Every so often, just when you think the world is changing, something brings you back to reality. Maybe it's the lack of participation in the recent human rights commission meeting by most of the major agencies. Maybe it's the feeling you get when you think of the first black president and then you see this racist New Yorker cover. Then you remember that you are in America. Nothing in America has come easy for people of color. Why do we think that the business world would be any different?
It's amazing how we're speaking two languages. We're all here in the same America living two totally different realities. One reality is of a group of people scared out of their skins that change is on the way. These same people would take a gesture of endearment, a "pound" between Michelle and Barack Obama, and turn that into a "terrorist fist jab," according to the good folks at Fox News. All because they're afraid.
This video has almost 500,000 views on YouTube since last week. Moveon.org also has a petition linked to the video with nearly as many signatures.
The other America is filled with people embracing a new day because we have to if any hope is to live. We should and we must. Imagine the BS Martin Luther King Jr. had to hear about how this dream he had would never come true.
America is changing, whether we like it or not. As marketers and media people, it is our calling to resist the personal and bend to the market reality. But all too often, we can't get out of our own way. Is it any wonder that young people are turning away from TV to the internet in droves? Online, they can find exactly what they want to watch and what reflects their reality -- a diverse reality generated by themselves, peer to peer, rather than in a Hollywood ivory tower more interested in saving its industry than reinventing itself to meet the market where it is. An industry that ignores the needs of its audience is doomed to reap bitter fruit.
The advertising industry is no different. Some leaders will see the writing on the wall. They will see the need to diversify their ranks in order to meet the needs of the their clients, who in turn have to meet the needs of their public. Others will not and will probably live quite well for a little while. That's the funny thing about erosion, it's slow and never-ending unless dealt with. Our industry is eroding. Fresh faces are coming into the same old machine, and they're going to rebel and start their own shops (ones that are more competitive, closer to the action and the target). Or clients looking for a diverse solution won't be fooled by a few black or brown faces slapped on a one-size-fits-all marketing strategy. They won't believe, because the public won't let them. Those that are relevant get to hang around and make some money; those that aren't will fall by the wayside.
In the same way that the music industry was at first caught sleeping by new technology, then went through denial and finally embraced the changes, the business world is still in denial that the market reality has changed.
By the time this news hits the front page of the mainstream consciousness, it has to be something as grand as Barack Obama. But the reality is that hip-hop and urban culture is now and has been for years the global force through which millions of young people, regardless of race, have claimed a voice and common denominator.
Hiding your head in the sand from the diversity reality is as dangerous a business move as thinking that people are going to stop downloading music and movies. At a certain point, you have to adapt or you die. Despite having his whole album floating around the internet, Lil' Wayne still went on to sell a million records his first week.
And let's not forget our friend Loren Feldman of 1938 Media, the "Technigga."
While he may have thought there was no retribution lurking in urban America, his rebuke was swift and from all angles. Check out Lynne D Johnson of Fast Company's response. If you scroll through her comments you also find this post from Feldman last year after Imus. Now we hear news of Feldman losing his support from Verizon Wireless.
Another one bites the dust. Please believe that the market waits for no man or brand. Those who take for granted a community on the rise are both foolish and short-sighted. Only time will tell when the turning point came in the struggle to diversify our industry, but the time will come. Which side will you be on? Go on, brush off your shoulders. Obama did.