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A Better US

YMCA x Droga5

Here's one way to define us:

YMCA pushes change. And through their newest ad with Droga5, they give us a look into the real US -- what America is all about.

This is why I'm a fan:

"Where there's a Y, there's an us." Simple and to the point. What makes this ad a powerful one, is the truth behind it and the fact that I believe it. Not because of the ad itself, but because I lived it. As a teenager living in the city of Boston, I used to attend a local YMCA. It's where I truly believe, helped shape how I've always seen the world and the country I was born into. In fact, while some would say they grew up around their "own kind" or simply people who looked like them, I can excitedly say that I grew up with "all kinds". And as an American-Brazilian myself, I wasn't simply around people's culture; I shared my own with others as well by simply being embraced.

I was brought up "diverse". But back then, as a teenager living in the city of Boston, I never thought of the word "diverse". Growing up around diversity was the norm -- from my perspective at least. Seeing kids that looked like me and who didn't look like me was normal. And that was that. It wasn't a topic of discussion; it was simply what life looked like. I cannot say I hate that diversity is a topic of discussion today because it's great to make it a point to learn from others. When everyone gets to bring their perspectives into a conversation, it can be rather powerful. But deep down, I yearn for a country where diversity isn't a topic of discussion anymore. I sometimes wonder when will we all -- the collective us -- simply see people as people and embrace what makes them, them. As someone who has been directly affected by the environment the Y provides, I see this ad as a way to say what they've been acting on for years -- naturally. I say naturally because they embrace the people and their origin.

We see brands today making it a point to add diversity into their discussion through their marketing efforts, or even working towards incorporating more education internally. Senior Vice President and CMO, Valerie Barker Waller, at the Y-USA says:

" 'US' is based on a key insight about the things people across the country are experiencing, from anxiety to social isolation, to a lack of empathy. We want the country to know that, among the daily struggles, the Y is there--to bring people together, to help find common ground and to address pressing social issues that so many communities are facing."

I would agree and say: Yes. This insight tells us the state of our country and so it's better for brands and all people to talk about it, rather than dismiss it. But here is the main point that has been missed or completely looked passed: Diversity, culture, and people's different experiences and walks of life are not processes. These are people. So we can't try to understand diversity and people's cultures for the sake of stating your stance or selling to a particular group. Focus on the PEOPLE -- your employees, your partners, your stakeholders, your customers, your audience, etc... It's not a refer-to-a-group-and-you-talk-to-all formula. Let's be lead to culture through people. Listen and truly connect to those you're meant to impact for the sake of expanding your mind because that's where empathy is organically experienced.

Here's to a better US...lead by ALL of us.

Sources: Creativity Online, YMCA website

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