The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Where Have All The Heroes Gone?
October 8, 2007, 5:36 am
Filed under: Comment

The League of Supermen (Part Two)

I made by bed, and I sleep like a baby
With no regrets and I don’t mind saying
It’s a sad sad story
That a mother will teach her daughter
that she ought to hate a perfect stranger
And how in the world
Can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they’d write me a letter
Saying that I better shut up and sing
Or my life will be over

I’m not ready to back down
I’m still mad as hell
And I don’t have time
To go round and round and round
It’s too late to make it right
I probably wouldn’t if I could
Cause I’m mad as hell
Can’t bring myself to do what it is
You think I should

Dixie Chicks 

The above lyrics are to the song ‘I’m Not Ready To Make Nice’ by US group, The Dixie Chicks. The song was their response to the unbelievably hostile reaction they received at the hands of US companies and music fans when at a concert in London, they casually quipped they were ’embarrassed to come from the same state as George W Bush’.

Within days their records were being burnt, their concerts were being cancelled and death threats were being sent through the mail – which not only led to the band almost splitting up, but made a mockery of America’s  ‘freedom of speech’.

The fact that the girls – especially feisty lead singer, Natalie Maines – refused to back down is fantastic and having followed the whole sorry episode in their brilliant DVD [Shut Up And Sing] I have a massive respect for them – far more than I will ever have for someone like Bono or any other of his bandwagon-jumping pals.

What really struck me was the Dixie Chicks ‘fight’ … not just that they defended themselves, but that they took the issue on and played it out on a bigger stage, regardless of the implications on their career.

Compare that response to how most corporations would act.

If anything negative is said, they tend to immediately apologise or clam up – before disappearing into the background until the dust has settled.

Hell, Hill & Knowlton – one of the most well known and respected PR companies in the World – openly state that their first response to clients [who are in situations that could cause corporate harm] is to say ‘nothing’ – and they charge billions of dollars for that advice!

OK … so the situation that the Dixie Chicks found themselves in is probably quite different to that of most corporations … however it does seem we are becoming a nation where standing up for what you believe in is left to ‘some other guy’ rather than take the issue on ourselves.


To be honest, that’s not really that surprising when we are exposed to millions of messages each and every day subliminally telling us to SHUT THE FUCK UP and carry on as normal!

Hell the bible probably started it all off when they told the masses “The meek shall inherit the Earth” which is hardly a subtle declaration to keep quiet and let the powerful people get on with whatever they want because ultimately it’ll be for your own good.

There’s a great quote in Michael Moore’s new movie ‘Sicko’ where someone describes the difference between the French Government and the US.

“The French Government are scared of the population and so actively work in their best interests whereas the US population are frightened of their Government so let them get on with whatever they want to do”

You see while democracy is a wonderful thing – if culturally you are more inner focused than outer aware, you end up voting for what is right for YOU rather than what is right for all of you – and if someone questions society on its actions, you end up being treated in the same manner as the Dixie Chicks … which is probably why so many politicians are toothless idiots these days.

I don’t really know what I am trying to say in this post [I’m sure you’ve gathered that already] and I appreciate there’s massive holes in my argument – but I just feel we need to create/become more heroes because if we don’t, we’re going to embrace a life of conformity which [I believe] is one of the most dangerous thing facing society.

Once when I was working on Coke, I ran some research groups where I made the participants watch a compendium of epic movie moments. Every film I showed featured the pivotal moment where the central character triumphed over adversity – from Erin Brockovich’s speech to the big corporate lawyers trying to shut her down, to Rocky’s final exhausted punch to glory through to Al Pachno’s adrenalin inducing speeches in Scent Of A Woman or Any Given Sunday and pretty much everything inbetween.

Anyway after we watched all this, we discussed how these clips had affected the viewers, and almost all of them to a man started talking about how they connected to the characters for two different reasons …

1 They wanted to see the character succeed in their quest.

2 It encouraged them [even if for a micro second] to go out and stand up to the wrongs they felt were going on in their immediate lives.

Did any of them then go out and change their World?

I have no idea – but what I do know is that if a movie character can make people feel positive and optimistic about their life, then the more ‘real’ heroes we have can only be for the better.


What has this all to do with adland?

