My Blago blog. Why you can’t say Illinois without getting ill.

December 11, 2008

images-22“wanna buy a watch…a senate seat?”

Alas, the only racket more consistently maligned than advertising (politics) has achieved a new low. And I mean low. As anyone taking air must know, our honorable Governor, Rod Blagojevich has been indicted on more counts than in a Transylvanian phone book. According to the Feds, he tried to sell the vacated Senatorial seat of Barack Obama to the highest bidder. He shook down the editorial department of the Chicago Tribune. And though not illegal, he referred to our new President-elect, on tape, as a mother——. This is arrogance and ignorance at unheard of levels –even by corrupt Illinois standards. (FYI, our last Governor, George Ryan is currently in jail for corruption charges that lead to human deaths.) Sigh.

I never liked Blagojevich. From his abusive style and undeserved cocksureness to his dumb football coach haircut, I thought the guy was an ass clown. And now there’s proof, tons of it, and the most heinous recorded on tape. Even Rod’s wife can be heard bellowing crudely about something-or-other, I think the Chicago Cubs sale. “F— the Cubs!” she hollers from the kitchen.

Yikes. The whole mess is the talk of the town. It probably has hurt Chicago’s chances for securing the Olympics. And I believe it hurts the President-elect as well. God forbid he’s involved. And while I doubt he is culpable the taint is there. It’ll be like dog crap on Obama’s shoe. Everywhere he goes there will be that foul odor. The stink of Rod. Conservatives will point it out at every turn.

Has advertising ever perpetrated such crimes upon an innocent population? Do I even need to ask? The billions of dollars spent composing myths for the tobacco industry are a prime example. The catch, I suppose, is that for years the public was aware of the harmful nature of cigarettes. In theory, we could make an informed decision on whether to light up. We knew the truth. But still, was (and is) it right?

Less than 100 years ago advertising was pretty much a forum for lying. Magic potions (some containing poisons) were regularly hocked through the mass media.

Today we are more sophisticated consumers. And for the gullible, we have numerous laws protecting them. Watch dogs hound our industry, making sure we don’t tell lies to make a sale.

And yet, like dog crap, the taint follows us around, it’s potential for harm lurking in every brief. Smart copywriters learn how to navigate the rulebook composing myths on behalf of countless brands, some woefully undeserving, some not. Are ignorant tribesmen from third world countries fairly suited to selling us hamburgers? They are in Crispin Porter’s ingenious “Whopper Virgins” campaign. I ask again: Is it right?

images-11whopper virgins or merely duped?

By law, the Governor has the right to choose a new Senator. Intuitively, he elected to find one who came with money attached. He broke the law by degrees, not seeing the white lines, until he no longer knew right from wrong. They say absolute power corrupts absolutely. In Rod’s case it did just that.

What about in all our cases, or case studies if you will? Are we culpable for selling cigarettes to the Chinese or liquor to the poor? Are we exploiting “virgins” to sell whoppers? Are we telling whoppers every time we attack a new brief?

I ask because sometimes I wonder. Remember, I do this for a living and love it. But I also recognize the awesome power in mythmaking and I’m pretty sure it corrupts, just hopefully not absolutely.


10 Responses to “My Blago blog. Why you can’t say Illinois without getting ill.”

  1. Pale Writer said

    So much worse than Beyonce.

    And that’s hard to do.

  2. Pale Writer said

    And, as a Chicagoan, I cannot begin to put my disgust and anger into words.

  3. Pale Writer-
    Many years ago, well before becoming Governor, Blagoyavich came to our church to address parking laws in the neighborhood. I knew he was there because he had to be. Civic duty. Those gathered in the church basement were just votes, stepping stones to higher office. He had the reek of ambition and over the years it just got worse and worse. How it took so long to detect is amazing and sad.

  4. Jason Fox said

    I suppose I take a look at advertising a bit different than you do, Steffan. While I agree that myths can and have been made over the years, I don’t view as my personal job to elevate a brand to mythical status. In part because that takes a confluence of great strategy, great work and a public who embraces the work and the brand with a certain level of zeal. The myth evolves over time (probably longer than I’m on the account), and hopefully any part I may have ended up playing in its creation was based in truth. I look at my job as getting people to like brands based on some positive attribute of that brand. Maybe it really does taste better or is less filling. Maybe it really can be a floor wax and dessert topping. Maybe it just looks cooler than the other widget that has the same functionality. But I don’t lie about the product. I don’t give it a false halo. People (well, most — many?) see through that schtick.

