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

Whoever Said Crime Doesn’t Pay Hasn’t Heard Of McKinsey …


God it’s hard isn’t it.

If this is the point of the week where you have the most energy, how the hell will you be feeling on Wednesday?

Well I’m going to help you with that.

I’m going to give you a surge of energy that will see you through.

And that energy is going to be created through anger.

Remember last week how I wrote about McKinsey and their moral compass free attitude towards making cash?

That they thought nothing of putting in proposals that allowed their client to continue killing people as long as they made money?

Well, I guess there was a small chance that someone could say it was all a mistake. A misunderstanding. A misquote.

OK, so no one really thinks that, but I may have been willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

OK, I wasn’t … because there was no way they ‘made a mistake’.

McKinsey doesn’t make those.

Every single thing they do is deliberate.


Thought out. Considered. Evaluated. Proposed.

Their driving force is optimising profit. For themselves as much as their client – especially as they never execute what they recommend to clients. Implication free advice … morally, ethically and, in some cases, legally.

And why am I being so harsh?

Because of this:

Nothing highlights McKinsey’s knowledge of what they did – and what they didn’t do – than shredding files in relation to their client.

A long time ago there was a book called The Corporation. In it, the author argued that corporations are basically psychopaths on a relentless quest for money and power.

It’s literally why McKinsey are in business.

Who else would want to work with a company that charges huge amounts for work they don’t execute that encourages illicit or even illegal behaviour? And yet so many of the companies that work with them go on about their ‘purpose’, their ‘focus on the community’.

While there are exceptions, Joel Bakan – the author of The Corporation – was generally absolutely correct in his judgement.

When Arthur Anderson was caught shredding the files of the illegal work they did for Enron, their reputation was so tainted that they went bankrupt. That McKinsey continues to walk around like the Masters of the Universe should make you furious.

Absolutely furious.

And with that, you now have the energy to get through your week.

You’re welcome.

18 Comments so far
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Thanks McKinsey for ruining my week before it has even started.

Comment by George

doesnt this shit blog do that to you every fucking week?

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by Bazza

Yep. But not as much as they’ve ruined so many lives with their ‘money trumps morals’ behaviour over decades. I know not everyone there is like that – and Lee has mentioned this to me before – however when an organisation has people in it that allows this to happen [on more than one occasion and with more than one group of people] there has to come a point where they accept some of the responsibility rather than just conveniently blame it on ‘the bad apples who don’t follow the values of the company’.

Comment by Rob

How are McKinsey not held to task for acts like this? As you said it brought Arthur Andersen down and yet they go on from strength to strength. Disgraceful.

Comment by George

I know mate. It makes absoultely no sense …

Comment by Rob

mckinsey are like a more toxic red bull.

Comment by andy@cynic

You know how they say if you are rich, you are eccentric rather than crazy? This is the business equivalent. Repulsive behaviour.

Comment by Pete

Those two got fired for violating the firm’s professional standards. Or getting caught. Can’t remember which.

Comment by John

Every company needs people to blame. I bet the excuse was for shredding papers and not giving advice that would make their clients rich at the cost of their end users lives.

Comment by Bazza

Maybe that’s what they really are paid for. The right to be blamed for undertaking company business that, when caught by others, is identified as being morally – and potentially legally – reprehensible.

Comment by Rob

Pure fucking evil. But is Adland any different?

Comment by Mike

Yes it is. Very different.

Don’t get me wrong there have definitely been questionable choices and decisions made by the industry … but I’ve never seen any agency knowingly recommend a strategy where they know the impact of that will be the death of people directly due to the execution of that strategy.

Comment by Rob

Depends where you draw the line, no? One could argue that it all has to do with the presumptions that you make. Do you believe advertising influences behaviour?

If so, what about the WPP group agencies that still advertise tobacco in the Middle East and Africa? W+K using their creativity and talent to promote a fast-food chain and sugary drinks? And so on.

Comment by Mike

WPP’s involvement in Africa is a fair call. Specifically the work their PR firm did to allegedly legitimise a dictators actions. The W+K example isn’t anywhere near this. Yes having too much can cause bad health … but it’s not in the same way as addictive or as likely to cause death in collapsed time. By that logic, everything is wrong and that’s obviously not the case. Even cigarette advertising had more constraints placed upon it than the way the Sacklers – and then McKinsey – manipulated the rules.

Comment by Rob

Mike. I assume you don’t know anyone who suffers or has suffered from the tyranny of addiction. If you did, I very much doubt you would have used fast food advertising as a comparable category. I am not defending W+K, the advertising industry or fast food brands. But to suggest their behaviour is anywhere close to the actions of McKinsey and the Sackler family is insulting to anyone who has had to endure the destructive experience of addiction.

Comment by George

@Rob: What McKinsey did is pure evil, agreed. But adland cherry picks to support a narrative in which “moderate use” or “individual responsibility” are used to defend their choice to systematically contribute towards the deterioration of public health on a global scale. There is overwhelming evidence that for a large number of people being exposed to advertising for sugary beverages makes them more inclined to buy and consume them (or else advertising wouldn’t work right?). At the same time there is overwhelming evidence that drinking these beverages play a major rol for a large number of people (especially people of color) when it comes to serious health issues. Crafting a strategy that reinforces people to drink more of these beverages might be a lesser evil than what McKinsey did. But as for someone who recently left adland this still doesn’t sit right with me.

I haven’t figured this out myself. Flying for example, we know it contributes to global warming (the planet we leave our children) and so does overconsumption and fast fashion. Is advertising for air travel and fashion immoral? Not sure.

But when it comes to what we consume/eat/drink, especially the messages that reach younger audiences, I guess we could ask ourselves the question what our contribution is. How for example does the advertising we create influence the personal agency people experience? Are we undermining it?

@George: Didn’t mean to offend anyone. Sorry if I did. I had my fair share of addiction in my family and I’m celebrating my own sobriety for 18 years this year. I wasn’t trying to make a direct comparison based on addiction. More on the level of what morale we adhere to.

Comment by Mike

Thanks Mike … I had also interpreted your comment in the same way as George and thought you were referring to a direct business goal of causing and exploiting addiction.

I still don’t believe adlands actions are comparable to the evil documented in this post – because I’ve never seen anyone knowingly suggest an idea where they know death could occur in the quest for profit. However, I do agree there is a moral line that is far too often ‘carefully’ navigated [gambling for example, with that ridiculously ineffective ‘please gamble responsibly’ message] and for that, people cannot just think they are above reproach.

Really appreciate you writing and your view.


Comment by Rob

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