I have just completed this political season writing for an honest man who entered the political fray. His budget was only a fraction of his major opponent and I worked for free. The contest was important to me. I love America and fear that it needs better people in Washington. We've already had too many disappointments.
Writing for his political campaign took me back, way back, to my days in advertising.
One day, while leafing through a copy of Advertising Age Magazine, I found an anecdote from the life of the marketing mogul, John Wanamaker, that impressed me greatly.
“John Wanamaker, who practically invented the modern department store, was also the first to run full-page advertisements. His motto: 'The customer is always right' – which is still a byword in American business... was matched by equally high standards of advertising. One of Wanamaker’s advertising men was so scrupulous that he could only write copy when he was convinced of its absolute truth. One day, the men's clothing department wanted to advertise a sale of neckties reduced from a dollar to only 25 cents. The ad man inspected the ties personally and asked the buyer, 'Are they any good?'
“'No, they're not,' came the honest reply.
“The ad man scratched his head and went to work. After wrestling with his conscience, he came up with the following copy: 'They are not as good as they look, but they are good enough at 25 cents.'
“The demand was so great that Wanamaker's had to buy several more weeks' supply of cheap ties.”
Obviously, that story struck me and stuck with me. It became a challenge to never write a dishonest line of copy. I struggled with every client's product and service, looking for the good in it, and using every ounce of creativity to sell it honestly.
I wasn't about to do anything less in this political contest.
Fortunately, the candidate gave me general guidelines and left it to me to compose content that went into correspondence, speeches, ads, and blog posts. He had the right of final approval but never altered one word except to correct factual errors.
Over the course of the campaign we addressed the issues in detail while the opponents skirted them. We offered solutions while they offered empty platitudes. We took chances. They didn't. Interestingly, no one challenged us.
The only attack related to the candidate's association with former President Clinton who isn't very popular with the majority of voters in this district. They mischaracterized their relationship; however, no one seemed to take much notice. Yes, it was a lie, but a seemingly insignificant one.
My candidate showed up at every city council meeting in the district for a year to meet with community leaders and understand their concerns. He attended every community event and accepted every invitation to debate his opponents. In almost every case, he sat next to an array of empty chairs.
Of course, my candidate failed to obtain enough votes to gain admittance to the general election in November. That prize went to the establishment Republican and the establishment Democrat, and the herd continued to graze without noticing that the lions had culled one of their number.
The real tragedy? Less than 17% of registered voters in the state of California participated.
All of us, including Si Robertson, have it wrong. Dishonesty has nothing to do with politics, not any more.
It's the apathy that is destroying us.