McCann Brings The Truth About America to Northside Innovation
Our panel, The Truth About America: Politics = Pop Culture, attracted the biggest crowd on Day 1 of Northside Innovation. The annual Northside Festival brings over 100,000 creative and cultural trendsetters together in Brooklyn to uncover the future of music, innovation and content.
McCann Worldgroup Senior Brand Journalist Arvind Raman presented our latest Truth About America research, which suggests that a transformation is happening in America. Politics is beginning to usurp the role of traditional entertainment in our lives as we spend less time idly scrolling through Instagram looking at puppy pictures and instead, turn to news sources to feed our insatiable desire for political drama. In fact, according to the research, 68% of us have read news about government or politics within the last few hours. Our key takeaway that fed our panel discussion is that today, politics = pop culture, and everyone from brands to media to our cultural institutions has to navigate this new landscape.
To discuss the research and the intersection of politics and pop culture, we brought an amazing group of panelists from the worlds of art, philanthropy and law -- with a common expertise in film. They included Victoria Cook, Partner, Frankfurt Kurnit; Lesli Klainberg, Executive Director, Film Society of Lincoln Center; and Katherine Oliver, Principal, Bloomberg Associates. Our Executive Strategy Director Mike Medeiros served as moderator.
Because all three panelists came from the world of film and entertainment, the discussion focused on how the film industry is processing this cultural moment – a time when it seems impossible to separate politics from culture. So, how do you walk the line between creating cultural content and making a political statement? Katherine’s organization recently released a documentary called “From the Ashes” about the coal industry and its shrinking role due to health and economic (rather than climate) issues and how they have approached the storytelling and promotional processes. In the film, they made sure to tell the story from both sides of the aisle and they are currently in every kind of market – from San Francisco to Appalachia – promoting the film. Victoria, who represents filmmakers at all levels from big studio to niche documentaries, said that since the election, there is more interest in pitches about topics that are on the edge of social cultural issues. As an example, she cited the Netflix series Making A Murderer, which suggested corruption within the local justice system. The key takeaway from the discussion is that in this political climate, there is more of an appetite to hear about real-life issues impacting “ordinary” lives. Victoria also noted that there has been an uptick in opportunities for women and people of color to tell their stories – a real positive outcome.
At a time when many organizations are questioning how to define their brand, their audience and their strategy, the panelists were asked about how they manage their personal beliefs with their role at their organizations. Lesli made an important point about the distinction between values and one’s own personal politics. At the Film Society, it’s all about making the outreach to the people who need it and how to be good members of the community. On the community point, the panelists were surprised by a finding from the research that revealed that Americans are much more positive about their personal mood vs. their community’s mood. All of our speakers felt that at a personal level, people are actually instigating and wanting to get involved in community activities around social causes.
While there are many issues currently dividing us as a country, our panel discussion revealed other commonalities around which to come together.