Executive Times






2006 Book Reviews


Often Wrong, Never in Doubt by Donny Deutsch








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If you’ve watched Donny Deutsch on his CNBC show, The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, you’ll appropriately expect a high energy level, positive attitude, and high entertainment value from his book, Often Wrong, Never in Doubt. You’ll be right to expect this, and Deutsch delivers as expected. Typically a contrarian, always full of himself, Deutsch provides stories about his own life and work that are enjoyable to read. Here’s an excerpt, all of the Chapter titled, “The Doctrine of Female Superiority: Advertising’s dirty little secret: Women are better than men,” pp. 78-83:


Women are superior beings. It’s that simple. Certainly in busi­ness. Give me a choice between a woman and a man with the same talents, I’ll take the woman every time. Here’s why.

There’s so much emotional bullshit that comes with men and the battle for success. We men, the alpha males who fight our way to the top of the business food chain, spend a lot of time worrying about our stripes, about the pelts hanging from our belts. That time could be spent working at our jobs, but no. Our goals include greed and domination. “Why did that guy get the corner office? Why was his raise bigger than mine? I’ve got to run this place.” Size matters.

Women, on the other hand, want to do the job. They want to work in a collaborative environment, they want to succeed, and they want to be paid fairly. This is exactly what you want in a senior executive. No nonsense, just good work and respect.

How did this happen? Watch the commercials on Saturday morning TV; that’s where the American socialization process starts, if not before. Advertising is not going to change the deep wiring of what men and women are all about, but it does often serve to perpetuate society’s roles. In the advertisements for a doll or a girl’s game, there are always three or four girls sitting around in a group, playing, giggling, having fun together. For a boy’s toy or game, at the end one boy always wins, shoots his arm in the air and shouts “Yeah!” The other boys are losers. Things go downhill from there.

One of the reasons Deutsch Inc. has been so successful is that I’ve recognized the superiority of women in business and have consistently put them in positions of responsibility and power. If I put out a job spec for senior people, seven out often prospects will be women and the men will always be the weakest candidates. My choices, except as to which of several highly qualified women to promote, are rarely difficult.

The ad business has become increasingly feminized in the last twenty-five years. When I graduated from Wharton in 1979, there were two idiots out of the entire graduating class who went into ad­vertising. I was one of them largely because my father was in the business. Ogilvy & Mather was paying $22,000 a year; Salomon Brothers was starting people off at $75,000. After five years in ad­vertising you could have made $110,000; five years at Salomon Brothers and you could be pulling down a million. You’re a busi­ness student with a newly minted master’s, which industry are you going to join?

Advertising is an industry in which the pay scale is demonstra­bly lower than that of other professional industries such as bank­ing, real estate, and consulting; women, with far more restricted career options and the upper echelons of fewer industries open to them, entered the field in large numbers and have somehow been able to rationalize the pay scale inequity, look to the future for their earnings, find something other than simply money to work for, and forge successful careers. The pay scale was and continues to be so out of whack that we’ve lost an entire generation of male business talent; the overwhelming majority of those alpha males are certainly not stampeding into advertising. The ones who do are facing the best women, some of the most talented business-people anywhere. Is it a surprise that women in advertising are succeeding?

Of the ten top executives at Deutsch, eight are women. The two men are spectacular, but guess what, it’s eight to two. In our New York office my chief operating officer is a woman, my general manager/director of client services is a woman, my executive creative director is a woman, my chief strategy officer is a woman, my chief financial officer is a woman. We have the best talent pool because, when I was hiring, I wasn’t worried about man or woman, I was trying to find the best people—and the best people kept turning out to be women.

Advertising, by its nature, is a more feminine industry than most. It’s hard for alpha males, having grown up to be firemen or to fly jet fighters and shoot down enemy aircraft, to do something so personally subservient as service an account. I was always able to do it because I saw the field as a bigger game, but if I hadn’t had a family business to go into, I wouldn’t have lasted a month.

As men get older, in any service business—and advertising is about as service-oriented as it gets—the job gets more difficult. We need to live more on the content side of the equation, but we are always at the mercy of some guy who tells us we’ve got to go meet him at his ski house.

