A friend in advertising posted this video on Facebook, it had over four million views yesterday and close to 8 million today.
He said “We look, but do we see?”
He’s an award-winning copywriter and his perspectives are often insightful, thought provoking and almost always pithy. He says more with less than most I know. I watched the video, mostly because he was recommending it- and it had a before and after pic- and the before had “US ARMY VETERAN” superimposed. I’m in that group, I should watch.
The video, which I assume you’ve now watched, shows a guy getting a haircut and a suit. This somehow is supposed to say we’ve transformed a homeless drunk vet into a productive, acceptable part of society. When the call for donations came at the end- it just felt shameless to me. Ripping off the Dove “Evolution of Beauty” award-winning spot is one thing- turning it into a donation machine is another. For those of you who don’t know about the Dove spot- it’s an award-winning ad that isn’t an ad for Dove:
When I see this “Homeless Veteran Timelapse Transformation” I see propagation of a stereotype of our veterans. That somehow, we all become drunk, homeless, unemployed. Yes, I full well know that the unemployed figures tell us that something like 26% of our vets are unemployed- about the same rate as minority high school dropouts or maybe a little higher. But, there are a lot of veterans who aren’t unemployed- or drunks or drug users. In fact, there are a whole bunch of them who own businesses and hire other veterans. Check out the National Veteran Owned Business Association NaVOBA, an organization that’s run by vets to help grow awareness for supporting the notion of “Buying Veteran.”
Many states have adopted preferences for buying from vet-owned businesses. Unfortunately, Ohio isn’t one of them. When you consider that Raj Soin, an Asian Indian built MTC into a global powerhouse based on being an 8a firm (one the government gives preference to based on being minority owned) and that government contracts go to 8a’s ahead of those owned by Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses SDVOBs, you have to wonder if our country really values its veterans. I don’t know the exact stat- but, I do know that veteran-owned businesses are way more likely to hire vets than non-veteran owned businesses- and that vets better understand other vets. It’s time this country stopped paying lip-service to military service and put SDVOBs at the top of the pecking order for government contracts.
The other change that needs to happen in government contracting to put real teeth into a buy veteran preference program is that size standards for “small businesses” not include companies that gross $150M a year. Really? That’s a small business? Changing the requirements for a GSA schedule (an overly complicated contract with the government to provide goods and services at an “appropriate” rate) from being a 200-page plus monstrosity to something more like a 1040ez for small businesses under $10M a year. This is a proposal I wrote back in 2005 that got about a minute’s worth of attention on the Hill. GSA EZ Schedule Proposal
There is an old proverb- give a man a fish and eats for a day, teach him how to fish and he eats for a lifetime. If our country wants to help our vets, who now make up around only a single percent of our population, yet give us the freedom and protect our democracy, from enemies foreign and domestic as the saying goes- it’s time to build a more friendly vet support network. A haircut and a suit are just window dressing.
Jobs and opportunities are what will make the difference.
Thank you for your service to all my veteran brethren. May your sacrifices never be forgotten or in vain.