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Navigating the Modern Town Square

The Meta Debate on Political Ads and the Imperative for Commonsense Campaigns



In the evolving landscape of digital communication, social media platforms have become the modern-day town square, where ideas are exchanged, debates unfold, and political (un)civil discourse takes center stage.


Meta's recent decision to allow political ads claiming the 2020 election was rigged has ignited a heated conversation about the responsibility of tech giants in shaping the public narrative. This controversy underscores the critical need for commonsense politicians and bridge-building organizations to establish a presence in this digital town square, as their lack of well-produced, thoughtful, viral content has created a void where nonsensical personalities have been allowed to thrive.


And, I get it - These leaders are problem-solvers, and they see the glaring PROBLEM that is the current digital environment. The unfortunate reality is that this is where the masses are spending their time, especially people under the age of 30, and the longer the problem-solvers and pragmatists resist, the harder it will be to own a space of commonsense solutions within the digital realm.


The Meta Decision:


Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has long been a major player in the digital realm, influencing public opinion on a global scale. Recently, the platform has faced scrutiny for its decision to permit political ads that propagate the claim that the 2020 election was rigged. Critics argue that allowing such ads perpetuates misinformation and challenges the integrity of democratic processes. In the age of social media, where information spreads rapidly, the implications of Meta's decision on political discourse cannot be understated. Pair this with state-sponsored trolling and bots, and those who believe in whatever the screen puts in front of them (especially with the false engagement and the false -and real- sense of community) will be encouraged to believe that opinions with no factual support are the accepted reality.



The Modern-Day Town Square:


Social media platforms serve as the contemporary equivalent of the town square, where individuals gather to share ideas, engage in debates, and stay informed. The decision by Meta to allow political ads of this nature highlights the influence these platforms have in shaping public opinion. And remember, we’re talking about ads here, not organic content. Commonsense politicians and organizations need to recognize the significance of being present in this digital space, as it has become a primary source of information for a vast majority of the population.



Visibility and Information Dissemination:


In a crowded and competitive political landscape, visibility is paramount. Commonsense politicians and organizations need to participate in the digital town square to ensure that their perspectives, policies, and solutions reach a broad audience. Failure to establish a meaningful presence on these platforms can result in their voices being drowned out by more vocal or controversial figures, leaving others uninformed about their actual options.



The Challenge of Misinformation:


While the digital town square provides a unique opportunity for politicians and organizations to connect with different audiences, it also presents challenges, particularly in the spread of misinformation. Meta's decision to permit political ads claiming election rigging underscores the responsibility that tech companies bear in curating the information environment. Given how many ads we’ve seen rejected as a socially engaged digital marketing agency, from ads about Two Wheels for Life, the official charity of the MotoGP, or ads discussing bridge-building organizations, we are surprised at this decision to allow for paid amplification of these claims. Commonsense politicians and organizations must navigate this landscape carefully, advocating effectively for truthful and evidence-based narratives to counter the proliferation of misleading information.



The Call for Commonsense Leaders:


In the face of the Meta controversy, the need for representation from commonsense politicians, organizations, and thought leaders is more evident than ever. These leaders prioritize pragmatic, evidence-based solutions, fostering a sense of trust among others. By actively participating in the digital town square, commonsense leaders can counterbalance divisive narratives, offer informed perspectives, and engage in meaningful conversations with real-world impact.


78% of Americans say there is too little focus on important issues facing the country. There is a hunger for pragmatic solutions that can pave the way for a brighter future and give people hope.



The Power of Role Modelling:


The power of role modeling is deeply ingrained in human nature, as individuals naturally look to others for guidance, inspiration, and cues on behavior. Whether consciously or subconsciously, we derive a sense of identity and values from those we perceive as role models. In shaping a commonsense approach and advocating for solutions, the act of role modeling becomes a potent force for change.


When leaders and influencers exemplify practical problem-solving and emphasize rational approaches, they not only set a positive example but also inspire others to adopt similar attitudes. By role modeling commonsense and solutions, we harness the innate human tendency to emulate behavior, creating a ripple effect that contributes to a culture of constructive thinking, innovation, and ultimately, a society geared towards positive change, unity and progress.