Nothing really – except my industry is one of the worst offenders in ‘talking’ rather than acting – so maybe if they stopped pretending to be on the cutting edge of the new and stopped trying to create big news out of little evolutions of change [Channel Planning anyone?] then it might, just might reclaim some respect as a home for the ingenius, creative and imaginative.

In all seriousness, I have more respect for The Smiths than I do for most in adland – at least they stood up for what they believed whereas most ad agencies never do anything that they fear could alienate the client.

For them, their policy seems to be ‘never offend’ whereas The Smiths lived by the belief of ‘inspirational actions’. 

Me supporting The Smiths?  I’m either tired, ill, or very serious about more of us needing to make a stand rather than a little bit of noise!

PS: Sorry how preachy this has come across, it wasn’t meant that way – blame it on the jetlag, that’s as good an excuse as any 🙂

41 Comments so far
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I like this post Rob. It is rambling 🙂 but it is something I can relate to.
The Burmese monks are far more inspirational to me than someone like Oprah, even though she has done huge amounts for various groups around the World.
I think the difference is selflessness. Where people continue to “fight” despite the possible negative affects on their personal circumstances.
The Dixie Chicks took on freedom of speech even though it could lead to the demise of their career. The Burmese monks took on the countries political agenda despite the potential for horrific violence. Oprah and Bono take on issues but you never feel they would sacrifice their careers or lifestyle for their cause.
That’s not really a criticism because most people don’t want to put their family lifestyle in jeapordy over a “cause” but then most people aren’t proffessing to try and change the World while living a lifestyle that most Royalty could only dream about.
You wrote two other posts that I think relate to this issue, mid-level happiness and that redemption one, I tried to find them but couldn’t but all you are saying is what makes you you, so don’t apologise for this post because while you aren’t exactly fighting the biggest issues on earth, you’re at least fighting certain wrongs regardless of what implications that has on you or your company.
Finally I remember that Coke research work you did and for all the great ads WK are doing with “Coke side of life”, I wonder if any of it would of actually seen the light of day had you and the boys not sold in the cultural concept of youth optimism to Atlanta.
The only concern over this post (excluding the smiths praise which I will put down to jetlag, LOL)is whether I should continue calling you the Bob Geldof of advertising or the Dixie Chicks of advertising 🙂

Comment by Pete

is this a not so fucking subtle war cry against your “problem” situation?
am i going to read about you in the press or will you be asking me to post bail?
stop trying to take on the worlds problems, you can only do so much and you do more than most so how about you spend some time on you rather than try and fix every other fuckers issues.
have i just given you a massive compliment? have i? oh fuck i think i have, what a way to end my weekend. shit.

Comment by andy@cynic

and pete, dont worry about the coke thing, we sold the strat to mtv. were the most environmentally friendly agency on the face of the planet. 🙂

Comment by andy@cynic

Admit it, this is your declaration to run for the US presidency. Don’t laugh, I’d vote for you.
My view matches Pete’s identically except I’d be far more boring in the way I expressed myself 🙂

Comment by George

Rather than declare himself a presidential candidate, I reckon Rob is showing us all that he’s a big fan of George W.
Read the post again guys. Rob goes on about standing up for what you believe even if its not popular and GWB gave the bird to world opinion when he decided to pebble dash that place once known as Iraq.
He doesn’t care what other countries think, no one tells the leader of the most powerful nation on earth who he can or can’t fuck up, especially a bunch of peace loving hippies.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Have to agree with Pete too – even if this post is one of your most rambly, it’s excellent. even the smiths bit – just because it’s from way outta left field.

i went to a protest on saturday in support of the burmese monks and it reminded me how powerful and emotional standing up for the good of humanity and for what you believe in can actually be. people yelled, i shed a tear and old men wore silly red bandanas in solidarity.

compare that to the mindless ambling of sunday-afternoon-oxford-street-consumption that i was part of yesterday and it’s no contest really. most brands would bend over backwards to have the kind of reception that was at the protest, yet have absolutely no desire to act in a way that promotes it.

Comment by lauren

Ah, great post.

Im not a fan of the Dixie Chicks music, but I respect them more than 99% of bands after how they stood up to the right wing reactionaries in the US.

And that quote from Michael Moore is so true. The US government is so much more dictatorship than people seem to realise.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

The Smiths inspirational? I’d say they were much more in the little noise category – student faves generally are – and while it’s fashionable and probably justifiable to prick the pomposity of Oprah and Bono, that’s really because they’re establishment figures and hugely rich now. They both took a series of stands when they had nothing, so I’m not sure they’re bandwagon jumpers. Sort of impressive that they keep doing it if you think about it.

