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January 19, 2015
Advocacy in Advertising
 
In these past few years, we have seen some wild change in the world due to the spread of information and the ease of communication. The Arab Spring, for example, was kept alive through Twitter and other digital media, making sure those who reported on it got the right information. The Occupy movement started on Facebook and caused the nation, if only for a moment, to consider a conversation about the ever-increasing wage gap and the disappearing middle class. Now there are Occupy movements all around the globe.

Though guns and sticks and knives are powerful, words trump them all.

As communicators, we all know that. The way to motivate or influence someone is through informing and persuading with carefully selected language. Advocates for causes important to them choose precisely what words and phrases embody their movement. We all saw this when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his "I have a Dream" speech. How powerful. How clear. The way advocates, especially the high-profile ones, use words should give us pause to think about the type of causes we are supporting in the marketing and advertising community.

Though we are fortunate to be in America, our community still has work to do.

For example, we appreciate the work the "No More" campaign is doing with professional athletes, because the domestic violence that is happening across the country must cease. We are glad to see more effort given to slowing down the texting and driving trend, which is far more dangerous than some of the previous driving issues.

Then, though more grassroots than professional, we have the #BlackLivesMatter and #CopLivesMatter.

Quite the fitting topic for MLK Jr. Day, right?

It would be incredibly foolish to believe that racism has been eradicated in the United States. The recent events in the news confirm our society continues to have issues with people of different backgrounds and races. And goodness forbid talk about mixing races coming up. 

When we see such glaring points of view, we determine that it couldn't just be that certain groups of people naturally hate another. Reason should dictate that conclusion to be false. So what can be done?

Just what we talked about in the beginning: informing and persuading. 

People from different backgrounds may have trouble forming a common ground because of where they came from, the access to information and different perspectives, and what kind of environment they were raised in. The more culturally aware we are, the more we take time to learn about each other, the less fearful and hateful we become. It's information that breaks down the barrier, and the persuasion that leads us to believe that we can join each other and celebrate our differences.

Advertising has the power to help move the conversation. But as usual, will we hide behind the C-Suite, claiming that getting involved with this "social dialogue" will be bad for the bottom line. Where does helping people get along fit in with increasing dividends for our shareholders? Racism is blind, but not our Board of Directors.

So it goes.

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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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