It's time for the ad industry to bust out of its bubble and heal: Living on the Edge
I grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut.
I attended a private day school for 11 years.
I went to an elite boarding school, and graduated from an Ivy League college.
I’m gainfully employed, and live in an attractive house that’s almost all paid off.
I have three healthy and well-adjusted kids, and my wife and I just had a really nice dinner in celebration of our 22nd wedding anniversary.
I don’t know a single person who has died of COVID-19.
And I am a middle-aged white man.
I tell you these things to make a point. On paper, I am highly unqualified to speak on the stress and suffering going on in our world right now. We are all living in “bubbles," but some bubbles are more insulated than others. Some have a nicer view. Some have more money for groceries. It is borderline obnoxious for me to write a column in Ad Age about “Living on the Edge."
Or is it?
The truth, or my sense of the truth, is that all our bubbles, insulated or not, have now burst. If the coronavirus was the pin prick, the televised murder of George Floyd was the Molotov cocktail. My bubble, your bubble, their bubble. No matter how well-constructed, they stood no chance.
Now, we are all living on the edge. We are all in this, irreversibly. No industry, no company, no individual is immune. There is a virus, there is venom, there is violence, there is a void in leadership. But for the foreseeable future, there is no vaccine. For any of it.
And yet we all have our professional lives to lead. Clients to serve. Pitches to prepare. Zoom pleasantries to exchange. Ads to create. The beat goes on.
In many ways, on many days, it all starts to feel a bit small, even a bit wrong. People are dying, the world is going up in flames, and we’re urging a voice talent to slow down his read and really emphasize the phrase “paid up to two days early."
This morning I asked my daughter Lucy what she thought I should do for this article.
“Talk about what a tough time it is, and how it’s going to take a while, but we can all help make things better," she said.
I think Lucy is right. I think Lucy has to be right.
What we do has to be important. How we treat our people, the way we respond to adversity, the work we put out in the world, it matters. It adds up. We’re part of the dialogue. We’re part of the culture. As removed as we may sometimes feel, we’re part of this increasingly fragile, powder keg world.
And some good things are starting to happen. Nike, Heineken, VW, Dove, all these brands are responding in ways that begin to heal and help. Through their words and far, far more importantly, through their actions. More brands can do the same. No, all brands can. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t set my alarm for tomorrow morning.
Tomorrow’s Monday, right?
So how has it been for me, and for our agency, “living on the edge?" How are we dealing with this year of reckoning, of riots in the streets and masks on our faces?
It’s been a tough time, and it’s going to take a while, but Lucy said it best.
We can all help make things better.