Marketers – Be Social Justice Warriors on Your Own Dime, Not Your Clients

By on October 13, 2017
Lou Desmond

By Lou Desmond

At the recently-held Advertising Week New York event the Grand Poo Bayh’s that lead the advertising and marketing world gathered to offer each other great thanks for being so cool and to engage in serious amounts of self-congratulatory and gratuitous navel-gazing.

Among the chief concerns to be addressed at this year’s gathering was, according to a report by the New York Times, “the responsibility of companies, especially advertisers, to advocate on social issues and to provide a moral compass in a fraught political environment…”

And to think — I always thought, through my many years in the industry, that our job was to sell our clients’ products and manage the best reputation for the company and the brand.

Clifford Hudson the CEO of Sonic (the drive-in burger chain) complete with a 50s feel and not a lot of organic or kale-based products, seemed aghast and agonized about what he should do in light of an internal company survey that showed most Sonic customers preferred Trump to other brands.

He seemed to apologize, making clear in remarks to the gathered cool-kids, saying that he was surprised and “believe me, no effort (was made) on our part whatsoever.”

He went on to say how proud he was that his senior team is made up of many women and minorities and wondered how public he should be about that –to which I say – how about you concentrate on making great burgers, tater tots and milkshakes, huh?  Maybe tell people about that?

Ironically Dannon (the yogurt brand) weighed-in with great sanctimony about how it was supporting the protests against President Trump in its partnership with the NFL. Oddly it was the very same week they would drop one of the league’s star players as a spokesperson after he failed to acknowledge a female sports reporter properly, and then raised a Black Power Fist after scoring a touchdown which many in the sports world are saying is the real reason for the cut.

The NFL meanwhile continues to give itself a PR black eye every Sunday, Monday and Thursday over the continuing National anthem protests that are dividing the owners, players and even the stadium workers as well as local police and fire in NFL towns.  This is driving down attendance and ratings precipitously.

If you are a consumer product and do not have a very clearly defined audience that you can be absolutely sure will agree with your morally superior posturing it is probably a bad idea to engage in it.

As a public relations and marketing professional, I would counsel my clients to always avoid divisive issues regardless of how you feel.  Sell your products to everyone and exclude and offend no-one unnecessarily.  Then do your political and social justice work quietly as you see fit.

You are selling soap or printers or wine…not running for office.

Lou Desmond is the President of Desmond & Louis, Inc. For more information he may be reached at or 909-680-4011.