No doubt the media is a very powerful tool in our society. It can be used for both good and evil. Many would attest that we see more of the latter, yet advertising and marketing do not create these themes of our social fabric. We believe that advertising reflects the themes that the public wants to see. When the reflection is no longer accurate, then it changes.
However, we do agree that advertising can push a social agenda. For example, the great "1984" commercial pushed against conformity and conventionalism. The Joe Greene Coca-Cola commercial broke up the boundary between a mean football player and the player's youthful worshipper. Pepsi pictures a young, carefree, and hip America. More recently, Cheerios is showcasing the changing colors in our American landscape. Dove, L'Oreal, and others are celebrating the reasons it's awesome to be a woman.
Just because America isn't quite there yet in terms of acceptance of certain issues doesn't mean that advertising can't fight for it.
Sometimes it takes ideas being thrown out there so people can see that they are not the only ones. Advertising cannot create social proof, but it can for sure help it along. Advertising is a great industry because we can be some of the first to know where the minds of the American people are going. What thoughts regularly fill the mind? Where does diversity stack up against food and clothing choices, or picking out a car? How likely would a consumer be to purchase a car from a salesperson that looks like them, or purchase — in Cheerios' case — breakfast foods from a family with similar characteristics?
The times are changing. Obviously advertising should be doing the same.
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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