When two roads diverge in a wood, which do we take - and why? Which is to say: what constitutes choice? To what extent is a choice fully ours when we make it? And what happens when we do?
We’ve been taking a deep dive into the question of how our choices are shaped by external forces, actors and - often without us being aware - and how this takes place.
In the first two seasons of our podcast, Influence, we explored the history of advertising and talked to some of the change-makers who have helped draw the contemporary map of the global industry it has become.
Now, for Season 3, we dig deeper by asking: what are the forces that affect the choices we make - and who makes them? Where does our responsibility, and the responsibility of those influencing us, lie? What role should ethics and governance play, and how should individuals and corporations use their power and influence to do the right thing?
Influence is a hot topic and is all around us, whether we choose to see it or not . Some of those seeking to influence us can be easier to identify - after all, ‘influencers’ have become a category in their own right. But the Instagram images, glossy lifestyle trappings and product placements are simply the most visible manifestation of influence. Beyond them lies a much larger and more sophisticated network dedicated to making influence happen - whether that is buying a product, or sometimes, changing the world for the better.
As a certified B Corp, at WeTransfer we spend a lot of time thinking about our impact on the world, our responsibilities and how we use our influence to do good. That doesn’t mean we always get it right - but being a B Corp helps to keep us honest. WeTransfer’s mantra on advertising from the outset has been to put transparency first. We combine compelling design with full-screen wallpaper framing to enhance user experience and to build trust. You can see what we are doing very clearly. And - hopefully - appreciate both its aesthetic qualities and the decisions we have taken that sit behind this.
But what happens when the intent is to obscure or even deceive?
The modern media consumer has a bewildering landscape to navigate. There are real time events with a significance so monumental it can at times feel impossible to comprehend their scale: a pandemic threatening the whole planet, a looming ecological catastrophe, a global crisis of racial and social injustice, and the still hurtling speed of technological change.
Then there’s the added confusion of an alternative world of fake news and distortion, enabled and amplified by the worst of social media. And while trying to traverse all this they can feel further pursued by algorithms trying to mine their data, to get inside their minds. They can feel - and are being - targeted, followed across the net.
In light of these challenges, tech and creative industries face unprecedented challenges, with greater scrutiny of what it means to be an ethical brand, or to speak with authenticity - particularly when standing up to injustices. And rightly so. It is only natural that people want to see us play a part in building a more positive future.
This was our starting point for the new season of Influence, focusing on the theme of responsibility. And just as seasons 1 and 2 introduced us to a compelling cast of characters on subjects from Barbie dolls to Kanye West, via the Mona Lisa and sexualised chocolate bars, we can promise more of the same eclectic mix for season three. We speak to ice cream makers about activism, a whistle blower about data privacy, an academic about human connection in the age of tech, and a magician about mind games.
All their stories share a common theme, shining a spotlight on the interface between influence and responsibility. We are consuming influence non-stop, whether we realise it or not. And it’s happening as much if not more than ever before. Join us from next week to find out how.