James Kotecki (00:08): 

This is C E S Tech Talk. I'm James Kotecki, bringing you an interview that I recorded live at the C Space Studio at CES 2023. Enjoy. Welcome back once again to the C Space Studio here at C E S 2023. I'm James Kotecki, joined by Ashley Menschner, the SVP of Media at the Ad Council. Welcome to the C Space Studio. 

Ashley Menschner (00:31): 

Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. I saw you on day one, which feels like a lifetime ago. 

James Kotecki (00:34): 

It feels like so long ago, and there's so much that happens at C E S. 

Ashley Menschner (00:37): 


James Kotecki (00:38): 

But first, let's start the conversation by just level setting the Ad Council. 

Ashley Menschner (00:42): 


James Kotecki (00:42): 

We've seen the logo. I have a vague understanding that it exists. What is the Ad Council? How do you define it? 

Ashley Menschner (00:48): 

You definitely have seen the logo. The Ad Council is the leading nonprofit that uses the power of communications to drive social change. So we work cross-sector, bringing together the media, advertising, tech, entertainment, feel industries to address the most pressing social issues of our time. So whether that's addiction, gun safety, soon to be mental health, it's really rallying the industry behind causes. 

James Kotecki (01:13): 

And this is a kind of collaborative effort that the industry started many years ago. Can you tell us a little bit about the history? 

Ashley Menschner (01:19): 

Yes. Started in 1942, was originally known as the War Advertising Council. 

James Kotecki (01:24): 


Ashley Menschner (01:25): 

And we've been around, it was just galvanizing the industry. 

James Kotecki (01:28): 

So it's like Madison Avenue types trying to figure out how they're going to help the war effort. 

Ashley Menschner (01:28): 

Yes, yes. 

James Kotecki (01:32): 


Ashley Menschner (01:32): 

And everyone wants to give back. Everyone wants to do good. 

James Kotecki (01:34): 

Yeah. So tell us- 

Ashley Menschner (01:35): 

I like to say it's the best job in the world. 

James Kotecki (01:37): 

And give us a few of your greatest hits because people have definitely seen some of these ads. 

Ashley Menschner (01:40): 


James Kotecki (01:40): 

They know them. 

Ashley Menschner (01:41): 

People know Smokey Bear. I mean, how can you not know Smokey Bear? Crash Test Dummies. More recently, Love Has No Labels, our Emmy award-winning campaign with the dancing skeletons. You've probably seen that ad. Yeah. 

James Kotecki (01:41): 


Ashley Menschner (01:54): 

So some of the greatest. 

James Kotecki (01:56): 

So what is keeping you busy as you look at 2023? 

Ashley Menschner (01:59): 

What is not keeping us busy? Coming out of our COVID vaccine education campaign last year, we're going to take all the learnings from that coalition model and again, galvanize the industry behind the next Big Pillar initiative, which is going to be mental health for us. 


And so we just announced the largest single gift in Ad Council history with the Huntsman Institute, Mental Health Institute, with a leading gift of 15 million dollars. And we have a goal of raising 65 million over the next seven years to address the mental health crisis coming out of the pandemic. Over 50% of Americans are saying that they're struggling with a mental health condition, but yet only about 48% of them are doing anything to get help. And so we have a few campaigns that are going to fall under this pillar that are already on our docket. So our Seize The Awkward campaign, that is Youth Suicide Prevention, our Veteran Crisis Prevention campaign, and middle school mental health, which targets parents, I don't know if you're a parent, but- 

James Kotecki (02:58): 

I am. 

Ashley Menschner (02:58): 

Targeting, obviously you have, I don't know how old your kids are, but middle schoolers really struggling, and so they don't want to talk about their mental health. 


So we're using the power of music to get them talking about their mental health. And then we're going to be launching a new effort targeting adults and specifically with a focus on men and black and Hispanic communities. And that will be launching sometime in June. So that will be keeping us very busy. We are dedicated to the next, I would say, decade of bringing this issue to life and really having a big impact. 

James Kotecki (03:29): 

And what's the scope of the different places that you're advertising? Are you kind of everywhere digitally, billboards, TV, Snapchat, whatever it is? 

Ashley Menschner (03:36): 

Yes. Everywhere there's advertising we are or anywhere people are consuming content. So obviously the big platform partners, Amazon, Meta, Google, are all of our partners, but also the little up-and-coming gaming companies that are testing out advertising in their product, we will work with them as well. Yeah. 

James Kotecki (03:53): 

Do you even think, we talk about gaming quite a bit here in the C Space Studio, do you even think about in-game advertising? Do you think about influencers? Do you think about ways to make the advertising seem more native and seamless? 

Ashley Menschner (04:03): 

Yes. Yeah. What we used to be, again, back Smokey Bear, you'd see the television spot of Smokey on TV and people think of the Ad Council. 

James Kotecki (04:10): 

Right? We've evolved so much and it goes much beyond just the TV spot in terms of working with creators. We did a Twitch livestream this year for our Veterans Crisis campaign for a Twitch streamer who was playing a game who was also a veteran, just talking about the issue and his struggle with PTSD. So things like that. And another great example of using Tech for Good is Amazon. If you go home right now and ask Amazon, "What is love?" They integrated our diversity and inclusion messaging into the product. So it'll give you stories of what love means to people. And those are just great. And then direct to our Love Has No Labels campaign to give people resources. So we're trying to use every platform organically and show up in a way that feels natural. 


