Called Out on Your Own Turf

Departing a bit from straight up ad talk and addressing the danger of bandwagons without forethought. This goes into the #MeToo movement and related topics. Read or click away as feels right for you.

Twitter released what is unequivocally a gorgeous spot during the Oscars as a contribution to the #MeToo movement. The execution of the vision—the range of faces shown, in age, ethnicity, and size, is exquisite. The poem, performed in the voice of its author, Denice Frohman, is powerful and relevant.

The participation of Ava DuVernay, Issa Rae, and Julie Dash suggests that the ad is supported by an understanding of the #MeToo movement and a genuine commitment to the #HereWeAre idea. And yet…
Twitter is like the Wild West as far as rules and enforcement. It has been, and continues to be, a blatantly unsafe space for women, people of color, members of the LGBTQIA community, as well as members of various religions. You can search hashtags like #SettlerCollector , #YouOkSis , #YesAllWomen to see the sorts of threatening replies people receive. Wishing rape on another twitter user, for example, is not defined as violating the terms of service.

Marketing and digital platforms have the ability to drive ideas, yes, but they also build spaces for those ideas that, while digital, are very real to its users. It is disingenuous to piggyback an important movement that affects the people that use the platform every day. If it’s not safe, it’s not a community.
The danger, or perhaps more specifically, the temptation of hashtags and movements is to use them to capitalize on buzz and quickly achieve a new credibility. The risk is that the hollowness of your act rings louder than the intended message. Twitter created a beautiful ad and identified the peak time to share it, but they failed. They attempted to tag into a cultural moment to gain more users, but in doing so drew more attention to their unwillingness to protect their community and address meaningful change.

It isn’t as instantly gratifying to identify a problem, establish tactics for resolving the problem, and to go through the process of editing, refining, and sustaining the work of achieving change. Advertising has the power to be more than spin, campaigns can be more than shiny set dressing.
The message of a campaign, whether it is promoting diversity on college campuses or environmental sensitivity in manufacturing, has to begin long before a photo shoot is set up or an ad is designed. If we talk about brand integrity, it should be about more than typeface and color, it should also be the values of the company and the promise of the products and the brand experience should be considered.

Pepsi was a notable victim of its own advocacy ambition when it created an ad with catchy music, a slow-moving protest march, and Kendall Jenner quick changing from silver sheath clad model to Black Lives Matter savior crossing the demonstration line in head-to-toe denim to hand a policeman a Pepsi.

Brad Jakeman, in an interview at the Ad Age Next conference, spoke candidly about the misstep and what followed. “It was a mistake. There are going to be these issues. If you are a marketer and you see this happen, know that if it can happen to Dove it can happen to anyone. We should all be learning from each other on how to avoid these deeply unfortunate and completely unintended issues in the future.”
Deeply unfortunate and unintended, yes, but also largely preventable.

  • Know who you are marketing to
  • Establish why you/your product are valuable to them
  • Invest in ways to be authentic in more than image
  • Include people from your desired demographic in planning, process, & follow through
  • Ask yourself if you are trying to make a quick buck off someone’s pain

I am grateful that the #HereWeAre ad exists and that the message is being heard and seen by a wider audience. As a woman, I need to know that it is more than lip service, as an enthusiastic Twitter user I want to know that they mean it. As a marketer, I worry about the peril of companies thinking that slapping a hashtag on content means that they don’t have to work for it.

Redefining the way we value human beings and movements will not be done through a single campaign or sound bite.