argumentation.

The more keenly you listen, the better you can respond. Wit wins over sarcasm – brains over brawn. Objective analysis beats raw subjectivity. Civilised debate actually has the quiet power to convince and convert – in a way that hectoring and bullying tactics almost never will.
This is David’s Marketing Society blog for the month of October. Read more at https://www.marketingsociety.com/the-library/time-have-debate-about-debate#Fh1JPTd4vaudcJPa.99

Does free speech matter any more?

This piece is not all about Kevin Roberts. But it was inspired by reflection on the controversy in the summer, when he generated more column inches in the last weeks than in his whole career – not about his very real achievements as a business leader, but because he said in an interview with Business Insider that the “fucking debate is all over” when asked about gender diversity in the ad industry.

He’s a controversial character, who has never hesitated to tell it his way – at Lion Nathan, at P&G, in his role with NZRU, and latterly at the head of Saatchi & Saatchi. We wondered about Lovemarks. Can you really turn a brand into an icon simply by wanting it to be one? He can also be incredibly dominant and self-serving. I was one of those who watched his performance at Adforum in Sao Paulo in 2014 when he wouldn’t allow his talented colleagues at F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi to speak in their own office.

Greeted by a storm of outrage about his reported comments, Roberts was first suspended and then persuaded to bring forward his retirement from S&S and the Publicis Groupe. Here is a sample comment from the CEO of Ketchum London, Denise Kaufmann: ‘When I read Kevin Roberts’ comments on diversity, I was at first shocked, then horrified, then angry and then very, very sad. [He] is wrong – the gender debate is far from over. How is it possible that in the year 2016, a man could make such misguided and crass comments about the ambitions of women?’ Maurice Levy’s heir apparent, Arthur Sadoun, said, ‘behaviour like this will not be tolerated in our Groupe’.

Hang on guys. He didn’t say the issue was dead, but that the debate (as far as he was concerned) was over. And when did giving an interview count as behaviour?

Before returning to the rights and wrongs of the excommunication of Roberts, I thought it might be an idea to look at how free we are to voice opinions nowadays. We all know that the First Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits the passing of any law that “abridges the right to free speech”. We don’t have a written constitution, but all my life I have heard people say, ‘this is a free country’. And part of being a free country is having the right to say what you think. Another well-worn cliché is, ‘I disagree with what you say, but I defend your right to say it’.

Have political correctness, and recent legislation outdated all this? The UK signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights in 1998, which contains a provision as follows: “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers”.

The Convention does contain some restrictions: “The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or the rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary”.

Each member country of the EU has enshrined specific conditions in its Bill of Rights (or equivalent), and the UK is no exception. We have considerable restrictions on the right of expression. Some of these unsurprisingly relate to national security, public morals, the monarchy etc. But mostly they are designed to prevent threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour designed to cause harassment, alarm or distress or cause a breach of the peace (which has been used to prohibit racist speech targeted at individuals).

I think this element of causing distress should be at the heart of any cause célèbre like the Roberts case. Is it justification enough that people disagree with an opinion Roberts expresses? Shouldn’t there have to be evidence that he intended to cause distress, and that actual measurable distress was caused, and moreover that the said distress was objectively justifiable? Almost certainly, yes.

What Roberts said was that the debate is a dead duck, not that the issue isn’t important any more. He went on to put forward supportive evidence that Publicis Groupe, and Saatchi & Saatchi in particular, are way ahead of the game on providing female employment and advancement.

Was what he said calculated to cause distress? Are individuals like Ms Kaufmann justified in registering distress? Clearly not, I would say.

Were M.Sadoun and other high ranking Publicis executives from M.Levy down entitled to be angry that one of their most senior and powerful colleagues committed an undoubted gaffe (the ‘fucking’ didn’t help), while still in office. Clearly yes, in my view. That’s a potential disciplinary matter, if the indiscretion could jeopardise client relations, the share price etc.

But the outcry in the media, inevitably fanned by diversity zealots like Cindy Gallop, had nothing to do with disciplinary issues. It was about people saying that Roberts should not be free to say that the debate wasn’t a live issue any more, and that we should all move on.
I have thought about this a great deal, and I firmly believe that he was in his rights to say what he said (however fervently others might disagree with him). The media storm was probably misguided, and should be reserved for real bigots – which Kevin Roberts is not.

Two possible conclusions:

  1. Free speech should continue to be a vital ingredient in a democracy
  2. Ageing white males are neither universally wrong, nor completely redundant. There – I have declared my interest!

Read more at https://www.marketingsociety.com/the-library/does-free-speech-matter-any-more-0#tmW8L3y0QLqT402J.99