Wow. I was going to say, "What Is Love? Baby Don't Hurt Me." That was the first thing. That was the first thing that came to mind. I know you worked for HBO before the Ad Council. 

Ashley Menschner (04:55): 


James Kotecki (05:03): 

Did you pick up on storytelling ideas there that you now apply here? 

Ashley Menschner (05:06): 

Yeah, absolutely. I was at HBO right when HBO Go was going coming to market, and we were trying to figure out, how do we bring this streaming product to life? And it was just a great place to work under strong leadership, but I wanted to take all of those marketing learnings and digital experience I had and then apply it for good and really do something that I felt passionate about. So it brought me to the best job in the world. I really love what I do. So yeah, it's been great. 

James Kotecki (05:33): 

Speaking of applying learnings, you mentioned that you're going to be applying learnings to this mental health campaign that you learned from the vaccine campaign. 

Ashley Menschner (05:33): 


James Kotecki (05:39): 

The pandemic. What are some of the things that you did learn from that? I mean, imagine that was a massive effort. 

Ashley Menschner (05:44): 

Well, it was incredible. And just seeing, like I said, the industry come together. I mean, we had brands knocking on our door asking how they could help. So it was really just interesting to let the industries lead and come to us with ideas. But also a big learning we took from that was the need for the air game in the ground game. So really having the national communications program, but then also working in local communities. So we with, we had a National Faith council that we went and kind of talked to pastors and local communities to really reach black audiences. So we're trying to find ways to get more hyper-local focused. So that will be some of our learnings and just bringing together the brightest minds in the business. 

James Kotecki (06:29): 

You mentioned that you're everywhere that there is advertising. Are there new frontiers of advertising that maybe you're not in or you're about to get in that you're just kind of eyeing? 

Ashley Menschner (06:36): 

Yes. Obviously thinking about Metaverse, Web Three, and what are the implications there for social good? So my colleague, actually, who I was here with was telling me this story yesterday about how she was in Horizon World and how she met someone who was a nurse in avatar form. Obviously the privacy was there, but talking about how she had taken the day off because she was struggling and she was taking a mental health day to come to this concert hall in Horizon Worlds to just feel better. And so my colleague was saying, "God, wouldn't it be amazing if the Ad Council could have resources or build communities in these spaces for people to come together and talk about what they're going through?" So we're looking at the metaverse, we're trying to figure out what's going to stick and what the applications are for our campaigns. 

James Kotecki (07:21): 

That's interesting because to get a little bit philosophical about it, if you're talking about something like preventing forest fires, that's a physical thing that's happening in the physical world. But if you're talking about mental health, it's not only that the Ad Council has the opportunity to raise awareness around that, but an advertisement, a piece of media, piece of content can actually help change someone's mental state. Being in the metaverse can help change someone's mental state. So this is something where that you can maybe even be more proactive than maybe you've even been in the past. 

Ashley Menschner (07:45): 

Yeah. And I think people have the more, feel more at ease talking about things when it's their avatar and not their true selves. So we can help them and kind of show up where they are and then hopefully they take that off platform and they kind of feel better going back to their real life. So we're excited about it and I think there's a lot of interesting things that are going to happen. 

James Kotecki (08:05): 

So much change in the history of the organization. So much change in just the past couple of years. Is there something that you think technology will not change as we look out in the next 10 years? 

Ashley Menschner (08:13): 

I think just that human, we think that our campaigns, you're going to start first and foremost by looking at audiences and really understanding what you're trying to accomplish and what the goals and needs of them are. So I don't think the need to look at what you're actually trying to accomplish and who, look at the communities, what they're trying to tell you. And I don't think technology's going to change that. You're going to have to start human centered and start with the people that you're trying to reach first. 

James Kotecki (08:38): 


Ashley Menschner (08:38): 


James Kotecki (08:39): 

Beyond the actual day-to-day work that you do, what else inspires you? 

Ashley Menschner (08:43): 

I think what inspires me is just the communities that we are trying to reach and just everyday people. Interactions like this. I was just thinking about the DeMar Hamlin stuff that happened last weekend, and I was thinking about how since that's happened, 7 million dollars have been raised for his toy drive for kids. And I'm like, people want to do good. People innately, I think have this one ability to give back. And so people inspire me and I think just changing the world for better. 

James Kotecki (09:11): 

Well, thank you for helping to inspire us, Ashley Menschner. 

Ashley Menschner (09:12): 

Yeah. Yeah, thank you. Thank you so much for having. 

James Kotecki (09:16): 

And thanks for being here. Well, I hope you enjoyed that live conversation from C E S 2023. Look up the C E S C Space Studio for more conversations like that and get even more ces@ces.tech. That's C E S dot T E C H. And of course, please subscribe to this podcast so you don't miss a moment. I'm James Kotecki talking Tech on C E S Tech Talk.