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They Got It Wrong

Recently a great Creative Director from in our local ad community died. He was just 60 and died not of COVID but of a different, terrible debilitating disease. His death was, no doubt, a crushing loss of his family. I am sorry for their loss and honor their grief. Navigating grief is an agonizing process. Grief has a very long tail.

Today, I post my second Radically Honest podcast, which speaks of my pain as I reflect on the local ad community’s response to his passing. It seemed a painful mismatch for the circumstances our entire community is facing – at so many levels. I was stunned (though I should not have been) by the local advertising community’s lack of understanding about its own privilege – a privilege which the billboards “honoring” this CD screamed. It is a privilege that leaves so many behind.

Let’s begin with the fact that Milwaukee county has the third highest COVID death rate in the country, with no billboards memorializing those victims. Then, our local ad community has a dire lack of diversity, with Black and Brown people frozen out of our industry; yet the Black community makes up half of our city. Finally, there is an insular boys’ club within our local creative executive ranks, along with but a few women in agency C-suites across our city.

Rather than eliciting empathy for a beloved colleague, those billboards felt boastful and cold, stark symbols of privilege. They got it wrong.


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