The AME Awards honors campaigns that are creative and results-driven, triumphing in both creativity and effectiveness. AME’s Grand Jury are the genius minds associated with many of AME’s award-winning entries, their stellar reputations and commitment to creative and effective work set the benchmark for innovation.
2021 Grand Jury member, Janis Middleton is SVP, Executive Director of Multicultural and Inclusion Strategy for 22Squared. She has years of experience in the content and media space working with such clients as The Home Depot, Buffalo Wild Wings, SunTrust (now Truist), Hanes, American Standard, Aaron’s, and Krystal to success. Her background has made her extremely knowledgeable in developing and implementing people-focused strategies, which ultimately led to her current role in leading the agency’s diversity and inclusion efforts. Janis has always had a passion for building and cultivating environments that provide equal opportunities for all people to thrive. Not only does she have tremendous influence inside the walls of 22squared and Trade School, but she’s also paving the way for her community by serving on the Board of Directors for Breakthrough Atlanta and as a leading member of Advertising for Change.
In the interview below Janis shares her perspective on the evolution of brand positioning, values, and tone of voice during COVID, how the change in media consumption has effected the marketing mix, and what mediums will take the lead in 2021 and more.
AME Awards: Why are effectiveness competitions like the AME Awards important?
Janis Middleton: Competitions like the AME Awards really push brands, agencies, creatives, strategists, etc. to think beyond selling a product and really influencing lives in a good way. Thinking along the lines of what people need to see and hear instead what do we want them to see and hear. We are beyond the point of “always be selling.” Consumers want more. Consumers want to hear the story, they want to see their own stories, they want to feel seen and heard. Bottom line: effectiveness means talking with and not just talking to.
AME Awards: How has the brand’s voice changed since the pandemic confinement measures? Speak to the evolution of brand positioning, values, and tone of voice during COVID.
Janis Middleton: During the pandemic, I have seen brands push their own envelopes to show consumers, even their employees, how they support them. I am seeing more humanity come through in brand messaging. All brands have value and mission statements that they put on their websites, but this year we have seen some brands pull those statements off of the paper and into action. Aside from the pandemic, we have seen brands put their stance on racism on the main stage as well. No matter how long police brutality and killings have been going on, we have hardly seen brands take a stance on Black Lives Matter. With the combination of the pandemic and George Floyd, we have seen brands move from your typical Corporate Social Responsibility to Corporate Social Justice.
AME Awards: Media consumption has changed dramatically how has this affected the marketing mix?
Janis Middleton: We’ve known this for a long time now, but nothing is linear. NOTHING. With work from home, we now have a third screen. We are watching TV, working on our laptops, and also on our phones. While there are so many places to reach consumers, brands will be forced to increase budgets so they can get consumer’s attention in all of those places and keep their attention. And don’t forget about connected TV and subscriptions. If Netflix says they won’t be running ads and they have over 200 million subscribers worldwide, how will advertisers reach those consumers who are heavily consuming Netflix? Brands must start by spending money on the research first. Don’t spend the money without knowing who your audience is and where they are.
AME Awards: What mediums will take the lead in 2021 and what will take a backseat?
Janis Middleton: I think we can expect to see platforms like TikTok continue to take off. We are learning that TikTok is playing a larger role in the culture beyond dancing. People are dancing and creating, but there’s a ton of learning on TikTok that people have really taken to.
AME Awards: Why did you agree to participate on this year’s AME Grand Jury and What do you hope to learn by viewing entries into this competition?
Janis Middleton: I was very honored to be asked to join as a judge. While my background is in various capacities of strategy, my newest role as the Executive Director of Multicultural and Inclusion Strategy really allows me to add a lens of how brands tap into diversity, equity, and inclusion within their advertising. I hope to explore and learn how brands around the world are tackling inclusivity when reaching and engaging multicultural audiences.