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Seth Matlins Headshot

An Open Letter to Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and 7th Avenue

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Dear All:

I've got a 6 year-old daughter, and I'm worried for her health and happiness, because of what you're doing, and what you won't do. A TV producer called some of you (Estee Lauder, Unilever, Conde Nast, and Hearst amongst others) to talk about The Self-Esteem Act. She got two types of reply. One was no reply at all. Two, was a refusal to speak about putting "Truth in Advertising" labeling on your photoshopped ads or editorial.

So I'm asking why you won't speak about this? I know, you've got other priorities. Who'd want to prioritize the health and happiness of 52% of our population and the majority of your revenues?

What surprises me most about your collective absence of reply, is I didn't think you were doing anything wrong. Now I wonder if you think you are, and if that makes you uncomfortable.

If you do, it should. If you don't, let's talk. Let's talk about the cause and effect relationship between what you put out there (and don't) and how people feel (and don't). I'm not suggesting you're singularly responsible for the problem nor its solution. I'm saying I think you can help -- and I can't imagine why you wouldn't want to. It'd be good business.

And if you're afraid of talking about what you're all doing; if you're uncomfortable with the simple transparency asked for by Truth in Advertising labeling, maybe you shouldn't be doing what you're doing? Maybe?

As a publicly traded company shouldn't you be interested in talking about the cause and effect relationship between your communications and your customers' lives? Don't you have some responsibility for how you make your audiences feel and think?

You're all quite quick to throw a party and take credit for campaigns and actions when it's time for awards, but now you're all silent when those exact same campaigns and actions show negative effect? Hmmm. That seems awfully and morally convenient.

In Hollywood, Oscars are given to those who do the best job of making the audience feel or believe something. On TV, it's the Emmy's. 7th Avenue has the CFDA Awards. On Madison Avenue, Magazine Awards, Clios, Effies and Webbies are handed out to marketers for making the audience feel and act. So you're OK taking the credit and responsibility for influencing attitudes and behaviors sometimes but not others?

I get it -- that's human nature. We all like trophies, puppies, and good news. But now, I'm openly asking you to consider and address statistics like this: 80% of women feel worse after seeing a beauty ad then they did before they saw it. 80%.

Nothing sells like "fear" and "want" -- nor the fear of not getting what we want (or in this case, being "wanted"). Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with wanting to sell lipstick, wear lipstick, buy lipstick, or even sometimes putting lipstick on a pig. It's all a matter of choice. What will you choose?

Because if you know what you're doing -- even despite your intentions -- is having a detrimental effect on those whose lives are the source of your livelihood, and yet you keep choosing to do it without attempting to mitigate or remedy it, maybe that's not so good. Maybe that shouldn't be your choice to make any longer.

I've worked in and across all your businesses. I know you, and I know most of your intentions are good and most of this is a result of benign neglect not malice. But now, no reply is the equivalent to having neither regard nor concern for the fact that 42% of girls in grades 1-3 diet. Or that 91% of college age girls diet.

These women and girls are you, your mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends. Don't you think it's time to talk about the state of self-esteem in this country, your role in creating it, and more importantly the part you can play in making it better? You make money moving us. Move us.

And is there really any downside to transparency? Is there really anything you should fear from "Truth in Advertising"?

Be a hero. Put a Truth in Advertising label on your ad, editorial, one-sheet ... let your audience know you care about them, not just the transaction. Let them know it's not real, maybe one girl will feel better and maybe you'll actually get one more sale out of it.

Let's talk about what we can all do together. Because we're all in this together -- like it or don't. Tell us The Self Esteem Act isn't the solution; that's fine but then give us a better idea -- you're creative. Do something. Something to help, not just sell. You'll sell more that way. I'll bring the coffee.

To find out more about The Self-Esteem Act, go here: http://su.pr/1QR8Tf
To find out more about Off Our Chests, go here: http://www.offourchests.com