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Champion for Good: Ashley Willson

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After holding sales roles at The Wall Street Journal, Ashley Willson moved to Amazon Ads, where she is now a senior account executive who recently secured a first-of-its-kind partnership with the Ad Council on our iconic Love Has No Labels campaign. Ask “Alexa, what is love?” and you’ll now hear a variety of answers that reflect the campaign’s efforts to champion love and diversity in all forms.

We talked to Ashley about how digital companies can be a force for good, what the last two years have taught her, and the best advice she’s ever received.

Felicia Carmichael: You recently secured a first-of-its-kind partnership between Amazon Ads and the Ad Council. Two questions: how did you go about making this happen, and what advice do you have for others when initiatives that feel urgent sometimes require playing a long game?

Ashley Willson: Above all, this was a massive team effort. This journey started over a year ago when the Ad Council approached us to partner on Love Has No Labels. This idea continued to evolve over the past year and when shared with senior leadership it snowballed into a cause that no one could say no to. The program we developed for Love Has No Labels became more and more meaningful to everyone involved along the way, and was a strong reminder that long-term gratification is more important than any short-term reward.

The custom team I collaborated with to develop our program deserves special recognition for making it happen—without a doubt, this is the most inspiring campaign I’ll ever have the honor of working on and cannot wait to see the impact it has on others.

FC: How can digital companies be a force for good?

AW: Digital companies are attracting a newer, younger talent pool and because of that they’re uniquely positioned to be a change agent for other companies and industries to follow.

Brands that have started to promote diversity, equity and inclusion externally have also found it just as important to create a corporate culture that demonstrates strong values, incorporates diversity, celebrates varying backgrounds, and generates leadership opportunities across all communities. This will not only attract and retain talent with various backgrounds, but more organically attract customers whose values align with theirs, which in my mind sounds like the perfect cyclical effect.

FC: How have the last couple of years changed your outlook on your day-to-day work life and your overall mission? Was there a moment when you were especially proud of your coworkers?

AW: When building out our new team in 2019, I started an office volunteer group that prepared cooked lunches for the shelter down the street. There are many instances where I’ve been proud of my coworkers, but nothing compares to witnessing them during our first shelter visit—everyone instantly shifted their focus and prioritized getting to know the individuals living at the shelter by simply sitting down next to them and asking how they were doing. This became a monthly occurrence for our office.

Once COVID-19 hit and everyone started working from home, we continued these efforts in the form of donated goods as needed by the shelter. Giving back to those within our community will always be a part of our overall mission and culture as a team, and I look forward to driving these efforts in person again soon.

FC: And since March 2020, what stories have moved you personally? What do those stories have in common?

AW: So many powerful stories have surfaced over the past two years that have caused me to pause and reflect. Being a native Californian and someone who prioritizes being in nature as much as possible, it’s been extremely heartbreaking to see how climate change has impacted the fires occurring across the entire west coast. The oil spill that recently occurred in Huntington Beach—close to where I live—was also a massive reminder of how fragile our ocean and coastlines actually are. In working closely with the Ad Council it’s been humbling to be in a position where I was able to help activate campaigns that drive awareness on climate change education, Wildfire Prevention, Discovering Nature and Forest Service.

While climate change remains important, 2020 spurred transformative movements around Black Lives Matter, the LGBTQIA+ community and AAPI community—all of which ignited long-overdue conversations that our society has needed to confront. Learning about the attacks that occurred within these communities and the overwhelming loss so many faced made me feel helpless is so many ways. I remember my first video call with the Ad Council after lockdowns had been mandated and these events had transpired, and feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude for being connected directly to this team. In this moment it felt like I had the tiniest bit of control in being able to make some sort of impact. Following our call and with a new sense of urgency, I focused on bringing media strategies forward that could best be used for timely initiatives such as Love Has No Labels, Racial Injustice, Diversity & Inclusions, COVID-19 Vaccine Education and CDC #AloneTogether.

The common thread in these stories is that all individuals have the power to make some sort of positive impact, no matter how large or small. Whether it’s simply being a shoulder for someone to cry on, or becoming an ally and marching for equal rights, we all have the innate ability to listen, learn and do the right thing.

FC: What is the best advice you’ve ever received, and how did it help you?

AW: I received some straightforward advice from a close friend of mine a few years ago that really stuck with me: If you are in a position to help, do it. Simple as that.