Being blind would by no means cease Josh Loebner from pursuing a profession in promoting
Josh Loebner has spent more than two decades as an account strategist in advertising and marketing. But he wishes he could have started earlier.
Loebner was born sightless in one eye and legally blind in the other. He didn't even know the industry was an option for him until he graduated with a bachelor's degree in forestry that was difficult to capitalize on. A strategist at the agency then known as Wunderman Cato Johnson had to do a SWOT analysis and ask if he had ever thought about advertising. He hadn't, so he returned to the University of Tennessee to try it out.
"I love conversation and I love being creative," he said. "I couldn't imagine doing anything else."
After graduation, he arrived in New York and “just knocked on the door” until 1999 when he joined Young & Rubicam. On the way there he had jobs with various agencies, including Edelman. Now he's back in Tennessee as a leader at Designsensory, a Knoxville-based advertising agency, where he's currently working with the government to create Covid-19 resources for the state's more than 1 million disabled residents.
The question you are probably asking yourself: How does a blind man fit into a field where the picture is everything?
“The industry is about celebrating differentiation,” said Loebner. “And people with disabilities need to be able to maneuver and adapt in ways that are unique to them. And so I literally see the world from a different perspective every day. "
Loebner was an educator for almost as long as he was in advertising, taking care of young people with disabilities to ensure that they know about their career opportunities. His advocacy was recognized by the American Advertising Federation, which awarded him a silver medal for serving on the Mosaic Council, a leading think tank for diversity, equity and inclusion in the industry.
Loebner is also a 2020 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship, which he received for his PhD on disability and inclusion in the advertising industry.
"Advertising is powerful," he said at Adweek's recent Disability Inclusion Summit. “It shapes our reality well beyond the features and benefits of a product or service, but really about our society and how people with disabilities should be a part of it. Not just who is on the screen, but also the agency's staff. "
"I did not receive any [career] guidance during my studies," recalled Loebner, "and I made the wrong decision that meant that I was not in an industry that I love for years."
"Everyone talks about authenticity in the creative context of a finished ad or campaign, but that human authenticity needs to be shared with colleagues in order to identify as part of this community of people with disabilities so that their colleagues can connect with them," he said.
How he got to the gig
"My wife [who is the art director] and I wanted to move to another agency together. That is why we created this plan that shows our strengths together as a professional team," said Loebner.
“For Anyone With a Disability: Pursue a Career in the Creative Arts. Just do it, ”he advised. "Don't let your disability get in the way of who you are. Your ideas can define who you are as a person and how you can connect with the industry."