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Antonio Lucio, CMO at Facebook sat down with IRG Founder Marc de Swaan Arons for a 'virtual fireside chat' about corporate & brand narratives, purpose, and diversity.

Marc de Swaan Arons: "Antonio, It's a huge honor that you can be part of the Humanizing Growth series offered by the Institute for Real Growth. Let me begin by asking what have been your biggest insights from the last few months?"

Antonio Lucio: "I think we have a combination of factors affecting our world today. Our times are unique – like nothing I have ever lived through before. What’s happening is probably closest to the upheaval during the 1960s when there was a lot of social change and polarization. During that decade, there were student revolts in Paris, student massacres in Mexico City, demonstrations and shootings in the US.

But I don't think we have seen anything exactly like the present crisis because of the multiple layers of issues and its absolute global scale. I think it's a really an important moment right now for us to reflect deeply as human beings on what our calling is as people and as business leaders.

It’s time for leadership. Given the pressures that we're facing, our companies are looking for opportunities for growth. If there's one word that should describe marketing, it’s ‘growth’ – and for some reason we have forgotten about it. Marketing’s reason for being is to drive growth by building brands that stand the test of time.

As CMOs, we own the consumer interaction and to achieve growth we need to have an obsession with consumer understanding. Recently, I've seen consumers change from week-to-week. The issue of COVID in different areas of the world has now shifted to racial injustice. The language required to connect with consumers has changed. I don't think there's ever been a bigger opportunity for our function than right now."

"I am tired of seeing all the business cases for diversity. I hope that we take advantage of this moment now and that we mean what we say, and we say what we mean."

Marc de Swaan Arons: "We know that 90% of CMOs have their hearts in the right place. They want to do the right thing, but they just don't know how. Can you talk a little bit about what you think needs to happen and how you started on that journey?"

Antonio Lucio: "There are no shortcuts. Any major transformation that I have been involved with, on both the business and the brand side, requires the same thing –holistic and systemic change. You need to set a very clear vision as to where you're headed along with very specific objectives, programs, measurements and feedback mechanisms. And then you need to start all over again, year after year after year.

For some reason, we talk about diversity as if it was something other than a major transformation. But it is a business transformation. And the time to do it, given where we are in the world today and the need for racial justice, is now. There are many things that we can do. I know that during my lifetime I personally cannot fix the problem of racism in the world, but I think I have enough time to actually fix it within the context of our industry.

We know exactly what we need to do. I am tired of seeing all the business cases for diversity. Every year we have a new consulting firm that shows that diverse firms actually perform better. If they have diverse people on the board, they perform better. If they have diverse people in senior management, they perform better. We’ve seen these studies over and over again. We've all shared the best practices. We all share it in playbooks.

When we see ourselves in this historical moment that we're living through today, I hope that we take advantage and start to mean what we say and we say what we mean.

It is time to hold each other accountable. Everyone should call each other out because it is critically important that we do. There are things that, as an industry we can do, and we must do. I've been a CMO a long time, so I have nothing but empathy and understanding for all the people that are on this call today and the pressures that you're getting from all sides – from consumers, employees, boards and from CEOs to do something about the situation that we are in. I think it's your responsibility to hold platforms like mine accountable – to ensure that there is brand safety and to ensure that there is civility.

Why? Because you are the brand stewards and that is probably the most important role that you're playing today. You must demand that platforms like ours do significantly better. I'm working to do that with a lot of people inside the company. We must do better, but let's be holistic about this because brand safety and brand values and civility should be applied to everyone. If I were not the CMO of Facebook, I would be saying the same thing. That is one thing that we all need to do. We need to hold Facebook accountable first, because it's the biggest platform of all. But we need to apply the same pressure to every other platform, whether it is online or offline. It's really important that we do."

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About the Institute for Real Growth

The Institute for Real Growth (IRG) is not-for-profit and independent, supported by WPP, Facebook, Google, Kantar, LinkedIn, the NYU School of Professional Studies, the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford, the Exetor Group, and Spencer Stuart.

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