business news in context, analysis with attitude

Don’t know if you’ve been following the controversy surrounding Neil French, an advertising guru who recently lost his job as worldwide creative director with the WPP Group when he said that women advertising executives didn’t work hard enough to make it to the top of the profession because they were too busy raising children.

French initially refused to apologize for his remarks, and met up with differing responses. Some folks in the industry believe that the uproar has been much ado about nothing, while others have accused him of being insensitive and bombastic.

French recently lost a speaking gig because of his controversial positions, and seems to be trying to back of his statements – a bit. He told a Singapore-based publication that he actually was talking about men, too – that regardless of gender, anyone who spends time raising their children and not working doesn’t deserve to get to the top. And, in that interview, he used himself as an example – saying that he hasn’t seen his eight-year-old son, his only child, for months.

I have two questions.

First of all, how can someone excel at marketing and advertising if they are so involved with his or her job that they are not involved with life? Doesn’t life give you the perspective necessary to communicate effectively with people about their needs and desires?

And second, isn’t it interesting that this gentleman can be so self-involved that he never sees his only son, and still he managed to lose his job?

Poetic justice? I’d guess so.

And as I hung up the phone
It occurred to me,
He'd grown up just like me.
My boy was just like me.

Want to know what customers want?

You have to go no further than a recent article in the New York Times about so-called “smart hotel rooms.”

These rooms are created with the help of “new computer systems which connect individual rooms to network servers (that) can now keep track of guests' preferences and change the room conditions automatically.

“These ‘smart’ systems can learn whether a frequent guest likes the lights dimmed, the curtains closed or the room toasty warm. They can also personalize the electronics in the room so that the music of John Coltrane, for instance, greets jazz buffs when they enter their rooms. Meanwhile, sensors in refrigerators alert maids when the minibar is running low on Coca-Cola.”

For the moment, these rooms are available only in luxury hotels – but the day is almost certainly coming when the technology will be available for private homes. “These hotels,” the NYT suggests, “are starting to provide a glimpse of the networked homes of the future.”

These kinds of changes don’t just define the luxury hotel experience, or the “home of the future.” They help to redefine who the shopper is, and what his or her expectations will be in every facet of their acquisitional life.

Time to get ready, folks.

A national treasure was lost last night when Ted Koppel signed off Nightline for the final time. Dignified, insightful, hardnosed, relentlessly curious – Koppel was and is a class act.

Good for Phil Simms, by the way, for calling out Steve Young when the latter said that his son – Tampa Bay quarterback Chris Simms – lacked the mental toughness to play in the NFL.

When Young, who grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut, suggested that Simms had lived too privileged a life to be a good QB, it was an utter crock.

And the elder Simms did what a dad is supposed to do.

Stood up for his kid.

Going to recommend something that few if any of you are going to be able to see. (The limited engagement is sold out.)

The revival of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple” on Broadway, reteaming Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick from “The Producers.”

While the show, set in the sixties, is a little dated, it is amazing how the laughs hold up – even laughs we all remember from the movie and television versions.

While I didn’t love Broderick’s performance – it is a little too mannered for my taste – Lane confirms his position as the funniest guy on Broadway.

And I can’t wait to see how the movie version of the musical “The Producers” turns out.

Try the just-out 2005 Beaujolais Nouveau from Georges Deboeuf. I haven’t liked the Nouveau much the last few years – it was just too sweet and weak for me. But I like this year’s version a lot – it has a little more backbone to it, and seems a better choice to go with a light meal.

Also saw another play this week that none of you will be able to see.

“Suburbia,” a play by Eric Bogosian about disaffected youth struggling to find their way through life’s challenges.

I saw it because my eldest son, 19-year-old David Coupe, got the lead part in his college production. (He’s studying theatre at Dean College near Boston, and hopes to be able to transfer to the Communications program at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles next fall.)

And may I saw, with no small amount of fatherly pride, that David was terrific – he managed to do something that too few actors can achieve.

You could watch him think onstage.

Sometimes actors – especially young actors – are all about showing their feelings. Showing the thinking process is a lot harder. (I know a little about this, having been an acting student myself when I was younger.)

I say this for all of you who may have young children, or are considering having children. (Parents of older children will understand.)

There’s a phrase: “bursting with pride.”

You think it is just an expression.

And then you see your child grown into a young adult, doing what he loves to do, showing that he’s not just a good kid, but also a good guy.

And you realize that “bursting with pride” is a very real feeling, that it makes you catch your breath.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the US.

When I give thanks, it will be for the fact that I have been exceptionally lucky in my wife and three kids who tolerate me and support me and tease me and keep me from taking myself too seriously.
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