Monday, July 21, 2008

An Advertising Man's Dilemma

A book that has stuck in my mind for a long time was Executive in Passage by Donald Marrs. In brief, he begins his story as the vice president of an international advertising firm, Leo Burnett. He questions the fact that part of his job is to make ads that sell cigarettes, even though he had quit for the sake of his own health. He questions why he should be making ads to sell gas guzzling cars when the nation needs to find ways to use less energy. He is also tired of work schedules that demand ever more of his time. So he does the the thing to occurs to him as reasonable, and he quits.

On his way out, he was surprised to notice that some of the people he worked with for years were cold to him. Then it dawned on him that they were angry because he was turning her back on what they still coveted, the position of vice president of the firm.

He then spent an extended time working on himself, learning about meditation, metaphysical ideas and holistic medicine. He tried the movie business without much success. Then one day, he had a realization that he enjoyed being in the advertising business, but he did not like the way it was run. So he created a different kind of agency.

Marketing Partners, the firm he created, was set up with different ways of doing business. He decided that he would not ask employees to work overtime unless it was a true emergency. That way, when there really was an emergency, it was rare, and employees would be glad to pitch in. When prospective clients asked for a presentation, he insisted on having a reasonable amount of time to prepare. He paid his vendors promptly instead of stringing them out. He decided to only represent companies which were ethically run, and offered quality products and services to customers, and he resigned from accounts that he discovered were not.

What would our world be like if more people chose to run their businesses organized with such principles in mind? Sometimes we are in a business that we know and love, but we could get burned out, unless we were more satisfied with all aspects of it. And, as Donald Marrs demonstrated, a person can make money doing business with ethics and quality.

Making changes in our way of doing things sometimes means we do things that are altogether different, and sometimes it means doing the same things in a different way.

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