Comment by John

And be careful when you quote Michael Moore – I like his films but there’s a documentray on the way that apparently shows them to be fraudulent.

Comment by John

I dont recall Bono ever taking a real stand on anything apart from the troubles in Northern Ireland.

The film which shows how biased Michael Moore is has supposedly very little new info. Moore himself admits he stretches things and shows one side only, but always makes sure his facts are right.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

oh Rob, it’s so good to read a post like this after going through the blatanly mindless “I’ve got the longest cock in the whole fucking world”-comments that sadly take over Scamp’s nice blog. I hope non of the creaitve people commenting there anonymously has a job in advertising. Or at least at Wieden’s, CP+B or cynic. Never read so much dickheaded ego-bullshit.
Oh, it seems that I am angry and used some expicit words. Sorry for that. But it’s just nice to read something good.

Comment by Seb

Absolutely Seb.

This kind of post reminds me that despite all of the rubbish ads on tv, there is a place for those with creative (Andy), angry (Rob), and unusual (anyone who would work for those two 😉 ) people in advertising.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

How did I paint myself into the corner of defending Bono? But twenty years ago he was banging on about poverty and AIDS via Live Aid and apartheid via Sun City protets and Mandela and ten years ago there were anti-nuclear stunts for Greenpeace and stuff in Sarajevo.

As for Mr Moore – well I haven’t seen it either but stretching things an making sure the facts are right seem a little contradictory to me. Either you can walk into a bank, open an account and walk out with a gun or you can’t – and apparently you can’t.

Comment by John

He was, but he always seemed to be riding on the back of other people’s campaigns (as far as my knowledge of the era can find).

He has taken some good causes and helped them out, but I wouldnt class him in the same league as Geldof for example.

To be fair to Moore, in his book he references pretty much every fact he states; and its not like the right wing media/writers dont distort their facts just as much.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Hello peeps and thanks for the kind words [bar Billy, but he’s young and American so what do you expect!] it’s just something really bothering me at the moment so I felt I just had to rant 😉

Now John … while I respect Bono for putting his name to all sorts of major issues … the fact is both he – and to a certain degree Oprah – have only put their name to issues that have already attained a certain degree of mass awareness.

It’s not like Geldoff who took on something that few knew about – Bono has always ridden a wave of awareness so whilst I accept he has done good, I do not believe his intentions have been as selfless as he likes to make out.

As for Michael Moore – well he has always said he gives an extreme view because this is the only way to counter the opposing extreme view of media groups like Fox News etc.

He intention is to balance the spectrum of opinion so people can make a more balanced view though I appreciate I am obviously very biased because we have done work for him and continue to be involved in Dog Eat Dog.

So while I am sure the movie that slags him off has plenty of interesting points, I would question the motivation of the people behind that movie rather than immediately place Michael Moore in the ‘bad bloke’ pile.

Right, I’m off to read Scamp’s blog – I love it when ad people show themselves for the cocks that they are.

PS: WHERE THE FUCK IS MARCUS AND NP … I was expecting BIIIIIIIIIIG comments from them after my Smiths acknowledgement.

Comment by Rob


Comment by The Kaiser

I’m actually really rather nervous today – I’m not even on best behaviour – just plain nervous. Shitting my pants actually. 3hrs 55mins to go.

Comment by The Kaiser

Jesus how slack am I … god mate, I am so sorry, so fucking sorry. Be good, be your best, be true – and let me know how you go.

I feel such a shit now – so, so, so sorry.

Comment by Robert

Daft bugger. Don’t be silly.

Comment by The Kaiser

That’s me …

Comment by Rob

When Rob M mentioned stretching points and putting one side – I resisted the obvious retort that that sounded like bad advertising. I’m not putting anyone in the bad bloke pile, just like I’m not putting Bono and Oprah in the saints pile. That’s my point.

Comment by John

Would you like a cushion for your bum John? Just worried it might be a bit painful for you sitting on that wall, hahaha!

Comment by Rob

Too many piles around here.

Comment by The Kaiser

As I live and breathe, a favourable Smiths comment.I feel faint.

Comment by NP

Call it your birthday pressie NP … and did you get my email from a couple of days ago?

