A Chance for Multicultural Agencies to Give Back

Our Work Can Help Our Communities, Not Just Sell to Them

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Alberto Ferrer Alberto J. Ferrer
Wednesday night I felt proud to be in the marketing communications business. It's not that I'm not usually proud of this business, but it really hit home as I experienced some of the most impactful and hard-hitting creative I've seen in a long time.

I had the pleasure of attending the Ad Council's Annual Public Service Award Dinner, the largest fundraising event for the Ad Council. Expertly hosted by NBC's Brian Williams, it raised an amazing $2.5 million.

The event included presenting Time Warner's Dick Parsons the Ad Council's 54th Annual Public Service Award as well as recognizing agencies Merkley & Partners, McCann Erickson, and Saatchi & Saatchi with awards for their outstanding work on behalf of several causes.

Launched in 1942 as the War Advertising Council with a campaign to sell war bonds, this organization (rechristened Ad Council after WWII) leverages the talents of the best marketing-communications minds, the facilities and resources of media companies, and the support of business and non-profit groups to generate awareness, drive understanding, and incite action on several public issues.

The Council currently supports dozens of causes grouped into the categories of Community (e.g., adoption, global warming), Education (e.g., high-school-dropout prevention, early childhood development), and Health & Safety (e.g., online sexual exploitation, drunk-driving prevention).

Here are some examples of the memorable campaigns developed by the creative talents at volunteer advertising agencies working pro bono for the Ad Council throughout the years. You'll probably recognize all of them.
  • Smokey Bear's "Only you can prevent forest fires"
  • The Peace Corp's "The toughest job you'll ever love"
  • UNCF's "A mind is a terrible thing to waste"
  • McGruff the Crime Dog's "Take a bite out of crime"
  • "Friends don't let friends drive drunk"
  • "You could learn a lot from a dummy" by Vince and Larry (the crash-test dummies)
  • "This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs."

Ad Council President Peggy Conlon spoke eloquently about the accomplishments of the Council and graciously acknowledged the many good works done by all the companies that donate their resources to these causes. She added, however, that we need to do even more. Much remains to be done to tackle the issues supported by the Council as well as other causes to come.

Another aspect of the work shown Wednesday night stuck with me. I wish I'd seen more work done by multicultural agencies to address our target populations. Many of the issues being tackled by the Ad Council disproportionately impact minority and multicultural populations. We therefore should disproportionately be volunteering our help.

The same groups to which we peddle our clients' wares are being affected by these public issues. We can't just collect our fees for selling a multicultural audience on the benefits of Brand X diapers without selling them on not abusing or neglecting their children.

Every day we use the power of communications to develop strong relevant ideas that sell our clients' products. It's very rewarding to know your work increased market share. It is far more rewarding to do outstanding work that saves lives, protects children, improves literacy, and otherwise has a positive impact in our communities.
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