Bowing to the Inevitable, Advertisers Embrace Advocate Role
Mr. Hudson said he was proud that most of his senior team is made up of either women or ethnic minorities but he has wondered, “Do I do that quietly or do I become more public about it?” He added, “The for-profit private sector is going to be playing a stronger role in the next number of years at trying to reset the bar, for fear that the bar shifts in such a way that it’s not healthy for society.”
A separate panel focused on the representation of women in commercials and highlighted recent research from the advertising company J. Walter Thompson New York and the Geena Davis Institute that showed men get far more screen time in ads compared with women, who are less likely to be depicted as funny or even employed.
“People don’t trust government and big authorities, they’re looking for companies to take courageous stands and really do more good in the world,” said Debra Bass, president of global marketing services at Johnson & Johnson Consumer. “We know advertising creates stereotypes which shape culture and it’s our responsibility to change culture so more women will have education and economic empowerment and less abuse.”
That prompted Jeffrey Rothman, vice president of marketing strategy and innovation at Dannon, to bring up the yogurt brand’s sponsorship of the N.F.L., which recently dealt with President Trump’s criticism of sideline demonstrations by the league’s players during the national anthem.
“We’re in an environment where, wherever you stand on the political spectrum, I think it’s clear to all of us right now that we’re looking to actors outside of our government to help drive the social justice agenda,” Mr. Rothman said. “To be part of an organization like ours and in this partnership with the N.F.L. is allowing us to start to do that.”
Video — from clips on a smartphone to Netflix on television — was also a hot topic. Tara Walpert Levy, vice president of agency and media solutions at YouTube and Google, and Carolyn Everson, vice president of global marketing solutions at Facebook, each gave presentations that highlighted the draw of videos, and by extension, video advertising, on their sites.
Both companies have been smarting lately. Major brands like AT&T and Coca-Cola pulled ads from YouTube earlier this year after they were discovered on videos promoting offensive content like hate speech. More recently, Facebook disclosed that Russians had used fake accounts and online ads to fan divisive issues during the presidential campaign. The social network has also had to respond to the revelation that advertisers were able to target users who used terms like “Jew hater” to describe themselves.
Still, video is too enticing for issues like those to scare advertisers away.
“You just have what I would actually liken to a gold rush in the content space,” Rob Master, vice president of global media, categories and partnerships at Unilever, which owns brands like Dove soap and Lipton tea, said during a presentation. “The amount of money pouring into producing and developing content is unbelievable,” he said, naming Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Fox and Hulu.
Marketers are watching that, as well as how younger generations are using their smartphones, and figuring out where they might fit in, he said.
“What is the commercial model for a video on a phone or on the web across these different platforms?” Mr. Master said. “Today, some platforms call video what I would call a digital moving billboard. So how do we think about that in terms of media — how do you plan or buy for that?”
There were also, of course, discussions that did not touch on seismic industry or societal shifts.
During a panel on Instagram, the actress Sarah Jessica Parker, who sells goods under a namesake label, described how she decides to make work-related posts to her highly-followed account.
“I feel sort of honor-bound to the people who follow me to not exploit the relationship, not to trade on the relationship,” she said. “I feel better talking about the business on our business pages frankly.” But when it does happen, she said, “I try to be very thoughtful and plot out those occasions where I invade the personal with business.”
Snapchat introduced a new way for advertisers to reach its audience — essentially, by placing a branded three-dimensional product into whatever users are filming through the Snapchat app.
Imran Khan, Snap’s chief strategy officer, said that Snapchat users were creating more than three billion pictures and videos a day.
“The problem with text is that text never captured your true voice — text might grab your attention but it never captured your imagination,” he said. “As a result, the way we communicate is changing, it’s becoming visual. With texting, I always had to translate my feelings over text. Now with camera, I can do that instantly.”
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