Stonewall | LGBTQ+ Pride Turns 50 — And the World Comes Together

When I was judging the ANA International ECHO Awards last year, many of my judging colleagues saw this data-inspired Destination Pride campaign from PFLAG Canada.

When I came to New York in the 1980s, working as a media relations manager at the Direct Marketing Association, the city was a very different place than it is today.

New York was crawling out of bankruptcy, awash with graffiti, litter and crime, and thousands of people dying from a virus which our president barely would mention. ACT UP  AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, American Foundation for AIDS Research, God’s Love We Deliver, Housing Works  this was the new “industry” that rose up in New York (and elsewhere) to find a way to halt a crisis that was robbing the world of bright, young minds  people from all walks of life.

Straight or gay, we were all running and hiding from a virus … in advertising, in media, in fashion, in the arts, in finance, and so on. It didn’t matter who you were  it could find you, and you’d probably die. My own Stonewall was not a riot in Greenwich Village in 1969, it was joining the fight against AIDS 20 years later, and a fight for those who were afflicted, marginalized, and isolated as pariahs.

Welcome to New York From Thousands of People I Never Got to Know

One of my first experiences upon moving to New York was giving food to and hugging a homeless man outside McDonald’s on Third Avenue. He was covered with lesions of Kaposi’s sarcoma, a manifestation of AIDS. He said, through crying eyes, that I was the first person to have touched him in two years. He was so frail, but his hug was so strong. I know he probably did not live long thereafter. I cry for him, even today, as I recall this happening. I wonder, too, about all the thousands like him, whose contributions we’ve been denied ever to know.

This fight against AIDS must continue today  a cure must be achieved. Thankfully, drug treatments have emerged to help those who have HIV infection, to become undetectable, or to prevent infection altogether, but these therapies are expensive and research toward better treatments, and a cure, must be funded. For those who become HIV+, it may no longer be a death sentence, but I’m certain it’s still no picnic. There are too many population segments living outside affordable, accessible, quality health care.

Pride and the Pursuit of Happiness

Through all this, I came to New York City because it represented a place where all of the world’s individuals could be who they are  no matter who you are and the city fosters such individualism, collectively. Stonewall, having claim to the birth of our modern gay rights’ movement, was part of this allure. Growing up in small-town America, I loved small-town values, but I could barely find myself thriving in the restrictions, expectations, and judgments that served, in my mind, to repress my own freedom-loving path and pursuit of happiness. New York would be my catalyst. In fact, New York even as a global city is, to me, a quintessentially American city where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness can be very hard, but well worth the reward.

In 1994 on the 25th Anniversary of Stonewall I marched down Fifth Avenue, with people from all over the world who gathered to show our pride.

Twenty-five years on, we are prouder still. In 2019, I’m going to march again in New York  this time on the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. I march for me, liberated, yes and for all of those who live still in repression, who are denied equal access under the law, and who are hated, harmed, or ignored, simply because of whom they choose to love. World Pride is a celebration of boundless, limitless love but also a love with responsibility toward ourselves and each other. Love respects. Love is compassionate.

Plan Your Travel Accordingly: Love and Education in a Campaign

When I was judging the ANA International ECHO Awards last year an extremely rewarding experience that I’m hopeful you choose to make happen for yourself this year many of my judging colleagues saw this data-inspired Destination Pride campaign from PFLAG Canada (agency FCB/Six, Toronto):

The Association of National Advertisers just posted this updated commentary about the campaign on its own site and YouTube Channel.

This campaign earned a GOLD ECHO, among many other advertising honors. The campaign shows how technology, data and creativity came together to truly help make the world more safe, tolerant and enjoyable for everyone, providing global destinations with a LGBTQ+ friendliness score. (New York City scores a 72 with room for improvement. How is your city doing?)

I’m hopeful to see more such innovative, provocative, and engaging ECHO entries this year. Great work toward positive business and social outcomes matter.

Stonewall50 | World Pride, march on!

Poll: Do We Vote to Stay or Leave as ‘Direct Marketers’?

Since the advent of email, digital marketing and all the disruption that’s come our way since, how one regards the term “direct marketing” is clearly in question.

Email, Mobile and Social Media Marketing: Lessons from top-performing B-to-B and B-to-C brandsSince the advent of email, digital marketing and all the disruption that’s come our way since, how one regards the term “direct marketing” is clearly in question.

Two weeks ago, Marketing EDGE bestowed a Lifetime Achievement Award at its inaugural EDGE Awards event in New York to Lester Wunderman, the data-driven advertising strategist and practitioner who founded the Wunderman agency and first coined the term “direct marketing” in the mid-1960s.

Recently, Mr. Wunderman told 1:1 Magazine:

“I predicted what’s been happening. We’re beginning to see mass production get more personalized. Also digital, where you have interactions between sellers and buyers, has really helped to change marketing. It used to be that advertising was about a brand. Now it’s about individuals and what they want and need and most likely want to buy, so we’re being much more efficient than we used to be. We used to invest in broadcast media. Now we’ve become much more personalized.

Easy access to information and personalization is happening because the whole world is digital and the ability to locate prospects and customers and readdress them over time makes advertising more specific. From a database, we can know what each customer is likely to buy. It’s what I call direct marketing and it’s really the manufacturer and the consumer now having a relationship on the Internet.”

So with referenda all the rage these days, I ask, “Do we, as data-driven marketers, remain in the ‘direct marketing’ camp or do we leave to something new?”

We’re seeing evidence of change everywhere:

Some here may argue no one is “leaving” direct marketing. We’re only recognizing that we’ve morphed into data-driven marketing, personalized marketing, accountable communications, digital, mobile, search and social — and the integration of these channels around the prospect or customer.   While the “direct” nomenclature may encompass all this realm, many in the workforce — particularly digital natives — for whatever reason equate “direct marketing” with “direct mail” as if analytics never existed until Google came along.

