The Holding Companies Could Foster The Kind Of Change Protesters Are Demanding

Much has been said in the last two weeks about how marketers should respond to the killing of George Floyd and the protest movement that followed. 

Nike received a lot of ink for an ad in which it urged Americans to speak up against racism and not remain silent about it using a twist on its well-known tagline “For once, just don’t do it.” 

Other marketers, like Verizon and Procter & Gamble, have donated millions to organizations that promote social justice like the NAACP and the Urban League. 

Commendable actions that really don’t get to the heart of the matter. 

But the ad-marketing holding companies—WPP, Omnicom, Interpublic, Publicis and their peers—can probably make more of a difference than any other segment within the broader communications industry. 

These are the folks singularly- ocused on the art of persuasion. You can try to deny it but you want to buy stuff because of the messages they create in the ads you’re bombarded with most of your waking hours, whether you’re walking around outside or driving, watching TV, on the computer, at the movies (in normal times) or playing a video game. Ads are unavoidable and they’re persuasive, especially when amplified by social media, PR campaigns and the reams of data that inform the persuaders what motivates you. 



How many of us haven’t seen an ad that makes us a little teary? That’s the persuaders doing what they do best. I’ll bet an ad showing the agony of George Floyd’s last moments on this earth would wake a lot of people up and jar them out of their complacency about social and racial justice. The video is there. It’s horrifying. Every American should see it. 

The remedy to police brutality is probably a combination of federal and local reform. It’s not a new issue and it appears to be getting worse for reasons that I can only speculate on. Is it unreasonable to think that the Derek Chauvins of the world are emboldened by the “When-the-looting-starts-the-shooting-starts” mentality that Trump has spewed in one form or another throughout his term in office? 

How about a zero tolerance policy for unjustified violence against those in police custody? Chauvin had 17 complaints filed against him in 20 years on the force, including shooting incidents. My guess is most of those complaints were justified and his actions weren’t. Add zero tolerance to the mix and George Floyd would be alive today. 

But send in the persuaders, let them do their research and see what they come up with. And then let them start persuading, person by person, community by community—they have the necessary precision marketing tools—that local law enforcement needs to be reformed now.

2 comments about "The Holding Companies Could Foster The Kind Of Change Protesters Are Demanding".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, June 5, 2020 at 11:33 a.m.

    Richard, it's really up to the agency clients to take the initiative here, with the "creatives" executing the kinds of ads you are speaking of. Ultimately the client has to decide to what extent the ads will focus on societal issues as opposed to simply positionning  the brand from a normal marketing perspective and motivating sales. It is claimed that in today's confused and threatening social climate that the two go hand in hand---but this may not be as easy as it sounds. For some products or services as well as certain brands, the answer may be "yes"; for others, it  may not work or it might even be seen as hypocritical, hence counterproductive.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, June 5, 2020 at 2:40 p.m.

    There are such things as public service ads and they can be paid for by these overpaid executives and the ivory towers. It would kill them to take the dividends/profits for at least one year to use it for this and other programs. What percentage of these megapoly agencies are people of color ? 

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