At 2:35AM, my heart sank. What once seemed only a figment of possibility became a stark reality — unfathomable to myself, my peers, my colleagues, and my city.
I have been fortunate enough to work in the industry I do for the entirety of my young but full career. Of the 60 people I see day-in-and-day-out, 50% are women, a quarter are considered minorities, about half are non-US citizens, and a large portion are members of the LGBTQ community. These are the people who not only keep us in business but also lead it. Together, we create the work that maintains our reputation, developing communications, environments, products, and experiences in the hope that they will serve a higher purpose; whether we impact a brand, neighborhood, the arts, or a community, our goal is to in some way contribute to moving our society forward for the better.
We, as an industry, are at a crossroads. In part due to reasons you are well aware of — a shifting technological landscape, an evolving consumption model, an acute awareness of our physical surroundings and a society yearning for radical accessibility. But today, these reasons feel small, perhaps far too progressive, and inconsequential in the wake of recent events.
Over the last year, I have seen not only the political system, but also the marketing model turned on its head. An expertly executed communications strategy fueled by fear, discrimination, misogyny, ignorance, and a thinly veiled machismo has taken a practice of engagement that I have for so long admired and devoted my life to, and sullied it. The cheapest forms of distribution have been used to spew malevolent rhetoric that has made its way to ISIS recruitment videos and conspiratorial podcasts. Our nation has been stripped of the foundational elements that define us as “great”— stifling the light of Lazarus’ New Colossus with a seemingly impermeable brick wall.
As marketers, brands, and a community of influencers, we have an obligation now more than ever before to focus the conversation to affect positive change. It is our industry that sets the pace of culture — we brought Real Beauty to women, sustainability to the oil industry, Hershey’s to Times Square. As a trade, we have protected the world from “1984,” exposed the truth about tobacco, brought clean drinking water to children, and helped to paint the world pink every October. Our duty is to guide the dialogue, to meet divisiveness with unity, exclusivity with inclusion, discrimination with acceptance, and anachronism with evolution.
We’re witnessing a sociopolitical upset unseen since the early twentieth century.
About 20 minutes after the election was called, the following sentiment was communicated by our founder Brian Collins to our team of 60 women, men, minorities, gay, straight, queer, immigrants — “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Never has the time been more appropriate to rise to the occasion, to honor and bring forward our collective, best selves. Our success can only be achieved through finding strength in diversity, and we, as an industry, are responsible to do better, to continue to carry the dialogue, and keep the lowest common denominator from dictating the conversation.