Cotton Candy @ The Amusement Park –
“That’s a lovely dress you’re wearing, Mrs. Cleaver.” “Your smile lights up the room.” “You hair is so beautiful.” That is called an Eddie Haskell, a character, from the TV sitcom “Leave it to Beaver” played by Ken Osmond. His unctuous politeness to everybody became a cultural reference in the late 50’s and early 60’s, recognized as an archetype for insincerity. Back-in-the-day, you could be a two-faced creep and pull the Eddie Haskell card and then be excused with a mocking chuckle of forgiveness.
Have you ever seen or been around this kind of dinosaur? They can be amusing and entertaining as long as you’re an observer not a participant or recipient.
The definition of an Eddie Haskell of Advertising would go something like this…”All the character of fake wood grain and the depth of cheap Formica”.
As a public service to the Advertising Community, let me introduce you to a few examples on how you might recognize an Eddie Haskell of Advertising.
Here’s one example that will give you an idea of what it would be like living in an Eddie Haskell episode. Lets pretend you are walking into a new business presentation and meeting your audience for the first time. Eddie has the opening act and acknowledges a middle-aged assistant brand manager…”My, your eyes are so beautiful, and your skin so glowing”…turns to the CMO and says…”I’ve heard so much about you, but no one told me you were so handsome”…and addresses the rest of the room…”I am just so proud to be part of this beautiful group.”
The room becomes filled with quiet perspiration of insincerity. Wait you have not heard the wrap up yet.
You try to rebuild the respect by the cognitive creative quality of the work and then you have to turn it back over to Eddie to wrap it up. Eddie takes the group on an obtuse historical ride about his relationship with dad and how this brand had influenced his youth…and ends the trilogy with “We love your brand we love the people we’ve met here today and we love what your company stands for, which is why we are willing to work on your brand for less”.
You can tell by the glances that what they wanted was someone to pass them a bottle of sanitary wipes to disinfect them from the slobber of insincerity.
Sad part is, Eddie still thinks he’s brilliant. When you questioned him on it after the presentation, he would reply…”Clients love that kind of stuff, they love me.” By the way, the agency will never get the business.
Eddie is the kind of guy that doesn’t really work hard. If he has a problem selling something he’ll just change it to fit the room’s expectations. So all the work that was put into building a brand and developing a culture Eddie would see that as having no value if he can’t quickly turn it into cash.
Like, in this example: Let’s say you come back from a short vacation, and to your surprised that Eddie has hired a consultant to evaluate the company’s potential and determine what should be done to develop new positioning strategy for the agency. He does this to camouflage his own inability to prospect new business. So he performs the classic misdirection and claims the problem is the agency’s positioning. You walk into a conference room where Eddie and his other Haskell’s have talked themselves into what they called a brilliant idea. They show it to you…you exhale and take a long pause…. You have no idea how to react to it. Then Eddie says, “It’s brilliant right?” The others in the room cheer it on as well. Eddie says… “Here’s the tagline”…you look at it and you can’t believe what you’re seeing. “Get Smart” Now during this period of time there is a national promotion for a new movie release. “Get Smart”. It’s based on a 60’s TV show that was about a CIA type of agent who was a buffoon constantly screwing up and is regularly saved by his sidekick the beautiful agent 99. You don’t really know what to say other than…”are you kidding me?” …The air in the room begins to get heavy with resentment. “You’re always saying let’s be smart about what we do.” says Eddie…”we think it’s great”…”we work smart. We this smart we that smart” a laundry list self-promoting descriptors of how smart we are. Here’s the selling point to a prospective client. “We do what’s smart for our client’s business” …you reply…”Eddie, every company in this city can say that. That is what every good company is founded on. And besides, you should never tell your clients you’re smarter than anyone else, cause…the first time you screw up. They say…not so smart.” Eddie Haskell the CEO playing the role of buffoon agent only without the beautiful agent 99 to rescue him from another one of his blundering ideas.
Now Eddie and his followers can’t understand why it is so wrong on so many levels. Which is really frightening and why the Eddie Haskell’s of Advertising are so dangerous. They eventually believe all of Eddie’s rhetoric and become so intimidated by his arrogance they follow him as if they’ve been brainwashed by his smile. They believe that his so-called charm will overcome anything.
Now let’s take a look at the two-faced Eddie Haskell. The kind that utilizes his insincere compliments for self-profit by applauding his staff on working hard and being so loyal, and in the same breath he then asks them to then take a pay cut, to help the company through a tough period, just till they get another client or two while he shows them the power-point of his new business plan. Those plans show how they all will get their original salaries back and will be repaid over time. Eddie knows that he has left them with an impression of a company that could go out of business, so by taking one for the Eddie, they will choose the pay cut. Now two years have gone by and they’ve added a new client or two but their reduced salaries have never been adjusted back to their original salaries. Now Eddie reminds them how costly it is to run a business while he had been giving himself a lofty 5-digit bonus during those lean years. So you see, insincerity can lead to actions of greed that an Eddie Haskell of Advertising will go to balance his personal bank account even if it means taking money from his biggest income source. The employees.
Yes the Eddie Haskell’s make for good stories and a throw-back to the cliché Medicine Man selling his bottles of false remedies off the back of a horse-drawn wagon. They become colorful characters, and the ad world has had it share. But in the end they will ruin a company and destroy any ethical values that try to seep into a company’s culture if Eddie sees a way he can personally profit from it.
So the real bottom-line is when you run into an Eddie Haskell or have the misfortune to work with an Eddie Haskell, turn and run with your talent and dignity in hand before Eddie has a chance to steal it from you.
If I were a client of an Eddie Haskell I just might think about asking for reconciliation on any projects that Eddie was responsible for. Just like the government has a lost and found for those who were overcharged, you might just find the same is true for Eddie’s bookkeeping.
Lets all hope that Eddie Haskell remains a fictional TV character, and if you ever encounter an Eddie Haskell, I hope this helps you to recognize him.
Consider this a Public Service Message, for a Healthier Advertising Community have your Agency Tested for the EHID (Eddie Haskell Insincerity Disease).