In college, I majored in journalism before shifting into strategic communication. I remember the disappointment in the voices of my professors, friends at the student newspaper and some of my fellow classmates when I told them about the switch. They saw journalism as a noble profession, and they saw advertising as…well, not. And while I could understand their disappointment, I just couldn’t agree with it.
Now I’m not here to bash journalists — they do an incredibly difficult and important job and are routinely thrown under the bus for it. But I do oppose the idea of advertising just being hollow consumerism and a general bane to society. While I’ve done my share of click-baity articles and alcohol-pushing ads, I’ve also worked on projects for museums that are trying to expand the minds of their patrons, ads for companies making it easier to access fresh fruit and campaigns with life-saving implications, most recently being our Show Me Strong and COVID-19 vaccine work for the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services.
If you’re one of the many Missourians attempting to get a vaccine or just looking to learn more about what the vaccine is and whether it’s safe, chances are I’ve helped you in some small way. Maybe you’ve visited MOStopsCovid.com and registered to receive a vaccine. Maybe you’ve seen a video on your Facebook feed where a Missouri doctor explains how the vaccine was made and what to know before getting it. Or perhaps you caught a commercial on TV while you were watching Jeopardy.
It’s extremely rewarding to know that — directly or indirectly — my contributions may have saved someone’s life. To see a high school acquaintance share on social media something I worked on, not because I worked on it, but because they believe in the cause. To have my mom tell me she saw an ad on TV where Jon Hamm told her to wear a mask and socially distance…and then, after me piecing together that it wasn’t actually Jon Hamm, realizing it was the 30-second spot I wrote she was talking about. It feels good to know I made a difference, and that difference was because of advertising.
Because let’s face facts: Not every Missourian is getting their news by reading the Kansas City Star or watching Columbia’s KOMU’s 6pm news or listening to KMOX out of St. Louis. But they might be listening to Spotify. They might be scrolling through their social feeds. And they might be seeing that pre-roll ad before the YouTube video they clicked on (well, at least five seconds of the ad before they skip it). That’s where our messages can get through to them where others might not.
Advertising, at its heart, is about influencing people. Often, that is used for monetary gain. “Buy our product. It’ll make your life better…probably…maybe.” But that influence can also be used for good. And I’m proud that I (and Elasticity) are using it for good to fight back against this incredibly challenging virus and its effects.