30 June 28, 2020 A VIEW FROM Ramsey Naja A VIEW FROM Claire Beale There is no disconnect between equality and success A CRISIS IS NOT A MEDIA CHANNEL Ramsey Naja was CCO at JWT MEA @geminisnake O ne thing about large-scale crises is that they tend to sharpen people’s built-in cynicism into the kind of instrument prized by meticulous Japanese chefs. And nothing, absolutely nothing, draws that instrument out of its sheath quicker than the whiff of commercial vested interest. Here you are, confined for an eternity with a posse of stir-crazy children, turning your spare bedroom into the equivalent of a small neighbourhood grace of a paté de fois gras producer. At a time when people are in desperate need of tangible reassurance, the last thing they want is a salesman disguised as a shrink, a headmaster or, worse, a goody two shoes. And what they want even less are brands who, for lack of built-in, long-term purpose, jump on any passing bandwagon that their armies of trend spotters detect (and jump off it the moment it drops down the Twitter rankings) without so much as a meaningful gesture beyond, well, words. This, in fact, is what years of neglecting the ABCs of brand management has done: most brands today stand for a blank space to be filled with whatever is the cause du jour, for which their communications becomes an excitable spokesperson as long as the audience’s attention span is focused on it. A global crisis, a pandemic or any cross-cultural unpleasantness is not seen by such people as a call for action: it is treated as media. And this is the heart of the matter. Because unless brands have earned the right to espouse a cause through years of relevant positioning, their right to speak about it can only be obtained through actual, tangible action, with hard currency and profit sacrifice to back it up. Otherwise, they will be no better than perverts who stand for office on a platform of family values. And the moment they are seen as such, it is not surprising to see the very audience they seek cutting them to shreds. This must be a tipping point. Many of us have spent time listening, learning, thinking. Now everyone in the ad business needs to work together to make this industry actively anti-racist, fairer, more equal, more diverse, more inclusive. Some have more power than others right now to push ahead, yet we can see from IPA census data that this isn’t happening. And early evidence suggests that furloughing and job losses are exacerbating inequality. Active anti-racism is an urgent necessity. But when progress is so slow, we need to make it a businesscritical issue. So how about marketers decide they are only prepared to work with agencies that can demonstrate an ongoing commitment to equality, diversity and inclusivity. How about marketers make it a condition of doing business with an agency. How about they make it business-critical for agencies to sort this out. Some marketers already do this; how about it becomes the norm, written into every RFI, every contract. Regularly monitored. I’d like to think agencies would do the same: only put their talent to work with marketers who can also demonstrate the same commitment. Does that sound naïve? Perhaps. But how powerful it would be if a great agency walked away from a pitch because the brand owner wasn’t truly committed, throughout its organisation and supply chain, to active anti-racism. Perhaps all this sounds fanciful in the face of harsh economic realities. But the case has already and frequently been made that – besides (even perhaps because of) being more interesting, rewarding and fun to work in – diverse, inclusive teams deliver better business results. There is no disconnect between equality and success; they are united. most brands today stand for a blank space to be filled with whatever is the cause du jour. Claire Beale is global editor- in- chief at Campaign Wallmart with a fixation on toilet rolls, trying to work out the minutiae of mask-wearing etiquette while frantically drenching your underwear in disinfectant gel and, hello, here comes Brand X cheerfully inviting you to notice a tenuous connection between its corporate slogan and the need for social distancing. I don’t know about you, but this is the kind of behaviour I find to be not so much in bad taste as simply wrong. You see, it is one thing to spot an opportunity and quite another to force it down one’s throat with the vicious Motivate Publishing Group Head Office: Dubai Media City: Abu Dhabi: 34th Floor, Media One Tower, Dubai Media City, Dubai, UAE. Tel: +971 4 427 3000, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Motivate Publishing FZ LLC, Office 508, 5th Floor, Building 8, Dubai, UAE. Tel: +971 4 390 3550, Fax: +971 4 390 4845 Motivate Advertising, Marketing & Publishing, PO Box 43072, Abu Dhabi, UAE. Tel: +971 2 677 2005, Fax: +971 2 677 0124, Email: email@example.com Motivate Publishing Ltd, Acre House, 11/15 William Road, London NW1 3ER. firstname.lastname@example.org London: www.motivatemedia.com EDITORIAL DESIGN ADVERTISING ENQUIRIES Obaid Humaid Al Tayer Olga Petroff Tel: +971 4 427 3000 Nadeem Ahmed Quraishi S. 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