By Jack Neff, Published in AdAge
The head of social platforms is one of Ad Age’s 2021 40 Under 40 honorees
As the #StopHateForProfit boycott campaign against Facebook properties unfolded last year, Elijah Harris, 32, set out to create more lasting change.
Then the global head of social media at Reprise, Harris worked with IPG Mediabrands colleagues to create a set of 10 Media Responsibility Principles for media to protect communities they serve and for advertisers to guide their investments. That spawned a Media Responsibility Index to monitor performance by nine participating platforms—and measurable progress, Harris says. The index has been embraced by the industry’s Global Alliance for Responsible Media and the 4A’s.
Harris’ work also led Dani Benowitz, president of Magna U.S., to name Harris in June the agency’s first executive VP and head of global digital platforms and media responsibility.
Harris says he began focusing on social media responsibility in 2017 in part from his own sense of responsibility—having “spent years creating a monetization engine for a lot of these partners.”
Then came 2020, with the pandemic and murder of George Floyd. “I felt that the decisions of certain platforms to leave hateful content by our president online…was sowing discord and obviously leading to violence,” Harris says. “That was just a line too far for me personally.”
If you could have dinner with one person, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
My grandmother on my mom’s side. I was quite young when my grandmother passed, so I feel like there’s a lot of wisdom, family history and knowledge that I would love to get her perspective on—and share with her where the world is at, what I’ve been up to and how I’m trying to create positive change.
What are the top two social media sites you use on a regular basis?
TikTok and Instagram. TikTok is for pure entertainment purposes. The videos, the creators on that platform, I think are the most engaging. For me, it’s the No. 1 platform to go to for a bit of an escape. Instagram I actually use to keep up with friends and family.
What’s currently on your bedside reading list?
“Gay Bar” by Jeremy Atherton Lin. It’s a memoir that goes into the ’80s and ’90s with a big focus on LGBTQ communities being formed in public spaces such as gay bars and how geography—such as the differences between London, Berlin, San Francisco, New York City—impacted how these communities were built.
What was the last show you binge-watched?
“RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
At what age do you hope to retire?
I’m going to say 40.