But we know that this is an extremely heavy lift. Just after an event that Just Juniper Media helped to organize with Van Jones, Van made a speech at the March for Israel, and his commonsense perspective was met with both cheers and boos. So long as the bridge-builders remain quiet, the leaders in this space will have harder work ahead.


By working together, by being present, by simply engaging with each other's content and by spending 15 minutes a day being 'present' in the modern-day town square, commonsense politicians have the chance to be elected, and problem-solving has the opportunity to gain influence in the mainstream.



The Problem With Problems


In my hometown, a seemingly proud member of ‘Trump Country’, the struggling mall where people literally sit in rocking chairs in the hallways and you would not be surprised to see the only thing traveling down those hallways to be a brown plastic bag (a midwestern tumbleweed). Here, though, one store seems to be thriving, with their bold red and black 'Let's Go Brandon' tees.


The problems in America are LOUD, but the ‘Solutionaries’ are also lacking investment in their voices. I meet more people across the political spectrum and across diverse religious, ethnic, and national backgrounds who are simply over the idea of tribalism, and it is rare that I find people who want to dig into and perpetuate the negativity that othering creates. Yet, what I and others see around us is that the problems, not the solutions, have much greater representation.


So, whilst negative news and outrage spread faster on social media, creating this illusion that talking about solutions is not worth the investment, a self-fulfilling prophecy is being created where the lack of investment in highly produced solutions-oriented content gives problem-oriented content all the prime real estate.


In the pursuit of a brighter future, the emphasis on solutions over problems is not merely a shift in perspective but a fundamental approach to transformative change. While acknowledging and understanding challenges is a crucial first step, fixating solely on problems can foster a sense of hopelessness and stagnation. Redirecting focus toward solutions propels individuals, communities, and societies forward, instilling a proactive mindset that seeks innovation and progress. By concentrating on solutions, we channel collective energy into creative problem-solving, fostering resilience, and nurturing a vision of what can be achieved. It is through this optimistic lens that we unlock the potential for growth, sustainable development, and the realization of a brighter and more prosperous future for all.


Politicians, corporations, and other organizations need to be participating and invest in producing high-quality, solutions-oriented content. This content, however, has to be created thoughtfully. Pepsi’s infamous collaboration with Kendall Jenner is a prime example of how a campaign can fall flat on its face, regardless of the intention. This kind of content needs to be expertly crafted by leaders who work directly within the space, not just in messaging, and understand how to speak to the average modern person without being patronizing or virtue signaling.


And whilst companies certainly have a responsibility to engage with consumers in a positive way, it is also within their interest to ensure that society is calm and peaceful, if nothing else than for the profits, so that people spend more of their time and money on their products and services.


The onus doesn’t solely fall on corporations, though. There is a significant amount of wealth that philanthropists/donors have to invest in changing the world, and there is no shortage of for/not-for-profit organizations available to receive that money.


Similarly, though, this funding has to be spent wisely. Organizations that accept this funding need to work with experts to build a marketing strategy that ensures quality and impactful content is being created and leveraged, rather than making waves and progress that is neither seen nor heard. With the right strategy in place, politicians, donors, and organizations in the bridge-building movement can make problem-solving ‘cool’ again.




My Conclusion:


As Meta allows political ads that claim the 2020 election was rigged, the importance of commonsense politicians and organizations being present in the modern-day town square cannot be overstated. In an era dominated by social media, where information shapes public opinion, these leaders must navigate the digital landscape responsibly.


The Meta controversy serves as a call to action for commonsense politicians and organizations to actively engage with the masses, ensuring that their voices are heard, their solutions are considered, and voters are well-informed about their options in the democratic process.


The key will be to create and disseminate solutions-oriented content in a way that combats the amplification of ‘problems’ and division that is so prevalent in the digital landscape. But the greatest thing that problem-solvers need to ensure in their marketing efforts is real-world impact, and for that, investment needs to be put into engaging the right messengers, getting more problem-solvers to engage in civic engagement within the digital realm, and ensuring that all campaigns will ‘do no harm’ through absolute authenticity.


This is not about winning likes or followers. This is about being present in the modern-day town square so that everyone hears about the option to resist polarization and embrace unity. This is about giving an alternative to and education around propaganda. This is about democratizing real information, breaking down the paywalls that one must get through in order to even see that there is positivity all around us and that there is potential within all of us.


I just hope that more leaders are called to this mission and respond to it.



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