A Classy Response To An Ugly Stereotype

The 4/22/2022 edition of cbc.ca published an article by Aidan Cox that examines the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra’s (NBYO) elegant response to the latest outbreak of corporate foot-in-mouth disease.

It started with an ad for the 2022 Infiniti QX60 that touts the vehicle’s sound proofing, but does so by pulling out an ugly stereotype.

As it turns out, this didn’t sit well with NBYO’s orchestra president, Ken MacLeod

“Even though [the Infiniti commercial] is tongue-in-cheek, there’s still a tired old stereotype of youth and bad music,” [said MacLeod.] “And so our message here is that our kids have amazing talent.”

Fast forward a month and the NBYO published their own video that calls out Infiniti in a classy execution of “when they go low, we go high.”

What’s interesting to note in the cbc.ca article is the response from Infiniti spokesperson Didier Marsaud who used the opportunity to double down when he should have been adopted a far more conciliatory tone.

Marsaud also defended the company’s commercial, saying it intended to show how the quiet interior, plus massaging front seats, “can take a bit of stress from one’s day and can allow occupants to take on life in style.”

There were numerous ways Infiniti could have conveyed the same message without resorting to inflicting Art Scars on young musicians, a term coined by Brene Brown and it focuses on when an authority figure begins comparing creativity between individuals. According to Brown, this triggers shame and vulnerability, all of which produces multiple layers of art scars.

Sadly, this is the latest in a line of bad decisions that devalue the arts and artists. Remember the tone-deaf media campaign from the UK government in 2020 pushing citizens toward careers in cybersecurity by devaluing a career in the arts?

And how about the ad campaign from Old Navy in 2015 that took a similar approach by telling children that aspirations to be an astronaut or president were more valuable than an artist?

Kudos to the NBYO and if Infinity hasn’t reached out with a major sponsorship or scholarship underwriting program, shame on them. If nothing else, at the time this article was published, the NBYO video had 1,500 likes while Infinity only had 1,000.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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