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Friday, November 13, 2009

Marketing a social movement

Although Kim Loudermilk 97PhD, senior associate dean in the Emory College of Arts and Sciences, still teaches the semester-long class at Emory, Social Movements and the Media (the basis for her speech, Marketing a Social Movement, in New York on November 11): let’s just say it wasn’t your average college class.

We had guests from Atlanta, attendees ranging across 20 class years, and even a Cornell alumna who eagerly signed up to get in on the action. Well, seems like everyone had the right idea, as the talk was spectacular—funny, futuristic, and engaging all at the same time. It seemed as if everyone laughed on cue, but really, it was just a good speech coupled with some racy images (see above) that boasted a wide appeal.

The event, hosted at MTV Studios by Ellen Albert 79C, senior vice president for planning and design for Viacom/MTV Network, was from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., but it seemed like the crowd didn’t want to leave!

The event was sponsored by the New York Chapter of Emory Alumni and two of the Emory Alumni Association's interest groups--the Alumnae and Women of Emory New York (AWE NY) and Emory Gay and Lesbian Alumni New York (GALA NY). We had a wonderfully diverse group of 30 guests. A surprising number of men actually showed up to listen to the talk, which was, even in the event description but more so in actuality, largely focused on feminism in advertising.

Loudermilk began by plowing through the history of a variety of social movements and their effect on the media. Guests became overwhelmingly engaged during the section on feminism, which was presented in conjunction with commercials and ads. The presentation spanned the gamut of brands—beginning at Dolce & Gabbana, critiquing Virginia Slims, and ending with oomph on Maidenform Bras.

At one point, Marni Galison 98L was so intrigued by an ad and Loudermilk’s interpretation of it that she interrupted mid-presentation to play devil’s advocate.

In older Virginia Slims marketing, a lot of feminists hated the “You’ve come along way, baby” campaigns. Galison, after vehemently denying smoking, exclaimed: “Is there any cigarette ad that feminists do like?!” Her point was that, if someone inherently doesn't like the product, she certainly will disapprove of the ad. But, we did see some commercials that feminists happened to be fond of—I recommend checking out “The Diet Coke Break” on YouTube.

Regardless, thanks to Galison, the tone was set for an informative and inspiring feminist advertising debate post-pesentation. The group finally concluded, with Loudermilk’s guidance, that feminism in advertising moves in waves and eventually always comes full circle.

An interesting statistic ... we learned that only 16 percent of people in senior advertising roles are women! So, who is really behind these ads? Given the numbers, it seems that the ideas mainly stem from ad men. Perhaps the politics of the time play a small role, too. Just like the ad changes that came in the Reagan and Clinton eras, we are likely to see a new wave of advertising with the “change” advocate, President Obama.

--Nicole Rose Stillings 08C, senior consultant at Internet Marketing Inc.

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