I always enjoy my conversations with Lucky Forks advisor, Dr. Mike Reading. Two weeks ago, we were having one of our weekly conversations and he said, “I am really surprised at how many people in advertising don’t see value in their job. They are always saying things like ‘I am just pushing ads’ or ‘I am not curing cancer.’ It is really interesting to me.” It stopped me in my tracks. I had heard people in our industry say this countless times, and I had said those things myself. 

Over the next week, I couldn’t get this comment out of my head. When did members of the advertising community start losing value in what we do? We literally are an industry built on the skill of influencing consumer behavior in society. Yet, we often forget that we can apply these same skills to impact social good. 

Over the past year, I have often said that the advertising community can impact social good more than any other industry in business. I truly believe this because there are two core areas that nonprofits can’t spend a great deal of money on – advertising and technology. These two things we do every day and are exactly what nonprofit organizations need to create social impact.

With that said, I believe the reason we hear the “pushing advertising” comment is because companies in our industry have not truly leaned in to utilizing their core skills to impact society for the greater good.  I often call it the “check the box syndrome.” Companies know they need to have a social impact plan, so they randomly pick a nonprofit to have a volunteer day or make a donation to “look” socially aware. They think this satisfies their employees and looks good for potential future employees. Unfortunately, this typically doesn’t resonate long-term, because it is a partnership that doesn’t align with the company’s core skill-set and values. 

After thinking about Mike’s comment, the answer seemed clear to me. As a community, we must start utilizing what we do to create the biggest and most authentic societal impact. The advertising we create, the platforms we build, and the data targeting we use can literally change the game for nonprofits trying to achieve their mission. No, we will not be the doctor in the room with their cancer patient. However, we can be the industry behind the campaign that raises awareness about the cancer nonprofit, that gets people to donate to the cause, that funds the cancer research, that eventually gets us to the cure. So you know what I think? Advertising can cure cancer.