In 1960, as he accepted the Democratic nomination for the presidency, John F. Kennedy said, "We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light a candle that can guide us through the darkness to a safe and sane future." The passing of almost 60 years has not dimmed the truth of these words, which if anything are even more relevant in today's tumultuous times than they were then.
I think of those words every time I attend a board meeting at the Ad Council -- an organization that has spent the past eight decades shedding light on society's critical issues and challenges through public service advertising campaigns. My involvement with the Ad Council began when I first came to the United States in early 2009, when the country was still mired in financial crisis and the prospects for recovery were still far from certain. For me, the Ad Council stood as a symbol of hope in those dark days -- a place where the passion and purpose of the people dedicated to creating advertising that creates societal change outweighed the pessimism of that moment in time.
As I approach the 10th anniversary of that introduction -- and with the country again in turmoil -- I sat down with Ad Council President and Chief Executive Officer Lisa Sherman (pictured at top) to discuss how the organization she leads will continue to be more about passion, and less about pessimism, as it closes in on its 77th year of creating communications programs that make a difference to society.
Mainardo de Nardis: Lisa, what comes to mind if you apply the theme of this column,More of/Less of, to the Ad Council for 2019 and beyond?
Lisa Sherman: More modern marketing, digital at the core, bringing media and creative together, giving a broader role to media agencies and fully benefiting from influencers. Less focus on partnering only with media agencies for donated media. The campaign on which we've been partnering with Omnicom's OMD around "Buzzed Driving" -- for which the agency handles the creative strategy and production as well the media strategy and placement -- comes to mind as an example.
de Nardis: How is this going to impact your strategies in the very short term?
Sherman: We are creating broader and deeper media partnerships and tapping into their content creation capabilities as well as leveraging more earned media. Our 'Creators for Good' influencer program is working very well. Having said that, we still need more in all these areas. We are focused on more horizontality, a true team approach to make sure we deliver in real-time. Perhaps I can summarize this by saying 'More focus on partnerships, less one-off campaigns'.
de Nardis: Tell me more about your personal goals after four great years running this show?
Sherman: Long answer: I think Blackrock Chief Executive Officer Larry Fink said it best earlier this year in his annual letter to companies: "Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Without a sense of purpose, no company, either public or private, can achieve its full potential." Short answer: Being an evangelist for "More focus on purpose, less obsession with only profit."
de Nardis: Tell me more...
Sherman: "More policy, Less politics"! I can keep going. As you know from being a board member, the organization as a whole is -- very ambitious. We want to leverage our skills and experiences to create a better world. Nothing is impossible if we maintain our focus and benefit effectively from the extraordinary resources to which we have access, including our board, which I think may be currently under-utilized. This collection of talent can become a true coalition focusing on all of the public issues we decide to tackle.
de Nardis: To conclude, perhaps you could summarize three of your most recent programs, explaining to us what you have achieved for these causes using the More Of/Less Of framework. Let's begin with Love Has No Labels.
Sherman: More empathy, less enmity.
de Nardis: Save the Food?
Sherman: More sharing, less hunger.
de Nardis: Seize the Awkward (suicide prevention campaign)?
Sherman: More lives saved; less lives mourned.
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