On Thursday night, a group of about 30 advertising and marketing professionals got together for the latest event in AAF's ongoing series, Change the Narrative. The event was hosted by New York-based diversity and inclusion advocates Reema Mitra and Bennett D. Bennett with the theme of equipping young people to exercise their voices and their influence to build an industry that better represents the public it serves.
Good advertising is an exercise in empathy
At its most fundamental, marketing is an exercise in empathy – a company and a customer finding common ground through a problem, a product, a service or a cause.
So, what happens to good advertising and marketing when the industry loses touch? That's the question at the heart of AAF of Greater Fort Lauderdale and the Palm Beaches Change the Narrative event series.
The first event in the series, held in August 2018, focused on learning about – and from – six of the many female agency owners and leads in the South Florida area. As a region, we're fortunate to buck the trend of male-dominated agency culture that has inspired movements like #MeToo and the 3% Conference.
Thursday's intimate, Q&A-heavy event focused on helping young people, inarguably the backbone of marketing departments and advertising agencies everywhere, to understand the role they have in shaping our industry's more inclusive future.
What we learned
Helping yourself is an important part of helping others. As a person of color, LGBTQ+ individual or member of another under-represented group, it can feel like it's your burden to speak for and advocate for whole groups – often because you're the only one at the table. During the Q&A, both Bennett and Reema shared their experiences as accidental advocates in these situations, as well as their advice to not forget about your own career in the process. After all, creating more diverse board room tables requires those who are already there to stay there.
Savings are your escape hatch from a toxic environment. Have a financial safety net before you find yourself trapped in a toxic environment. Some places are beyond your ability to save. Some aren't worth saving. But you are. Having a rainy-day fuck-off fund provides both comfort and the ability to exit a bad situation while you calculate the next good move, rather than leaping into a new job without really looking.
Broward and Palm Beach counties have a lot going for them. The cultural diversity, LGBTQ+ friendliness and immigrant communities in both counties are advantages we often take for granted. Because we are so diverse, the real challenge comes down to finding ways to recruit and co-create with broader communities.
You have more power than you think. The most resounding note of the night was the recurring theme of not underestimating your power and influence. Oftentimes, it can feel lonely to be part of an underrepresented group. But being one of a few doesn't mean your voice matters less. Bringing a unique point of view is an asset at almost any company.
About the speakers
A firm believer that digital transformation creates business impact, Reema Mitra is passionate about using digital to make brands culturally relevant and change the way people interact with them. Outside of the office, Reema spends her time mentoring women from diverse backgrounds and advocates for positive changes in the advertising industry. She is most passionate about changing the ratio through giving women she hires and mentors the support to confidently become strong voices in the industry.
Bennett D. Bennett is a writer and futurist born, raised, and still based in NYC. Most recently, he was the US staff writer for global marketing trade The Drum, covering agencies, the media landscape, and special topics in creativity and innovation. Prior, he spent over three years at BBDO New York as a copywriter, working on roster of brands including FedEx, CVS Health, Bacardi, Visa and AT&T. Since his time as a MAIP Fellow in 2013, he’s been listed as one of the 4As 100 People Who Make Advertising Great, an ADWEEK Young Influential, and honored as a 2017 MAIPer to Watch. He’s also sat on advisory boards with the AAF, 4As and ADCOLOR and spoken at and moderated panels at Advertising Week and the 3% Conference.
We want your suggestions for speakers and topics for our next Change the Narrative event. Please send all recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you're interested in getting involved in the diversity and inclusion activities of AAF, please contact the email address above.
Written by Jacob Edenfield
The Greater Fort Lauderdale Advertising Federation was established in 1957 as a local arm of the American Advertising Federation (AAF) to serve the interests of all disciplines and career levels in advertising. Now in 2016, we have joined forces with the advertising federation of the palm beaches to form AAF Greater Fort Lauderdale & The Palm Beaches. Whether you're new to the fast-paced world of advertising or a seasoned professional, AAF Greater Fort Lauderdale & the palm beaches is for you. We're here to help you advance your career, build your connections and celebrate this ever-changing, amazing industry we work in.