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Three Ideals for the People of the Advertising Business

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Advertising Week kicked off this week, and all of the best qualities of the industry are on parade. We're a business known for creativity, drive, innovation and connectedness, and all of those qualities are coming to life in the discussions and gatherings planned for the week. Likewise, people with their eye on the agenda will see a boom in the appreciation and application of new technologies, consumer behaviors, social media, data usage and beyond.

I'm a huge cheerleader for the ad industry and, as current chairman of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, I'm particularly excited about this pep rally for the industry, and what I see is a lot of ambitions and capabilities. But what I'd like to see more of -- to take our business and discussions to the next level -- is some ideals for our business.

We all accept that every company is united by its ideals and values, which is why most organizations will spell them out. It gives the people a focal point and aspirations to make the most of their time together. Why not apply this on a larger scale? As we discuss all that we do, what I'd like to see is a shift in the discussion towards what we believe in.

And as luck would have it, I have three suggestions here for the ideals -- some standards of perfection and excellence -- we can embody as in industry in all that we do next.

  • Making Sure Advertising WORKS. We often spend time talking about what we can do and how well we can (and must) do it. But very rarely do we directly address the simple, often overlooked fact that advertising contributes to the growth of the American economy -- and that we must ideally do everything we can to elevate that contribution. If you ladder up everything we discuss this week, it's about creating demand by creating strong brands. Strong brands grow business. Business growth creates jobs. Jobs grow the economy. This may seem like a common sense dynamic, but it's one we need to better understand and drive forward. Economic growth can't be a byproduct of our collective creativity; it must become an ideal that gives greater purpose to our creativity. (And as an added bonus: when we understand the ways in which we contribute to economic growth, we can help brands better understand our real contribution as agencies to their business.)
  • Appreciating and Revolutionizing Talent. Talent and the human side of our business has always been its greatest strength. So in a business driven by human assets, why are we not more focused on the humanity of our business? There are inklings of progress bursting up here and there, but a full-scale focus on the ideal of sustainability can put the magic back in our business. Real change will require a revolution, and revolution will require all of us to take action. We need to exponentially expand our community and its discussion to better include the world outside ourselves, build our diversity, augment our intellectual capital and improve our work. The bringing together of diverse talent is how we create our magic when we're at our best. Advertising Week is a great showcase for that magic, and should be a forum for discussion on how advertising once again becomes the premier career of choice for every dreamer who loves ideas and wants to build something new.
  • Striving for Sustainability. Yes, we're in a business that is sometimes anchored in efficiencies, logic and the power of image, but that can't root us in cynicism. Fact: Brands can make the world a better place, and we owe it to ourselves and the people of the world to make sure that ideal happens. We must continue to build brands that are responsible citizens and become global stewards, and we will help tell their stories to the world. People are rightfully demanding responsibility on the part of brands, and we must celebrate and elevate the people who actively take on that responsibility and want to shape the future of the world. We have good people in this business and we need to talk about how to actively empower them to do good things.

I think that sometimes we're afraid to express optimism around this business. We get caught up in details that don't change the world, and that distracts us from the fact that we can change the world. There's nothing stopping us if we all decide we want to accomplish this change together. As we get together this week as people who love this work and this business, let's shift our focus from what's real to what's ideal. In doing so, our industry will become a magnet for people who want to stand for something in their work.

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