March 4, 2007

Uh, "Male Activist" Launches Most Oblique Ad Protest Campaign Ever

Last fall, Arnold Worldwide made some dumb ads for Fidelity about dumb dads, and so "male activists" have launched a campaign to protest negative portrayals of dads. Except I only count one "male activist" behind this, syndicated columnist Glenn Sacks.

What's Sacks' target? Volvo. Volvo's ad account is under review right now, and Sacks wants people to call Volvo and tell them not to award the account to Arnold, but to give it to, say Euro RSCG, which makes dad-friendlier commercials.

I say, lighten up and shoot right. Volvo's sales dropped over 10% last year. What's more natural than to look around for fresh ad ideas? Their incumbent agency of 16 years should feel damn lucky they're even in the finals. [That agency, btw: Euro RSCG.]

The Fidelity commercials are kind of lame, but they're not horrible. If you hate them, go after Fidelity, since I'm sure Arnold thinks they're brilliant and you're silly, and they don't give a damn what you say anyway. And besides, Arnold was also the source of some great dad-friendly VW commercials back in the day--the 5-second rule spot, the flirting-with-carseats spot--so they've got some good dad karma to burn.

Male Activists [sic] Want Volvo to Award Ad Account to Euro [ via coolmompicks and dt reader julia] Volvo campaign []


Thousands of activists and many activist organizations support the Sacks campaign against Arnold. My organization,, is one of them. Fathers and Families is another. There are many more. There's also major support from within the advertising world. Advertising industry veterans are developing and mobilizing highly visible and effective new means to bring this serious cultural phenomenon to an end.

Boys have fallen behind girls in virtually all areas in primary and secondary education. Nearly 60% of America's college students are women, despite the fact that young men have had higher SAT scores, both math and verbal, for as long as the SAT has been around. Approximately two thirds of American graduate students are women. Boys have vastly higher dropout rates and suicide rates. The growing trend toward fatherlessness is so strongly correlated with crime that when you adjust for family configuration you eliminate the correlation between race and crime and the correlation between low income and crime. In marital court millions of loving fathers lose the possibility of having meaningful relationships with their children every year.

The media is unable to produce images of strong, competent father figures because it's become politically incorrect to do so. This can be seen in film, television programming and advertising. The phenomenon is not surprising as many of America’s highest profile, main stream feminist leaders have openly acknowledged their aim to “destroy the enslaving institution of marriage”. Men are portrayed negatively in prime time television 8-12 times more often than women. A recent survey conducted by shows that men in prime time television are viewed far more often than women as sources of marital discontent, as inadequate parents, and as "corrupt" and "stupid". Respondents to the February 2007 survey indicated by a factor of over 11 to 1 that wives are portrayed more often than husbands as "justifiably dissatisfied with" their spouses and by 17 to 1 that men are more often portrayed as "corrupt". Women were significantly more likely to be seen as intelligent (5 to 4), good looking (7 to 1), and inspiring (5 to 1). In two categories women received all the favorable responses as not a single respondent indicated that men are more often depicted as "good parents" or as "honest".

The body of research indicating that men are in trouble in America is massive. The body of research indicating that our children are in trouble because of the absence of competent and involved fathers is even more massive and irrefutable. When you see the imbalance in the media’s depictions of husbands, fathers and men, it’s fine with us if you choose to “suck it up”. We’re doing something about it.

welcome to my blog for apparently the first time, Richard. I started it because I, too, found next to no supportive information or perspectives for me, a dad-to-be who wanted to be more involved in caring for and raising my kid.

I'm sure if I could overlook your thinly veiled Rush Limbaugh-ian hostility to "feminism" and your ridiculously outdated and offputting use of "politically incorrectness" as a badge of male victimhood, and if you could overlook my cynicism about grandstanding-yet-meaningless publicity stunts targeting companies completely unrelated to the issue at hand, we'd probably find we have a lot of issues, concerns, and objectives in common.

You might have noticed, for example, my multiple criticisms of the "Motherhood Manifesto," which relegates parental (i.e., father-inclusive) approaches to work-family balance issues to the back burner--when dads get mentioned at all, that is.

There would probably be a whole host of topics and campaigns and initiatives we could agree on, even rally and work together on. But this Fidelity-Arnold-Volvo thing is not one of them.

Even though I agree that the ads are lame, even negative about their portrayals of men and dads, it seems the natural/only/logical target of outrage and the primary recipient of any negative campaign should be Fidelity first. It's their commercials that are the obvious problem here, plus they write the checks for the agency, and money talks.

The real problem, I'd guess, is that Fidelity and/or their commercials don't make a controversial enough target for a protest, and so don't draw enough attention to Sacks--and, I guess, your organization. Why is that, I wonder? The ads were released in November 2006. Are they still running? When did they run? Are they over? Did you or Sacks make any noise of protest about them at the time? Were you guys ignored?

