More on Hooks

John Mcreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Sat, 8 Oct 1994 11:44:54 JST

Dear Friends,

So many messages, so many thoughts. Trying to put them all together
will lead to a hopeless muddle. This reply is for Jodie (from Rutgers)
who is worried about finding a job, Sabine (from Germany) who says
that an "anthropological frame" is very valuable, and Stephanie
Wilson who writes,

"I came across this quote from Ruth Benedict in "Patterns of
Culture" that I thought might be useful as a `Hook' for potential

"...any cultural control which we may be able to exercise will depend
upon the degree to which we can evaluate objectively the favoured
and passionately fostered traits of our Western civilization."

(For companies operating internationally, this could be changed to
"any civilization" or "any culture") In terms of an Ad agency, for
example, you need to know your audience in order to know how to
sell something to them. This could also pertain to personnel
relations (i.e making the workplace more efficient or easy to
operate in)."

The common thread here is "hooks" for selling anthropology,
especially in the ad game.

First, to Jodie. I am totally ignorant of job opportunities for
someone living in New Jersey. What does come to mind, however, is a
series of comments appearing in recent issues of Ad Age, all
bemoaning the fact that agencies are having trouble recruiting first-
class people. Why? Starting salaries are lower than in other
industries and the industry no longer seems as glamorous as it once
did. What they're talking about isn't the folks in the sexy creative
jobs. What the industry needs more of is smart account executives,
the guys who interface with the clients and manage the business
side of the business. To be good at what they do, they have to be
salesmen, coaches and confidants and know more than a bit about
everything. An anthro with business sense could be very good indeed.
Note that if you go this route you will spend a number of years
working very hard; the pressure will be incredible. You'll be where
the buck stops, literally, right on the bottom line. If you're good at
what you do, you may, however, wind up running your own shop--not
famous (outside the industry) but quite disgustingly rich.

Stephanie, when I read your suggestion, the first thing that comes to
mind is: "Isn't it interesting, how asked to explain the value of what
we do, anthropologists revert to statements made by our near-apical
ancestors?" This isn't a dig, I do it, too. My own views combine a
breadth of heterogeneous knowledge (the 4-fields bit) with a
commitment to integration (the holistic approach): Nothing new here.

What worries me more is that in their own time, our ancestors did a
marvelous job of selling the idea of "culture." A peek at what's
taught in business schools can be frightening. In Marketing 101,
people are taught that the heart of the marketing concept is learning
what the consumers you target want and need. Advertising courses
start by teaching aspiring creatives to think about their audience.
And everybody, these days, is talking about how to research and sell
to folks in ethnic or international markets. The Journal of Consumer
Research includes articles by people who use "ethnographic
methods." (For theory heads, let me add that the most recent issue
has one of the best articles on hermeneutics I've ever read:
"Hermeneutics and Consumer Research" by Stephen Arnold and Eileen
Fischer.) Our marketing problem is all-too-similar to that faced by
Coca-Cola: We've got an old established brand, and more agile
competitors have taken our perceived benefits and gone leaping
ahead. We need to sharpen our pitch.

To Sabine, then, I want to hear more about how you conceive the
"anthropological frame" you mention. Here is where we really need
some fresh ideas.