The statements, opinions, and advertisements expressed on the ERA Blog and other online entities owned by the Electronic Retailing Association are those of individual authors and companies and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Electronic Retailing Association.
Seemingly every day now, news of another man’s sexual misdeeds is exposed in the media by women finally emboldened to come forth and tell their truth. The result is swift justice, as reputations, careers, and marriages are flushed down the toilet in the blink of a 24-hour news cycle. Many speculate that men everywhere must be shaking in their boots; indeed, there are likely some men reading this who have had cause to be circumspect and wonder which of their actions crossed the line between flirtatiousness, inappropriateness, and downright assault. One thing is clear: we have reached a tipping point; our reckoning has arrived.
What does this topic have to do with direct-to-consumer marketing? Besides the fact that entire brands are being shut down, pulled from shelves, and blowing up before our eyes due to this controversy, among industries that perpetuate bad behavior, advertising is right up there with Hollywood and the music industry. After all, in contrast to, say, banking or public utilities, our jobs are considered glamorous and often described as “sexy.” The entertainment and advertising fields share this truth in common: not only are they overwhelmingly controlled by men like every industry in America, there is tremendous competition to get into them and to advance, which provides fertile ground for exploitation. Of women. When men watch episodes of Mad Men and observe their good old boys club attitudes and behavior, some among us think “those were the good old days” or, likely at best, “that would never fly now.” But it is increasingly evident that for the women who work among us, little to nothing has changed. Read Salma Hayek’s very personal, nuanced, and searing indictment detailing her experience with Harvey Weinstein in her courageous New York Times op-ed, and it becomes clear that what is really at play here are two things: exploitation and humiliation. What is at stake here: fairness and individual dignity.
Let’s get real: human beings are sexual creatures. People hook up at work; even marry. It’s fun to flirt. That there are occasions where members of both sexes engage in questionable behavior in order to gain workplace advantages. But there is a distinction between consenting adults and using one’s power as leverage to get another individual riven with fear and disgust to do something they don’t want to do. As some pundits have observed, if Matt Lauer wanted to have sex with women outside his marriage, he could have likely walked into any watering hole in Midtown and found a willing partner. Why did he have to troll at work? There are differences between blurting out something stupid at happy hour or leaning in at the company Christmas party, and threatening someone’s livelihood who is vulnerable or the certain evilness of physically assaulting a fellow human being.
I understand there is concern that everything is getting lumped together and painted with the same brush; that there will be false allegations; that there are indeed men who can legitimately lay claim to the hashtag #metoo; that we, as a society, will somehow become colder and be drained of all sense of humor; that we will now be forced to walk on eggshells unclear of what exactly the new rules of engagement are.
But I believe I have an answer: as the father of two daughters and a grandfather, as a son and a husband, as a friend to many women, I simply have to imagine what I would want for them in the workplace. As a man, you don’t have to be in my particular shoes to apply the concept. What would your hopes be for your loved ones? How would you like for them to be treated? How would you feel if they were mistreated the way so many women have described over the past few months and will undoubtedly reveal in the days ahead?Things have changed. Victims are no longer victims; they are warriors for change who will no longer be silenced. For decades, women have been subjected to intimidation with seemingly no choice but to remain mute. At last they have a choice. As men, each of us does as well. It’s high time we made the right one. The Golden Rule, after all, is blind to gender. When you open your eyes and look in the mirror, ask yourself: what do you see?
Rick Petry is a direct marketing veteran of over 25 years who has been involved with campaigns that have generated over $1 billion in sales. He provides creative services to both B2C and B2B marketing campaigns and recent projects have included Actegy/Revitive, Education Connection, GOLO, Joybird, and OYO. The author of over 200 articles on direct marketing best practices, Petry has a Bachelor of Arts in Cinema/Television from the University of Southern California and an MBA with a Concentration in Marketing and Sales from Marylhurst University.