We’re living through a moment of massive cultural and structural change. We’ve seen an enormous awakening to long-standing issues of racism and inequality. Meanwhile, COVID-19 still has the economy reeling: double-digit drops in sales as stores consider reopening; millions of jobs lost, with only a few signs of gains; GDP projected to shrink substantially this quarter.
While some companies are stepping up, there’s still more to do. This moment demands radical transformation, and as companies are changing messaging or shifting trading calendars, we can go even further. This is the moment to question not just when we do business, but how we do business, at every level—because transformation is more than the private sector’s response to this moment, it’s our long-term responsibility.
Last year, 181 CEOs committed to a new model of corporate responsibility and affirmed their obligation to all stakeholders. And over the past few months, seismic shifts have rippled across the corporate playing field and pushed us even further. Competitors now stand shoulder-to-shoulder, staring down the same systemic issues, ready to take action and change for the better.
Our fates are intertwined. We now all have a shared responsibility to transform our companies, our industry, and our economy—because when everything is at stake, we are all stakeholders. And there’s no industry better suited to lead this than the marketing community.
Marketing has always been a platform to inform public opinion, change hearts and minds, amplify cultural moments and movements, and spur economic growth.
No other industry cuts across every sector or reaches millions around the world every single day. Great advertising educates audiences, elevates stories and ideas, mobilizes people to act, and lifts bottom lines—which in turn engages and advances conversation, creates jobs, and keeps families afloat.
But it’s not just about marketing; we need to do more as a marketing community to address our most deep-seated legacy problems, especially within our industry.
Now is the time for marketers to prioritize equity and inclusion, while also committing to a new open marketplace built on trust, radical transparency, and meaningful collaboration. Just imagine how opening up training, technology, and insights across the marketing industry could simultaneously accelerate lasting transformation and real economic recovery.
No doubt, it’s an ambitious call-to-action. But the stakes are too high to let legacy thinking, competitive agendas, closed marketplaces, or closed mindsets stand in our way. We need courage, conviction, and imagination, and we can start by asking ourselves some questions:
- What investments are we making in our people to build diverse teams and leadership, lift up marginalized voices, combat biases internally, and create more inclusive training to accelerate the future of work? Let’s open up those resources to empower and support talent everywhere.
- Do we have technology that can benefit entire industries and workforces, or create a better operating model? If so, let’s build upon each other’s systems and standardize wherever we can.
- Are we capturing accurate, representative insights that can spark operational change? If so, let’s empower companies, large and small, to share best practices that can be adapted locally or scaled globally.
This is what responsible leadership will look like: if you know something is right, you do it. If you know something is wrong, don’t. If there’s infrastructure everyone needs, build and scale it. That’s what it will take for this industry to truly transform.
Inevitably, this open marketplace will require new alliances, partnerships, business models, and maybe even some strange bedfellows. And none of that should scare us; it should liberate us to do whatever this moment requires.
We know these investments in each other, our marketplace, and the economy will pay off. That’s why NBCUniversal is creating more marketing training and development resources while mapping out a new open-source technology structure—one that will streamline all advertising processes, bring measurement into the 21st century, and completely transform the way marketers transact with us. But we’re only one company; we need others to join us.
Together, we can make sure transformation and responsibility are not just buzzwords, but a shared playbook. Real transformation is possible, and recovery is on the horizon—so let’s give each other the permission to be courageous, open up and share the responsibility.