The “stay” camp may actually be in some agreement with the other side: Yes, we’ve morphed, but all marketing is becoming direct (read, accountable and measurable) and if it isn’t, it ought to be or else we’re wasting client money.

Data from DMA shows that data-driven marketing is claiming an ever-larger slice of the ad spending pie, but it’s still not the whole pie: so we still have ways to go before “direct marketing” is indiscernible from the more general “marketing.” Until the day every creative is as comfortable with data as he or she is with pretty pictures and the big idea, we’re still a chasm away from uniting branding and data into one common cause. Until the day our data masters understand the art and skill of storytellers, we still need bridges and ambassadors between the two.

So do you vote to STAY or LEAVE — or should we just stop worrying about it, and be a bridge instead?

The Importance of Being … Enforced

When you’re a marketing organization and being watched is a matter of law, the risks of non-compliance can weigh very heavy when a firm runs afoul and is caught. Few businesses can well afford litigation, fines and bad publicity, plus potential years of consent agreements with all the documentation that may be required. Brand damage.

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When you are being watched, most of us pay a little (or a lot) closer attention to what we’re doing. It’s human nature to be mindful and act accordingly.

When you’re a marketing organization and being watched is a matter of law, the risks of non-compliance can weigh very heavy when a firm runs afoul and is caught. Few businesses can well afford litigation, fines and bad publicity, plus potential years of consent agreements with all the documentation that may be required. Brand damage.

Now let’s turn to self-regulation.

When you’re a marketing organization and being watched is matter of ethics, or of best practices, the risks of non-compliance may be either heavy or light — depending on the compliance question, its marketplace implications and how cooperative the organization is to conform to industry expectations.

Self-regulation, more accurately peer regulation, is usually more preferable than direct government regulation.

For one, in data-driven marketing, innovation is a constant. Disruption is ever-present. Technology keeps changing. How can government regulation even keep up? It rarely does. That’s where self-regulation provides American business a great advantage: rules of the road get set by principle, and the market adapts to those principles.

Then, there’s enforcement of those principles. For example, I work for the Digital Advertising Alliance — a self-regulatory program based on principles for interest-based advertising and multi-site data collection for the desktop world that have been adapted for mobile and cross-device environments. I’m also a member of DMA [Direct Marketing Association], which serves as one accountability partner of DAA (the other being the Council of Better Business Bureaus Advertising Self-Regulatory Commission). These two organizations enforce DAA Principles, each in their own way. However, they are independent from DAA: Those of us who work at DAA are not privy to DMA and ASRC self-regulatory enforcement investigations, until those proceedings are made public.

Earlier this month, the DMA announced its Annual Ethics Compliance Report, which documents how businesses comply with all of DMA’s Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice. [My comments here regard the contents of the overall report, rather than those specific to DAA and interest-based advertising.]

By reading a summation of the 11,300 consumer inquiries from January 2015 to January 2016, one sees an accurate snapshot of what’s on consumers’ minds regarding our business, and how we can better address those concerns to their satisfaction. DMA reported that last year, 90 percent of cases were resolved within 30 days. Thirty-seven emerged as matters referred to the DMA Committee on Ethical Business Practice (also known as Ethics Operating Committee) for further action. Continued non-compliance, or lack of response or cooperation, can lead to a referral to a government agency, if a legal matter may be in question, or if a company may not be following its own disclosures. DMA referred at least four cases to government entities.

Self-regulation without meaningful enforcement may or may not spur ethical or best practices. But add “enforcement with teeth” to self-regulatory codes and educate industry at every turn, and lo and behold, the right result happens. The outcomes serve to protect consumers, and to protect businesses, too — all without government regulation which can prove too restrictive or quickly obsolete.

The Importance of Celebrating Great Advertising

Certainly, we’ve read headlines about ad blockers, agency burnout and click fraud — but these challenges are not the reality of our entire business. Yes, each concern listed here needs to be managed, but they hardly define advertising’s truest landscape.

Echo AwardsOn April 7, there is an agency party happening in New York. Creatives and strategists will be in attendance, but what will the party be celebrating exactly? The simple chance to win an ECHO Award, and the call for entries is now.

Full disclosure — I’m on the Direct Marketing Association’s International ECHO Awards Board of Governors (and the only compensation of being a BOG member is the opportunity to see firsthand the greatest advertising idea store in all of data-driven marketing).

What’s so timely or unusual about celebrating advertising now?

Certainly, we’ve read headlines about ad blockers, agency burnout and click fraud — but these challenges are not the reality of our entire business. Yes, each concern listed here needs to be managed, but they hardly define advertising’s truest landscape:

  • Compelling content that drives consumer interest and engagement — and is increasingly measured to prove it. Data wins the purse and the consumer.
  • An economic contribution that DMA identifies as a $202 billion proposition in the U.S. alone, with more than half of that directly related to responsible collection, sharing and application of data. However, the ECHOs are not all data and numbers – they are informed strategies and executions that are breathtaking, first and foremost. They also drive action.
  • Advertising that wows the CMO, keeps the CFO happy and enables the CEO to look good — because it’s advertising that works to meet defined business objectives.

Very few ad competitions explore this angle, yet, this is where advertising is going and growing. An ECHO trophy proves, “We understand where advertising is going.”

Making waves, disruptive, arresting, dominant — the adjectives fail us, but the work doesn’t. Even the ECHOs are transformative this year with 21 categories to conquer tackling sector, channel, craft and special award categories.

Instead of partying in Manhattan on Thursday night, I will be six miles high eagerly flying home, awaiting this year’s stellar realm of dominant ECHO entries to celebrate this fall. Dominators have until June 27 to enter.