Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Donny Deutsch Comes As Advertised – A Review of “Often Wrong, Never In Doubt”

Fasten your seat belts! This will not be a normal book review. It took me 200 pages to figure out why I was having such schizophrenic reactions to this book. After reading a chapter, I would find myself thinking: “What an interesting guy Donny Deutsch seems to be; I’d like to meet him.”

And then I would read a chapter that would leave me muttering to myself: “What a jerk! I can’t believe what he just said!” I would plow ahead in the book and begin to think: “What a fascinating organization he has built. I would love to help them recruit the kind of innovative thinkers and risk takers they seem to value.” And then I ran across a string of pages full of profanity and several paragraphs of Deutsch describing his sexual fantasies in the office. Finally, I threw up my hands and said to myself: “What is going on here! Surely, Deutsch is savvy enough to know that he is going to turn off some people with his outrageous revelations and observations. And even if he were not, he has a co-writer who should be able to alert him when he has crossed a line. And what about the editors at Harper Collins? Why are they allowing such outrageous material in a 'business book'?”

The epiphany came as I read on Page 206 Deutsch’s quotation of a character from the TV show “thirtysomething”:

“’What I do,’ he said, ‘is strictly chemical. It is reactive. I cause reactions.’”

His invitation to peer behind the Wizard’s curtain continues with these words:

“My individual brand and the company’s have mimicked my age in life. My personal brand for years was the brash, upstart Ad Guy of the Generation, the Bad Boy. It has stuck with me and now I can’t get rid of it. Tomorrow I could take over Omnicom (the largest advertising holding company in the world), wear three-piece suits and be the most serious businessman in the industry, and I’d still be seen as the Bad Boy. I’d like to lose that, but I’m not sure I will. I accept the challenge.” (Page 219)

With those pithy words, Donny Deutsch the author helped me to understand Donny Deutsch the “advertising world’s Bad Boy.” As a reader, I had been reacting – reeling from chapter to chapter, responding to the strings that the puppet master was pulling. As Deutsch and Peter Knobler, his collaborator on this project, developed the book, they used it to “advertise” the various facets of Donny’s personality and persona. So, he comes across as a protean and complex individual – one moment disarmingly self-disclosing, the next moment brash and outrageous, and the next instant, incredibly sensitive, kind and giving.

I applaud Harper Collins for their courage in following Donny’s lead and stepping out of their comfort zone and publishing an author who does not allow himself to be conformed to anyone else’s mold or set of expectations. Deutsch has been enormously successful in building a top-ranked advertising organization – and empire. Two things impressed me in a positive way as my mental Polaroid image of Deutsch finally took on full color and clarity. First, he risks, and because he risks, he wins more often than he loses. Second, he values his people, and places them in positions to win.

One side note - I applaud his use of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry as a case study:
“The two best-defined brands in major league baseball are the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. You can tell them apart from a distance. The Yankees stand for the winning combination of quality and wealth. The Red Sox, you know that they stand for: They hate the Yankees. That hatred is what drives them and it is exactly that hatred that got them to the Promised Land. Starting with the Curse of the Bambino and moving through Bill Buckner’s legs to Pedro Martinez’s Yankee “daddies,” the Red Sox had more motivation to win than any other team in baseball."

"And how smart they were to personify this hatred. The new Red Sox owners, after losing a bidding war for a prized Cuban pitcher, actually called their rivals “the evil empire.” In one memorable phrase – like any good advertising campaign – they used national politics and popular culture to define the Yankees as a combination of the Cold War-era Soviet Union and Darth Vader! What better enemy?”
(Pages 222-223)

All I can say to the previous quotation is: “Amen and Amen!”

I found the book to be a worthwhile read, so I am pleased to recommend it – but with this caveat: “Fasten your seat belt!”

Often Wrong, But Never In Doubt: Unleash The Business Rebel In You by Donny Deutsch with Peter Knobler.

1 comment:

Richard Banfield said...

I had exactly the same reaction when I listened to the book on CD. You can't help liking him but you wonder if he'll ever really grow up. Great posting Al.