    Politics is only as good (Washington, Lincoln, Reagan) or bad (Blago) as the people in it. Same as advertising. It’s not bad to tell people about your product. It’s bad to do so dishonestly.

    Can’t wait to see my Chicago-based relatives over Christmas. I know my brother-in-law will have a lot to say on the matter. And since we’ll be on a farm in Iowa, the entertainment will be appreciated.


  5. SRP said

    In terms of our views on advertising, I don’t think there’s a right or wrong here. Just observations, critiques and cautions. In terms of politics, there is a lot of wrong here.

  6. Jason Fox said

    Didn’t mean to come across as right/wrong — just different.

  7. Andy Webb said

    Saw Boy Blago on the news the other night. He’s now presenting a fine display of PR artistry that should provide a damage-control case study in PR departments for years to come. The point, of course, is did he or didn’t he say what was recorded in the phone tap? He’s trying to shift the focus to “I didn’t do anything illegal.” A good tactical move, but I sure hope he goes down in flames before anyone starts buying any of this.

  8. Andy Martinique said

    Blago (Bendovabitch- as he will be better known in prison)is such as waste of political flesh at this point. I work for the state and our jobs are threatened if we say anything unkind about the man. Communistic if you ask me. He was ALWAYS looking to higher office, admittedly bored with the governor’s office. Thank God he’s been caught before he moved up the ladder any further!

  9. hazeleyes said

    I am remembering The Old Mayor Hizzoner’s friend Paddy Bauler’s infamous quote: CHICAGO AIN’T READY FOR REFORM!

    And Chicago (and Illinois) still may not be ready.

    A few weeks ago I heard someone on radio mention that Obama got the US senate seat because Chicago pols wanted him out of the state instead of in the Illinois governorship — they didn’t want him playing in their back yard anymore.

    The Blago office-selling flap raises interesting questions.

    Let’s all watch to see if any dots appear between ethics changes that Blago wanted and the US senate seat ‘scandal’.

    Chicago has seen much worse than the sale of political office, and in fact speaking of sale of political offices, if local pols are so offended about the sale of a senate seat, where were they when Mayor Daley held back Cook County’s vote talley the night Cook County elected Jack Kennedy? And which judge promised Joe Kennedy his kid would be elected by Chicago?

    This paragraph from the ethics change story is something that for sure would set Chicago machine policians’ hair on fire:

    “Blagojevich last month used his amendatory veto power to expand the contractor donation ban to lawmakers and all state officeholders. He also tried to change how pay raises would be voted on, bar lawmakers from holding most other government jobs and require them to more fully disclose lobbying work”

    With lawmakers and state office-holders’ ‘donations’ from contractors, self-voted pay raises, and other sources of off-the-books income in jeopardy, you better believe that the whole state legislature, not to mention every Chicago machine politician past, present, and future would want Blago gone.

    From the ‘reform’ story: “Let’s go ahead and give the people of the state of Illinois what they want and what they deserve,” Fritchey said

    Oh yeah. And he was using the one-finger salute to let his audience know exactly what he meant.

    Cynical? Yes, but I’ve been living in and near Chicago since Hizzoner was king…er, I mean Mayor.


    “Is Illinois ready for ethics?

    The House undid in about two minutes the sweeping ethics reform rewrite Blagojevich spent two months putting together.

    The House voted 110-3 for the original version of House Bill 824 that lawmakers passed in May. That version would bar people with state contracts worth $50,000 or more from making political donations to state officeholders overseeing the contracts.

    Blagojevich also issued an executive order effective Jan. 1 barring people with high-dollar contracts with agencies under his control from giving donations to any state officeholders or lawmakers.

    Blagojevich last month used his amendatory veto power to expand the contractor donation ban to lawmakers and all state officeholders. He also tried to change how pay raises would be voted on, bar lawmakers from holding most other government jobs and require them to more fully disclose lobbying work.

    Rep. John Fritchey, D-Chicago, said lawmakers should consider the changes in separate bills that he filed Wednesday, not in a take-it-or-leave-it vote.

    “Let’s go ahead and give the people of the state of Illinois what they want and what they deserve,” Fritchey said.

    The vote came just hours after Blagojevich had urged lawmakers not to override his changes because he fears they will be stalled if they’re put into separate bills.

    If the measure isn’t voted on in the Senate within 15 days, the entire bill and the changes die.”

  10. SRP said

    Hazel Eyes-
    Great post.
    Thank you for sharing.

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