New Beginnings: Agency Involvement In Social Issues

Driving the Dialogue: Part 1

What is the role of an advertising agency in regard to social involvement, and issues? To some people this may read as a rather superfluous discussion. Be that as it may, on some levels it is. Some things are obvious, whereas some things and not.

I am wrestling with this issue as the CEO of an advertising agency. I will not refer to my agency as being “small” because that word is negative speech, and I vowed to watch my spoken vocabulary. Smallness can become embedded in one’s core being. I’m not small in either self perception, or my ambitions. But, from the stand point of sheer numbers, I do not write out paychecks for very many people. An agency like mine desires to improve its revenue, and what we do from a civil social perspective, has an effect.

Enough preface. My lead question came from a discussion I had with someone recently. I have taken a decidedly approach to pursuing new business. Not surprising since I am in business to make money. This individual though, pointed something out regarding a responsibility to using my agency as a platform for causes.

The much admired, late David Ogilvy had said something to the effect that since we live in a world, you must make a contribution to it. That includes allowing your agency to propel issues. I admire David very much, so the idea does surprise not me — the fact that I’m debating with myself this, does.

Every social cause today, from LGBT issues, illegal immigration, religious persecution of Christians in Muslim countries and in the USA, the fight for social justice, the economy and racial perceptions, have a political component. They also affect people in the psyche and soul. Thus, it is not surprising that someone is driving the debate concerning every conceivable issue.

If you look behind a movement, or if it’s hard to escape the fact that there is a public relations, and even advertising side to it. Nothing happens in a vacuum. No one wakes up one day and says, “I’m black. I think I’ll look for reasons to go out and be upset.” It happens that way because the nature of who you are. However, I don’t agree that a lot of the issues are properly suited as discussions as civil rights. Unlike skin color, some issues are behavioral and matters of personal choice.

A dialogue has been driven by someone properly suited to drive the discussion. White people cannot look at a black or other minority with a clear mind and say, “Racism is dead. It truly is.” Let’s put something under the microscope for a moment: Why dis George Zimmerman kill Trayvon Benjamin Martin? I never bought into the idea of Zimmerman having a self defense ‘right’ to kill Trayvon Martin. He was the attacker or stalker with a gun. Zimmerman was a classic bully, apparently racist idiot. Martin was and always will be a 17-year-old boy walking in the rain in a not necessarily familiar neighborhood. If he did anything, Zimmerman could have just given the boy instructions on how to get home. He chose not to do so.

What followed were attempts by his lawyers, his family, some in the national media to justify a murder (after all, Zimmerman, of his own decision, followed Martin, and during that time he did everything possible to bring on the confrontation, forming requisite intent — a legal component of illegal homicide). Let me point out after the murder, the police and state prosecutor also put out a full court press of ‘justification.’ These efforts were classic crisis management. But, I’m not picking on Zimmerman. I’m merely trying to argue a point using a microscopic view taking us below the surface.

Check you later,

Bernard A. McNealy


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