After Texas school shooting, the ad industry must move people to act, Pedro Lerma says

"We can’t just be heartbroken, horrified, or pissed off," Lerma/ CEO Pedro Lerma writes. "We must use this collective pain to spur action."

After Texas school shooting, the ad industry must move people to act, Pedro Lerma says

Pedro Lerma is CEO and founder of Lerma/, an agency based in Dallas. He shared his thoughts following the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

I was on my way to my daughter’s 4th grade end-of-year program and happened to be on a call. The person on the other end could tell I was troubled, and said to me, “You can’t let it ruin your day.” And my answer was, “I’m unwilling to become numb to this. We should all be heartbroken. It should ruin everyone’s day! Nineteen kids Allie’s (my daughter) age and two teachers were murdered yesterday.” I broke down. I had to cut the call short. I cried until I arrived at my daughter’s school.

As I walked up to my daughter’s school, I noticed the flags were at half-mast in recognition of the murders of these 19 children and two teachers in another part of Texas. As I sat and watched the presentation, I took a photo of the kids on the stage. I later noticed there were 19 kids and two teachers on that stage. 

Our children (and teachers) shouldn’t have to think about being murdered, but they’re reminded of their vulnerability week after week, after week. 

We cannot continue to be desensitized to this. Just a week before, I was saddened by what seemed to be a lack of awareness of or anger about the Buffalo, New York, racist mass murder. As a Mexican, I hurt with the Black community. It reminded me of the El Paso, Texas, mass murder targeting the Mexican community. And it really troubled me that more people weren’t feeling the pain and being called to do something about it. But the Uvalde attack targeted children, and it seems to have gotten our attention. We can’t just be heartbroken, horrified or pissed off. We must use this collective pain to spur action.

The vision for our agency is To Deliver Creativity for Good. And of course, that means helping our clients sell more stuff. But it also means pushing them to stand for something greater. It means enriching the lives of the people who encounter our work. It means leaving the world better than we found it.

These massacres must stop. And I, for one, am willing to take action to stop it. I will vote for anyone who will offer a reasonable solution for public safety. Most of the people I know are more centrist than on either extreme of the political spectrum. Many of my friends on the right support gun safety regulations—if not bans on assault weapons, increased vetting before you can buy one. And many of my friends on the left would be okay letting people keep their guns if a solution to public safety were presented. Why we can’t seem to make anything meaningful happen is beyond me. It’s insane.

I understand that people might feel like this problem is so massive and complex that they don’t know what to do. So, let’s help them.

I’ve thought about it from my own perspective. I’ve asked myself, “What am I willing to do to be a part of the solution?” If me working security at my child’s school is a solution, tell me when and I’ll show up (if my elected officials can’t be bothered to protect my loved ones, I’ll do it). If counseling at-risk youth is a part of the solution, count me in. If supporting a middle-ground lobby that takes power away from the lobbies on the extremes, such as the NRA, I will donate and raise money to do that. 

A couple of years ago, Lerma/ launched a campaign to help stop gun violence after the Las Vegas concert mass shooting. It has a simple mechanism by where you can easily message your elected officials. I hate that we had to update that website this week. But it’s updated, so please use the link to message your elected officials. I don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat. Something has to be done. Doing nothing is no longer acceptable. Please act.

As an industry, our talents are used to persuade. We use those talents every day to sway opinion, to get people to buy into ideas. We have an obligation, in this moment, to use our collective talents to create a groundswell of action. Let’s move the masses to action on this. Let’s get them to demand action from their elected officials. Let’s get them to demand compromise from both sides. Let’s get them to volunteer to engage with their school districts to provide mentoring for at-risk kids. Let’s get them to engage in anti-bullying campaigns that make fewer kids feel alienated. Let’s raise money for additional security at schools.

If you’re an agency willing to contribute ideas, let’s form a collective—not for awards, but for meaningful progress on this issue. If you’re a media outlet, dedicate inventory to help get the message out. If you’re a marketer, put on your parent hat and consider the role your brand can play in helping solve this crisis. Allocate a percentage of your budget to helping solve this problem. 

This is the most important use of our talents at the moment. We can affect change. Stand with me for our children. Stand with me to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.