Pragmatic Idealism

Every challenge, it’s sometimes said, is also an opportunity. These days, our industry faces no shortage of challenges. Talent acquisition headaches, declining consumer trust, brand safety threats—the list goes on. Is there a golden opportunity hidden among all of these apparent setbacks—a chance to inspire our teams, give deeper meaning to our work and, ultimately, magnify its impact? Let’s take a moment to pause and reflect.

  • Let’s start with an undeniable fact: marketers are under increasing pressure to deliver tangible benefits to the business.
  • Another undeniable fact: most of us long to do more meaningful work. A recent survey found 9 in 10 of us are willing to trade a percentage of our lifetime earnings for greater meaning at work. If you’re sensing some tension here, you’re not wrong.
  • As a marketing change-maker, you already know that balancing realism and idealism isn’t easy. But it’s definitely worth the effort. In fact, some have argued that it’s the very definition of great leadership.
  • This moment in time offers marketing leaders a unique opportunity to bring meaning to their work. Our industry is at crossroads. Recent grads are less and less interested in marketing careers. Digital advertising is increasingly seen as a threat to democracy. Trust in advertising is at an all-time low.
  • In response, we’re seeing a wave of marketing leaders—including Unilever CMO Keith Weed—calling on the industry to aim higher and use its power and influence for the greater good.
  • Rishad Tobaccowala puts it this way: “Focusing on the consumer alone does not make sense. We should look at things from a perspective of whether what we do helps or hurts citizens. Consumption is just a component of being a citizen.” He then follows this idealistic-sounding notion with some very pragmatic reasons to take it seriously.
  • Weed and Tobaccowala aren’t asking the impossible. Quite the opposite. Simple changes to the way you spend your media dollars can have a direct and significant impact.
  • Our favourite recent development in this area is the recent emergence in the UK of the Conscious Advertisers Network(CAN). This coalition of brands and agencies already has 30 members, all of whom are committed to driving positive change in 6 specific areas.

  • CAN is a great example of idealism and pragmatism working in combination. Beyond its lofty aims, the movement has the power to address some real challenges—to improve consumer trust, protect our brands from harm, inspire the next generation to join our industry and create a deeper sense of meaning for marketing leaders and teams alike. So who wants to join us in exploring a North American chapter?
Issue #64
Mar 10, 2019

Further Reading