PMG Digital Made for Humans

CBID Conversations: Cavel Khan on Aligning Purpose with Profit

3 MINUTE READ | February 28, 2023

CBID Conversations: Cavel Khan on Aligning Purpose with Profit

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Abby Long

Abby is PMG’s senior managing editor, where she leads the company’s editorial program and manages the PMG Blog and Insights Hub. As a writer, editor, and marketing communications strategist with nearly a decade of experience, Abby's work in showcasing PMG’s unique expertise through POVs, research reports, and thought leadership regularly informs business strategy and media investments for some of the most iconic brands in the world. Named among the AAF Dallas 32 Under 32, her expertise in advertising, media strategy, and consumer trends has been featured in Ad Age, Business Insider, and Digiday.

We recently hosted award-winning advertising and media executive Cavel Khan at PMG New York for a fireside chat about how advertisers and brands can better align purpose and profit. Throughout his career, Cavel held numerous senior leadership positions at Vice Media, Twitter, and Microsoft before becoming one of the first Black executives at a tech company, with his appointment to Chief Revenue Officer at Tumblr, and now, Chief Commerce Officer at Group Black. He has served on the advisory board for TechBeach, America on Tech, and ADCOLOR, a nonprofit organization focused on increasing diversity in advertising. His career in breaking records—and glass ceilings—led to his induction into the American Advertising Federation’s Advertising Hall of Achievement in 2020.

During his talk, Cavel spoke candidly about his career journey and continued advocacy for increasing diversity in the industry. He also shared practical advice, based on his own experiences and recent work at Group Black, for how advertisers can be catalysts for change and make an outsized impact on the world around them. 

As he advanced in his career, Cavel said that he noticed there weren’t many people of color around him, leading to a “real culture shock” that would eventually kickstart his journey to ensure that his pay and career ambitions were always tied back to purpose. 

“I realized early on that even though I may not have been in senior leadership, I had an important responsibility because I was often one of the first people of color to do my job,” said Cavel. 

In recognizing that every task and project provides ample opportunity to make “an outsized impact,” Cavel has been on a mission to help build the business case for why diversity matters—but not in the traditional way people think about diversity. Cavel explained that he believes that “diversity of experience” is a better framework for thinking about diversity and embracing uncomfortable conversations than hiring for diversity of thought. “Experiences,” said Cavel, “are more powerful than anything else in informing more impactful storytelling.” 

The pursuit of mission-focused work led Cavel to Group Black, a collective of more than 150 Black-owned media brands that aims to “dramatically transform the face of media ownership” by showing brands the value of diversity and diverse storytelling. As the Chief Commerce Officer, Cavel said, “[his] career has come full circle,” as his job is to tackle persistent cultural and organizational challenges, like the fact that less than one percent of all advertising and media spend goes to Black-owned media, despite Black consumers representing trillions of dollars in consumer spending every year. By helping executives and advertising leaders reimagine their strategies, Cavel is able to support his personal mission of increasing diversity in the industry while helping brands meet the moment and better represent the diversity of their audiences and the general population of the United States. 

Cavel ended his talk by sharing practical tips and advice for how advertisers can make an impact and support a meaningful purpose in their work. His advice: Identify what matters most to you, and find a way to support that mission every day of your career. 

For advertisers, it can be as simple as advocating for consumer demands and ensuring that every media plan includes a diverse company. “As employees, we have a fiduciary responsibility to drive revenue, but as individuals, we have a responsibility to make an impact while doing that work for our company,” said Cavel. “We all have tremendous potential to be impactful no matter what stage you are in your career.” 

We’re so appreciative of Cavel for joining us in PMG New York for the opportunity to hear more about the work he’s doing. 

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Each month at PMG, our ‘DIG In’ speaker series welcomes speakers with diverse backgrounds to PMG to spark meaningful conversations that celebrate diverse people, voices, perspectives, and experiences, as part of our ongoing efforts to build a culture of belonging, inclusion, and diversity (CBID).

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