I don’t know how it happened, I don’t know if it started on tele­vision with Bewitched, but none of the other professions—not in­vestment banking, not consulting, not accounting—comes with the expectation that, in addition to our professional services, we are to provide extensive wining and dining. No matter how good you are—and Deutsch as an agency does as little of that wining and dining as possible—you’re still dramatically on the service side of the equation. And after all that, we must always get put into review every three or four years. For an alpha male, that gets very difficult.

If you’re a top-shelf heart surgeon, you don’t have to talk to anybody. If I sat in that profession where I sit in mine, you wouldn’t be able to breathe my air. The top investment bankers, even if they’re on the sell side of the equation, carry themselves like kings. In advertising, on the same sell side, you could be the top person in the field, but you still strap on the knee pads.

Yet, Deutsch is a very masculine agency. Obviously there are ex­ceptions to every rule. Two of my partners, Eric Hirshberg and Mike Sheldon, who built the LA office, are stars of the first magni­tude and punch holes in my theory. Our female executives don’t think of themselves as women first, executives second; they’re all hard workers dedicated to the task. In fact, they are all very femi­nine, beautiful women—but extremely tough. I would put each of them in a street fight with any guy any time. So we have the tough­ness you need in business added to an essentially collaborative na­ture. Women are easier to deal with than men, less insecure, more concerned with doing their job and working collaboratively and getting paid fairly.

Basically, less of a pain in the ass.

I gave a presentation to the executive committee of Interpub­lic, the group that bought Deutsch, in which I discussed our top management. I was talking to eighteen men and one woman. (I suspect she was there because, as with so many committees, they had to have a woman.) These were gray and graying men, average age around sixty. I showed slides in which they saw exactly who was involved in running our company and said, “Guys, I’m going to share with you my dirty little politically incorrect secret: Women are superior to men in business. And, I think, in life.”

I told them very much what I’m telling you.

After I spoke I didn’t know whether they didn’t want to hear it, didn’t get what I was saying, were taken aback, or were sitting there thinking, “Wow, that’s pretty smart.” The room was very quiet. The good news is that, since that time, Interpublic has recognized the situation and is now taking an active role in the issue of diversity.

NBC and Donald Trump shot part of the second episode of the first season of The Apprentice in our offices. It was classic, a science experiment come to life. The teams were divided eight-on-eight, men versus women. The producer told me, “The women kicked ass yesterday, opening up lemonade stands.” I gave them their as­signment, to create an advertising campaign for a corporate jet airline. The teams broke away into separate conference rooms to choose team leaders and began to work.

An hour later one of the producers came to me and said, “You are going to crack up.” He took me in to see the women. They were sitting around a table, talking, working. They had twenty ideas up on the whiteboard already and were well on their way. Then he took me to the men. The room, which had started out swept clean and ready for action, was full of half-eaten sandwiches and paper bags tossed all over the place. Now, men may be pigs—and I have no problem with that (we are who we are)—but worse than the casual disorder was the fact that they hadn’t chosen a team leader yet. They were fighting over who the team leader should be. The question of biggest balls hadn’t been decided.

Interestingly, it was the women who played the sex card on that campaign. Their ads were phallic and more than a little obvious, but they were consistent throughout. These were all sexy women and they knew—from firsthand experience, I had a feeling—that sex sells. The men’s ads, once they got them going, were well-considered if lacking in some kind of edge. But worse, while the women had been in contact with the owner of the airline to find out what he wanted to emphasize about his company, the men had neglected to cover that base. In all hubris, the men had decided for him. They never thought to ask, “What’s a win for you?” That’s a major error, and when it came time to pick a winner, I chose the women.

As I usually do.

One of the men got fired as a result. That’s the way it works.


Deutsch speaks a confidence and certainty in Often Wrong, Never in Doubt, as the title suggests. In some ways, the book is an ad for the Donny brand. Whatever it is, you’re likely to find it entertaining to read.


Steve Hopkins, January 25, 2006



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The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the February 2006 issue of Executive Times


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