Diversifying our industry with women, minorities and people with varying lifestyles was the right thing to do. And the smart thing. Each of these groups represents large portions of the population and market. The better you understand the people you're talking with, the more successful you'll be.
As we search to create original ideas, we benefit from a talented, diverse mix of people who will bring different experiences and ideas into the room. It's one of my favorite things about advertising—how different we are, yet how little that matters to each of us as we work together toward a common goal.
Which brings me to my confession.
I am also a minority in the advertising industry. I am a political conservative.
Since it is a rare thing to encounter in advertising, allow me to explain what I mean by "conservative." It means I believe in the Constitution and in everyone's inalienable rights, endowed by our creator. I believe that the freedom provided by the Constitution and Bill of Rights grants every person an opportunity to succeed -- as well as the freedom to fail. I believe that equal opportunity does not guarantee equal outcome. I believe, as Dr. Martin Luther King said, that the content of a person's character is all that matters, and not the color of their skin.
Like most conservatives, I believe in providing help for the helpless at all times. Public welfare should be available to help the able-bodied and able-minded when they need it. But that assistance should be used as a crutch to help people regain their footing, not a wheelchair in which they permanently ride.
And I believe in personal responsibility. Anyone can achieve what Bill Gates or Barack Obama has achieved in our society, if they're willing to work hard enough.
We, the people, also used to celebrate diverse thoughts in America. Neighbors, friends, co-workers could discuss different ideas and even touch the third rails of polite conversation -- religion and politics -- and still end with, "we can agree to disagree." But today polite, agree-to-disagree conversations have nearly vanished, especially in politics. By the second George W. Bush presidency, I felt I'd been forced deep inside the closet.
It's been difficult deciding if coming out is the right thing to do. I have wondered, will it hurt my livelihood and subsequently my family? It seems odd that in an open-minded field like advertising, where differences are celebrated, that any group would feel stifled. But I've decided to write now because I believe this election is particularly important, and I don't want to look back and answer my future grandchildren's questions about the debt we've left them and have to say, "No, I did nothing about it." I also believe that openly accepting conservative people will help our industry.
Just as advertising has recognized the need and benefits of hiring more women, minorities and LGBT people, the industry needs to see the benefits of hiring more conservatives. The closeness of the last three presidential elections indicates that the country is divided almost 50-50 between left and right. Just as knowing and understanding your target is likely to yield better results, in a politically divided consumer pool clients will benefit from the input of conservative thinkers in their agencies.
The truth is , there may be a few already on your staff. Just still in the closet.