William Kapfer: The Compassionate Connector

Throughout his career, William Kapfer has helped usher in a sea change in the way businesses market to the LGBT community. “We have gone from being ignored to becoming integral and indispensable to the success of the world’s leading consumer brands,” he says. “According to our friends at Witeck Communications, the buying power of our LGBT brothers and sisters was nearly $800 billion in 2012. These are big numbers,  and businesses understand that marketing to the LGBT community speaks to a real business opportunity.”

The vice president of LGBT marketing at agency Walton Isaacson, Kapfer sees the marketing might of the LGBT community as a fantastic tool in the fight for true equality.

 “If you analyze LGBT spending by specific sectors, our economic impact becomes even more evident and impressive,” he says. “The travel and leisure industry is a great example of how our collective economic power helps champion diversity and innovation. This year, the value of the LGBT travel market is set to reach over $180 billion.”

In order to make these LGBT dollars count by rewarding companies and campaigns grounded in inclusiveness and diversity while punishing those grounded in discrimination, Kapfer advises all consumers to use the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index to make informed buying decisions. For readers interested in starting their own advertising-marketing careers, he suggests similar preparation.

And most importantly, do your homework! 

“Conduct due diligence on the companies you want to work for to see if they represent the values you support. Once you’re there, continue to learn and seize every opportunity to be helpful,” he says. “Also important: Dress and prepare yourself for the position you want, not the one you have. And as you move up the ladder of success—and you will—make certain to reach out your hand and help someone else get on that ladder as well.”  

With an impressive résumé that includes strategic roles at Travel + Leisure and Genre magazines, as well as a slew of charitable positions, Kapfer is proud of how far he has come, both personally and professionally.

“Twenty-five years ago, when I worked for First Interstate Bank in financial services management, I didn’t tell myself, ‘In 2013, I’ll be living in NYC and working as a VP of an award-winning, globally renowned creative agency,’” he says. “Life is never that straightforward. What I did have is a family who loved me, a great education and the ability to set and achieve short- and long-term goals.”

Setting those goals has helped Kapfer reach key milestones, including becoming the first member of his family to graduate from college and going on to earn his Ph.D. Looking both to the past and the future, he sees many examples of people whose achievements and courage inspire him.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. showed the world what strong, determined and selfless leadership can accomplish, and he paid the ultimate price in his quest to achieve justice for his community and for all of us,” he says. “I also respect the many public figures who have come out while still on the top of their game, including Elton John, Ellen DeGeneres, Martina Navratilova, country music singer Chely Wright, former congressmen Jim Kolbe and Barney Frank, actors Neil Patrick Harris and Matt Bomer and professional basketball player Jason Collins.”

While the courage, leadership and love exemplified by his heroes motivates him, Kapfer finds just as much inspiration on a more personal level. In fact, out of all his accomplishments and honors, it’s easy for him to choose what makes him happiest.

“Eric,” he says proudly. “My partner and the love of my life for over 23 years.”   

(Photo by Charlie T. Photography)