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Activism in Advertising

Ava DuVernay recently spoke with AdWeek about her creative process and how art and activism intersect. When the interviewer asked if the award-winning director thought filmmaking was becoming increasingly activism-minded, and she responded with a very important point.

“To say that creativity and activism is more prominent now is to disregard...civil rights movement artists, artists of the Vietnam protest era, the Suffragette movement, Japanese internment, Native Americans, people who were enslaved.”

Many times, the modern (read: Western) advertising industry is very American-central and now-minded. It’s common to hear marketers discussing how to look toward the future, keep current on trends, and more effectively predict what will happen next. So often, events of the past, including mistakes that have been made, are forgotten and ignored.

In order to be good advertisers and better humans, we must take into account history. How arrogant of us to think we’ve uncovered some truth and to neglect those who have been living these realities their whole lives. We can become so caught up in our own little worlds that our advertising fails to acknowledge the little guys, the pioneers and those who have suffered. 

Bringing a multi-gendered, multigenerational, multiracial view to our work is one of the first steps in being mindful of other perspectives. Each person has a unique story to bring to the table, and we must listen. Take it from DuVernay who says, “I’ve just tried to make sure that I’m not the only person in a given room who looks like me.” Just think of all the great art and opportunities we would miss out on if we only listen to our own instincts. In other words, it’s time we step out of our “American Dream” and consider other possibilities.

Link to Ad Week article: https://www.adweek.com/creativity/creative-100-ava-duvernay/

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