Or did you/Sacks not find out about the lame ads until after they were off the air, and since protesting dead commercials on a shelf was meaningless, were the last few weeks spent triangulating, looking for a protesting angle that might get you/Sacks back in the game and generate sufficient headlines?

I have no idea at all, I'll be honest. That's why I'm asking. Because the whole dynamic of protesting an ad review--including targeting and unrelated company and going to the rather extreme step of advocating that Volvo retain the same agency who's presided over steep declines in sales--because of objectionable ads made at some time in the past for an entirely different client just makes no sense to me at all. And if I were an exec at Volvo and got calls from wound up protestors about this, I would just think you're out of touch at best.

If the crisis you perceive is so dire that any publicity at all is worth it, even publicity that makes you look irrational and that leaves professional folk scratching their heads, then why not dress as Batman and throw flour bombs at Dick Cheney or something like those dudes in the UK? I'm sure you're more clearheaded than that, but I gotta say, to me this campaign does no favors to the cause.


There was absolutely nothing veiled in my original post. You can keep your false welcome to yourself. You were wrong in every aspect of your criticism in your opening post. I’ve gone to considerable lengths to make that clear to you. You have in turn failed to acknowledge your initial false claims in any way. Instead, you have attempted to fabricate a new enemy for yourself and the readers of this blog with a new round of false conjecture and statements about my position and the motives behind this campaign. I won’t respond further to your “I suppose you think” propositions. Let it suffice to say that you and perhaps some of your readers should reread my initial post carefully, knowing that what you’ve said in your second post about my position, the campaign, its timing, its underlying premises and the chain of events is also false.

We know our society is in trouble as the result of the unmet needs for competent, involved, respectable fathers. Their absence is the single most significant contributor to academic failure, juvenile delinquency and crime. At the same time, our media is unwilling to show fathers meeting this need. There’s something terribly wrong with that.

Richard S

Sorry, I assumed that your announcement of your existence was proof enough that Sacks wasn't alone in his protest. He had an "organization" backing him up. Never mind that it's apparently an organization of one--you, Richard Smaglick, with a two-page, nearly content-free website.

The adage article that quoted Arnold's annoying, dismissive CEO also quoted someone from Volvo saying they'd read all the emails and fielded all the calls in one day. That doesn't sound like they're being overwhelmed by thousands of protestors.

So in the absence of any other information about the scale of the Volvo protest--besides your obviously self-interested and unverifiably vague claims in the first paragraph of your comment, I will stand by the rest of my facts for now, thanks.

As for my criticism and opinion, that's unlikely to change. I thought and still think the Volvo-Arnold-Fidelity protest strategy is too oblique to be an effective rallying point for action, and the message it conveys is muddled and disconnected with the action you're advocating. PLUS, it makes little business sense because of Volvo's current circumstances. PLUS--and I say this accepting full well that the Fidelity ads are lame portrayals of dads and men--Arnold has also produced very dad-positive ads in the past.

So your simplistic, black&white protest actually ignores a whole host of complex business issues that are directly relevant to the issues you raise.

As for the rest of your post, it's great, I agree, whatever, it's irrelevant to my suspicions about the muddled and potemkin nature of the protest. I'll reiterate that I have no idea about your motivations for the protest; I only know what's been published in the media, and the published dates of the campaign. There's nothing on your site, or in Sacks' writeups that I've seen that addresses how and when the offending ads actually began offending, and how and when the protest came to be directed against Volvo.

Like I said, the ads are dated Nov. 2006, and Volvo's finalist review was announced Feb. 5, 2007. The first articles about Glenn Sacks' call to protest Volvo were 2/28. Obviously, you weren't protesting Volvo before they announced Arnold as a finalist, but I can't find any mention online about F& or Sacks complaining about the ads before this Volvo thing.

As for nothing veiled, fine. You're an open hater of "feminists." Thanks for clearing that up. I have my disagreements with a lot of feminists, especially on dad-related workplace issues, but I consider myself a feminist, and some of the greatest women I've known are, too.

Everyone in charge of the Fidelity campaign and almost all of the team are men. If Fidelity's anything like the corners of the financial industry I worked in, their execs are overwhelmingly male, too. If you think your fight is with feminism or political correctness, I gotta say, someone's creating fictional enemies for himself, but it ain't me.

The campaign continues. It's not against Volvo. Volvo has now received over 3000 requests to opt against Arnold Worldwide. Volvo executives are now calling those who have made this request.

Claire Huang is responsible for the Fidelity campaign.

Glenn Sacks is the focal point of nearly the entire men's movement and has been widely supported in this effort. Here's another organization supporting the Sacks campaign:

The ad industry understands our campaign quite clearly. It's this simple. If you make ads like this it's likley to cost you the accounts of prospective clients. I think you're underestimating the intelligence of ad execs (and of activists).

You come up with more lies than are worth responding to. You should think twice about false witness in a public forum. You seem to be operating under the premise that anything you make up is true until proven false. It's time to let it go.

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