Congratulations! You made it into FIMS – an acronym that you will soon get tired of explaining to people. You have worked hard to get here and are probably both excited and nervous to begin your academic journey with the faculty. Something about the program has sparked your academic interest and I hope that you pursue whatever it was to the fullest.
However, you will inevitably face questions about what you will do with your degree.
It can be hard to visualize where a FIMS degree fits into the world, especially when entering the program. When I began first year, the classes were captivating but I could not see how they fit into the job market or the so-called real world. Which, as I am sure you must know, is a scary feeling.
Luckily 2017 has already provided us with a slew of high profile examples of just how much the world needs minds from programs like FIMS.
We often don’t notice when advertising goes well, but we certainly notice when it goes wrong. Take for example the Kendall Jenner and Pepsi collaboration. The now infamous ad makes a mockery of the power of political protest and rides on the backs of the enthusiasm garnered by protesters for commercialization. Many read the ad as an offensive recreation of a Black Lives Matter protest. It is hard to understand how no one on the advertising team stopped the ad or raised concerns about its insensitivity. Perhaps some of the people who worked on the project knew it was a bad idea but were too afraid raise concerns. How the ad got on air is a mystery, but the style and tone of it is far from new.
The strategy of commercializing social and political movements is a senior advertising tactic. Karl Marx’s concept of cultural hegemony describes the way in which the ruling class dominates culturally in order to ensure the ruling class’s continued survival. These advertising tactics are a part of the cultural hegemonic agenda to absorb raw movements and sell them back to the people who started them. The field of public relations operates within this uncomfortable space. Corporate public relations experts manage how to package this consumerism in a way that disguises it from the truth.
But now, truth is a hot topic.
Donald Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer’s almost comical lies have helped foster growing public concern for truth. I think that this concern is promising. Public opinion seems to be turning against these old tactics. This is changing the way companies are advertising. In the fall of 2016, Facebook launched an educational campaign to try and teach people how to “spot” fake news, and websites that expose fake news stories such as Snopes.com have been growing in popularity.
I think that the continued negative reactions to these traditional practices show signs that the market is opening up for programs like FIMS.
FIMS often operates in a postmodern world of greys, an often uncomfortable position between trying to better the reality we are in while simultaneously criticizing it.
The general public is starting to reject political movements being repackaged as happy-go lucky commercials aimed at pacifying and commercializing real movements. The troubled notion of philanthrocapitalism, the idea that social movements can be spearheaded and fixed solely by the capitalist system, will continually be challenged as social justice movements continue.
I think that we may be entering an era of ethical public relations where companies need to practice what they preach to escape criticism of the public.
This may just be a FIMS pipe dream, but I think that there is increasing value in ethical media and public relation campaigns that aim to better the world we live in.
Upon graduation, many FIMS students face the uncomfortable reality that they will have to contribute to an industry that they have spent four years criticizing. What I hope these examples of public outcry towards unethical and wildly insensitive advertising points to is a shift in public opinion. A shift towards more honest and productive forms of advertising and media work. As FIMS students we are aware of an interdisciplinary and intersectional approach to these topics and can provide a fresh outlook for a changing industry.