Every year at Most Contagious we make the case for creative bravery.
We do this because we believe brands that encourage and implement risky ideas beat those that play it safe.
This is the foundation of Contagious’ business model and it is the lens through which we analyse advertising, and so we tend to talk about it a lot.
But at Most Contagious 2019 our notions of creative bravery were put in their place by two speakers who demonstrated nerve beyond the call of marketing duty.
Matt Rivitz, who co-founded Sleeping Giants to deprive extreme right-wing news outlets of advertising revenue, talked about continuing his work even after The Daily Caller doxxed him, leaving him open to antisemitic abuse and death threats.
And Pankaj Bhalla, Procter & Gamble’s VP of shave care, described standing behind Gillette’s The Best Men Can Be ad, even after online trolls published pictures of his son and posted his walking route to school.
Similarly, Black & Abroad co-founder Eric Martin talked about his brand’s Go Back To Africa campaign, which turned the racial slur on its head to promote tourism to the continent, and the crisis management expert who told him ‘under no circumstances should you run this campaign’.
There were plenty of reasons to despair within these anecdotes: the parlous state of political discourse, the unwieldy rage fueling the culture wars, and the hateful online abuse that is as pervasive and toxic as smog.
But there is also at least one good thing you can salvage from their stories. Rivitz and Bhalla were harassed because their work mattered enough to register with trolls and other bad actors. We’re not saying it’s right, or that it’s an acceptable cost of doing business, but it is at least evidence that advertising and marketing can make a real difference.
It just might take a bit more bravery than you expect.