Meg Whitman Reminds Me of Us

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago AdvertisingNo, not the former eBay chief/billionaire business woman part.  That is completely foreign to me.

What reminds Meg Whitman of us was watching her quest to become the governor of California as it dragged on and on these past couple of months.  The media loved talking about how she spent a record-breaking $141.5 million of her own money chasing something that candidly, probably wasn’t the best fit for her anyway. Nevertheless, once she made that her mission, she invested countless hours and nearly all of her personal energy pursuing the privilege of leading the government of the nation’s most populous state.

On the surface of it, that sounds pretty good.  But when you look a bit deeper, you realize that California is wracked by all sorts of problems: an economy battered by the recession and the fallout from a housing industry gone bust, an unemployment rate of 12.5%, 1.4 million jobs lost in the past two years, swelling immigration and unsustainable budget deficits that will demand aggressive spending cuts.  Meg spent a record amount of money trying to get…that?  Why would anyone want that?

But looking back at some (key word: some) of the new business leads we’ve chased over the years, we advertising agencies have done the exact same thing.  We have poured our hearts and souls–and considerable cash–into the pursuit of new business leads for broken, dysfunctional businesses: CMO’s at war with their board members, management at war with their franchisees, businesses whose relevance had passed.  All of these potential clients invited us to pitch their business, to offer up free ideas and the investment of our nights and weekends to chase what could at best, only prove to be pyrrhic victories.

So yes, this morning,  I feel kinda bad for Meg.  Billionaire or not, you don’t plow through that kind of cash and not feel at least sorta awful.  For her sake, I wish she would have won.

But then again, I can’t help but wonder exactly what she would’ve won.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


One thought on “Meg Whitman Reminds Me of Us

  1. C. B. McGillivray says:

    Objective-based, passionate, mission-driven. I voted for her, and was happy to see Brown win. I couldn’t agree with you more. I imagine she’ll land on her feet…

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