Adland’s answer to Nathan Bedford Forest

NathanBedfordForrestHistorians generally credit Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forest (pictured) for creating the forerunner of what was to become the Ku Klux Klan.

I raise this arcane fact because the advertising world is being rocked right now by the alleged incendiary words and actions coming out of a leader at Campbell Ewald. I’d like to think this executive’s words and actions would make Nathan Bedford Forest proud.

This has to be read to be believed. Adweek, citing unnamed sources, reports on the allegations of the original email incident that sparked this firestorm. Adweek, again citing unnamed sources, also reports that a veteran CEO has apparently lost his job over this.

According to published reports, in a recent email memo a Campbell Ewald leader allegedly used every conceivable racial slur to make light of black Americans. His motivations for doing so are unknown.

But this guy was a seasoned, successful and, up until he allegedly penned his racist e-mail, a respected leader in Adland.

If all this turns out to accurate, thanks to one horrific note these executives have become completely toxic and always will be. Campbell Ewald’s image and reputation have taken a serious hit (I would imagine more than one client fired them in protest) and everyone is left wondering, “What triggered this hate mongering?

If nothing else, it’s a shot across the bow for agencies and Corporate America. Double down on your diversity training ASAP. And, be sure to include your C-suite in the exercises.

You may very well have a ticking time bomb of an executive about to run amok among your ranks. And the last thing ANY business needs is this sort of damage.

So, what do you do if you’re one of the fired executives?

I’d suggest disappearing from the face of the earth for a year or two, undergoing extensive and intensive counseling and, if rehabilitated, think about joining a consulting firm that specializes in diversity training. There’s nothing more powerful than learning from someone else’s mistakes.


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