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When Advertising Takes the Lead
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Our economy revolves around consumers — the American public, the public and private sectors — buying stuff. When consumer confidence is down, financial advisers and stock-market enthusiasts start freaking out, because in a consumption society, when there's no consumption, things start going downhill.

And what is the main mechanism for the public to learn what there is to buy and where to buy it? 

That's right. Advertising.

Of course there are plenty of ways that consumers can look up information and find what they want to purchase. But advertising is still the driver for information. It still functions as a channel to inform or persuade consumers. It is still the channel through which businesses communicate with their audiences.

Now advertising is being called on to do more than advocate products and services. It is being asked to push concepts and social change.

Bullying. Education. Guns. Innovation. Intolerance. Diversity. These are issues that are hitting our U.S. audience head on. What will advertising, and those in AdLand, do to push the agenda? 

What can advertising do?

As communication professionals, we know all too well that we cannot change the world directly. What advertising can do is put the issues forward to make sure our audiences know what they should be thinking about to make a difference. Not too long ago, that responsibility was left to our journalist cousins. But with the 24-hour news cycle turning more into "infotainment" than hard news and topics that affect everyone, advertising needs to pick up where news organizations left off.

AdLand is positioned to set an agenda unlike the news stations or the politicians. Because we work with brands, we more than likely can relate more to the American public than any elected official can. We don't work for votes and a cozy office in D.C., we work for businesses and the awesome society that needs and wants the products and services our businesses provide.

AdLand, we can do this. Let's take the lead and start advocating change.

Cause marketing and budgets dedicated to it have been steadily growing since the early 2000s. We need to talk with our shops and the brands we work with about what ideals we need the public to grasp and the ones that represent the brand. More than likely, the ideals will be the same. This wave has slowly begun with Visa and the Olympics, Ben & Jerry's and their staunch advocacy for gay rights, and McDonald's and the right for children to get a free, substantial education.

But we need more. We need to start putting brands behind the ideals they say they believe in and make a stand.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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