Don’t get me wrong, I still fucking hate The Smiths [and I’m not exactly that keen on the Dixie’s music] but for standing up for something they believe – even if it is hugely unpopular with the masses – I do have a certain amount of respect for them. Now it’s me that feels faint 🙂

Comment by Rob

I feel sick.

Comment by The Kaiser

I think I have to see whats going on at Scamps… must be where all my commenters have gone!!!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Riddle me this Campbell – if the man who saves the children from a burning buidling turns out to be a paedophile does that make him less heroic?

Comment by John

Depends why he saved them…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

The Democracy 2.0 Declaration is Here!

On behalf of the 1,581 Democracy 2.0 survey respondents, 47 participants of
the Democracy 2.0 Summit, and those 12 that worked 15 hours to draft a
document we’re proud of, stand behind and will mobilize around, it’s my
pleasure and honor to announce our generation’s Democracy 2.0 Declaration:

Democracy is an unfinished project. It’s time we upgrade.

We, the Millennial Generation, are uniquely positioned to call attention to today’s issues and shape the future based on the great legacy we have inherited. Our founding fathers intended for every generation to build, indeed to innovate, on the American experience. We realize that as young people we are expected to be the leaders of tomorrow, but we understand that as citizens we are called to be the leaders of today.

We are compelled by the critical state of our present democracy to establish a new vision.

In a world often damaged by conflict and intolerance, we must commit to develop common ground through equality and open mindedness.

In a world often damaged by social isolation and materialism, we must commit to community at the family, local, national and global levels.

In a world often damaged by instant gratification, we must commit to creating sustainable solutions.

In a world often damaged by apathy and disillusionment, we must commit to civic participation and inclusion of all voices.

The present state of our democracy impedes opportunity for real change. We must connect the specific issues failing our population with their underlying systemic causes.

Our government seems unable or unwilling to adequately address our broadest problems, including economic inequality, America’s role in the world, and the effect of money on the democratic process. But we must remember, our government is only as effective as the sum of its citizens. Low civic participation means the most disadvantaged people in society are neglected and we overlook many potential solutions to our problems.

Our generation is telling a different story. We are uniquely positioned to foster community engagement through social networks of all kinds. It is our responsibility to use information and technology to upgrade democracy, transform communication and advance political engagement and civic participation.

We are social networkers, we are multi-taskers, we are communicators and we are opinionated. The informality of our generation breaks down traditional barriers and opens doors for inclusiveness and equality. Most importantly, we are leaders in a society that yearns for leadership.

It’s our democracy, it’s time to act.

Comment by Brendan

Here here. Brendan for president!

Comment by Rachel

Fire fighting paedophiles for president!

Comment by Dave Mortimer

Hi Brendan, I love your post and am a big supporter of what you are talking about and trying to do – but I don’t think it is just the government who are to blame for this devolution of societies values … I believe we are all guilty to a certain extent and if you search on my blog for ‘Champagne Socialism’ you’ll understand why what some people say versus what some people do are completely different.

Saying all that, it’s great to have you come here for the first time and I hope it won’t be the last because I like learning from debate – but I llke doing something about it even more.

Comment by Rob

Love the Dixie Chicks. Did you see their movie. Was really interesting to see them get their heads around branding issues: “We SAID we support the troops but everyone still thinks we’re unAmerican?” And in the end it’s a gorgeous look at how to “brand” from your gut. Great album too.

Comment by Emily

You really have to meet Jill, you’ll be in Dixie Chicks heaven!

I LOVE their doco, it single-handidly changed the way I felt about that band and whilst their music doens’t exactly do it for me, I do have to admit “I’m Not Ready To Make Nice” has got deep into my soul – which makes a change from Queen, ha!

Comment by Rob

Ah yes Queen – that would be the band that didn’t boycott Sun City! No more heroes?

Comment by John

didnt you know rob was a member of the kkk?

Comment by andy@cynic

The krap kritiks of knifetown?

(meh, best I could think of in 5 seconds…)

Comment by Rob Mortimer

[…] The Heroes Gone II December 14, 2007, 7:00 am Filed under: Comment A while back I asked the above question and said that if society didn’t have people to inspire, encourage and aspire to … we […]

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[…] honestly don’t know, but judging what happened to the Dixie Chicks when then called out George W Bush, I bet it wouldn’t be something that went un-noticed like it did way back in 1978 … […]

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