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Understanding Inequalities Created By Technology-Driven Biases

Marketing Communication Speaker Series, Part 1
Alain Sylvain, in Conversation with Brent Smith

Marketing, like many industries, has been characterized as being motivated by money. While numerous consulting firms and marketing agencies have prioritized wealth over social progress, Marketing Communication Speaker Series guest Alain Sylvain views his eponymous agency differently. 

As the founder and chief executive of SYLVAIN, he has established and exhibited the company’s motto, “Agents of Progress.”

Alain Sylvain Headshot
Alain Sylvain

“In 2020, I think many of us were confronted with what our work does for us and the greater world,” Sylvain said in the Feb. 16 webinar . “It was a sobering moment for many of us, and we decided to reposition the company from more of a traditional agency that sought to actualize the ambitions of our clients to something a little bit more important, of cultural relevance. We felt a responsibility for our work, so it lived up to our characters as individuals.”

Sylvain spoke with Brent Smith, professor and chair of Marketing Communication, about how marketers can fulfill the needs of their clients while also “not being bystanders” and prioritizing social conscience.

“We often talk about trying to maximize our positive impact on the world and minimize our negative impact on the world,” Smith said. “[But it’s] understanding that we have both.” 

His strategy and design consulting agency have done just that, becoming a Certified B Corporation, releasing an impact report every year and establishing a company-wide ethical framework. 

Headshot of Brent Smith
Brent Smith

“When you think about the power we as agents wield with our clients, we [SYLVAIN] feel a great sense of responsibility for society,” Sylvain said. “The mission of our company is to leverage the might of corporations for the greater good.”

The corporation’s hybrid approach to consulting, applying creativity and rigor to help clients, has earned SYLVAIN prestigious partnerships with companies like Google, American Express, Air BnB, the WNBA, and more. 

Smith notes that SYLVAIN represents how to address issues of intersectionality within the world of marketing. As exhibited by the series’ topic, minority marketers and users are more likely to be excluded by biased algorithms and conglomerates.

“It’s a very important time for us as we try to make a regular habit of acknowledging various groups and identities within our community,” Smith said.

The second part of 2022’s Marketing Communications Speaker Series will be held on March 16 at 11:00 am. Moderated by Assistant Professor of Marketing Communication Naa Amponsah Dodoo, female industry leaders will discuss how biases are programmed into marketing platforms and how marketers can reverse these trends. 

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Isabella Luzarraga View All

Isa is a senior journalism major minoring in media studies. She is from Omaha, Nebraska but loves coming back to the city. Outside of coursework, Isa is the Managing Editor of Your Magazine, the secretary of Emerson's chapter of NAHJ and a freelance writer for publications nationwide. She loves reading in the Common, going for long runs and sipping iced coffee.

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