Marketers, let’s lead the way to a better society

The marketing industry may have the biggest responsibility when it comes to the advancement of equality - of the sexes, of the races, of sexualities, of mental & health conditions, and more.

I take my profession very seriously and do not take the power of the advertising industry lightly. As marketers, brand consultants, graphic designers, strategists, copywriters, campaign managers… we are all flying the flag for powerful communication and have the power to effect change at our fingertips. Quite literally, as I sit here typing this.

The gender conversation has been brought to the fore in business for some time now, with feminists making the case for a more equal workplace for decades. We are now experiencing the Fourth Wave of Feminism and, personally, I am advocating for getting more men involved in the conversation. (Research showed that male executives, who - by the way - just so happen to make up the majority of senior positions, felt uncomfortable to manage or mentor a female colleague in the shadow of the #MeToo movement.)

Unfortunately, it took a tragedy to happen earlier this year with the untimely death of George Floyd to remind a lot of us that equality extends to race, too - and could in fact be an even more pressing matter today. In 2020.

Businesses today are more powerful than politicians. We live in a capitalist and consumerist society, far too late to turn back the wheels on this rapidly propelling machine, but the profit with purpose conversation is the best compromise we can make work in our current era.

The decisions businesses take all have a significant impact on the future of our economy; from who they hire and promote, to which ad agencies they appoint, to where they manufacture, to their internal culture trickling through every Zoom call and Slack conversation. These behaviours (or “values”) are communicated to the outside world in their marketing, and these are the ways all marketers need to be more conscious in the daily work we are doing:

  • Be aware and assess the creative and messaging of the communication piece you are putting out to the world. Have you unwittingly peppered your client’s new website with lots of white faces? Have you noticed the language leaning on to more of an aggressive side? Are women being portrayed in a certain way that damages our advancement?
  • Are you risking doing the opposite and incorporated elements in vein, with poor performative attempts to be #woke purely resulting in tokenism? Who is actually on the board at the company, in positions of power, leading the future of business? Plastering a United Colors of Benetton creative over the company face is not helping the problem.
  • Start gaining consciousness over your own, your company’s, and your client’s unconscious biases. In the gender conversation, this was raised with the #EverydaySexism movement, unveiling the micro-acts that revealed just how ingrained our poorly-based judgments are. (“I went to the doctor today.” “Oh yeah, what did he say?”)
  • Celebrate the stories of triumph; the little girl from Sweden championing climate change. The black man who became President. The female immigrant who set up an all-women tech company that invented Concorde’s black box. The Afro-American gay man who brought love and laughter to the world. The diversity of humanity is beautiful and it deserves more of the spotlight.
  • While it’s a “thing,” we’re still making it a “thing.” The truth is there are still people who need educating on basic decency and what it means to be a good citizen. It is never okay to judge anyone based on their gender, their race, sexuality, health condition, or otherwise. We won’t act like it’s gone away until, guess what, it’s actually gone away.

Marketing professionals: you are the creators, carriers, and crucibles of the information people see on a daily basis. (The average person is exposed to 5,000 ads a day.) What they consume informs opinions, perceptions, behaviours… everything that forms the fabric of our society. The way we think affects our words, which affect our actions - and lead to the likes of Trump being President.

So if there’s ever a moment where you think your work is “just a job,” or that you are a small cog in a big machine: you are absolutely not.

You hold the power to play a vital role in our changing society.

And man, do we need to change society right now