Advertising for Good

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By Richard Jacobs, UK Marketing Director, Kinetic UK

Most major companies today have a fairly robust Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) mandate and many will share similar goals to reduce waste, improve the environment, give something back to society or the community they operate in and generally promote positive messages about their work to customers and staff.

How each company chooses to deliver their CSR activity will vary enormously as will the amount that this activity is promoted internally and externally.

B2C companies in particular have recognised the need to appear more aware in this field in order to attract and retain customers and some of those businesses will have serious advocates at a senior level who help to drive the message through and ensure it doesn’t get taken off the table when the sales dip, recession appears or shareholders come knocking.

Like talent management and health and safety governance, CSR is a part of corporate life and some would argue that as long as the outcome is a positive one, the motivation behind it is irrelevant.

In the media and communications industry, Kinetic aren’t alone in having a commitment to corporate social responsibility and like others we take that responsibility very seriously.

However, we’re not afraid to admit that this work has a clear and tangible benefit to us as a business and to our team as individuals. Whether it’s fundraising for charity or supporting groups like Creative Equals, we firmly believe in a win-win for all concerned.

At its simplest level, a win could mean that we raise money to benefit a charity and in return our team feel really good about themselves and good about our company for enabling them to take part and for achieving something positive for others.

Making people feel good is a worthwhile achievement in itself and in recent years we’ve raised in the region of £200K for charities including Great Ormond St Hospital, Macmillan Cancer Support and the Alzheimer’s Society, so our team should feel rightly proud of themselves.

However, we are also very fortunate to work with some of the most progressive advertisers in the world and it is with these partners that we have been able to use the advertising itself as a force for good.

Two of the most striking examples of this kind of progression involve very different advertisers and very different objectives.

The first is Cancer Research’s recent ‘tap to beat cancer’ campaign which we put together with MediaCom. The campaign placed a screen in the windows of 4 Cancer Research shops and allowed passers-by to donate quickly and easily by simply tapping their NFC enabled smartphone on the screen. This is a really progressive use of the latest technology which has the potential to raise over £1.2m a year for the charity if rolled out nationally. It is also a great demonstration of the advert itself becoming the point of transaction and the vehicle for change.

The second piece of work is extraordinary in its boldness & bravery and tackles the taboo subject of male suicide. Shockingly, the single biggest killer of men under 45 is suicide and 42% of men 18-45 have considered suicide as an option. Unilever’s Lynx brand partnered with CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) to bring the subject into the open and encourage people to give the issue the attention it deserves.

Being deliberately provocative, the #BiggerIssues campaign juxtaposed trivial topics that were getting huge attention on social media - vegan meatballs, tattoos etc. – with male suicide. The campaign ran dynamically on digital poster sites and was updated in real time to reflect the major conversations on social media and how trivial they were in comparison with male suicide. The ads changed every 2 hours because every 2 hours a young man takes his own life in the UK.

The campaign delivered a 45% increase in awareness of the issue, got the issue being debated in parliament for the first time ever and secured Unilever, Kinetic, Mindshare & TMW a Cannes Silver Lion at this year’s advertising festival.

Lynx wanted to shed their jokey, blokey image and this has certainly placed them in a more cerebral territory but it’s a very brave move for a male grooming brand to tackle such an important and taboo subject so openly. Again, the advertising itself was the force for good.

This is the kind of work that we feel privileged to be involved with and clearly has a tangible and far reaching benefit to the wider society.

I appreciate that not every brand can do this kind of work on every campaign and even pathfinders like Lynx need to sell product like any other FMCG business. There were rumblings in the trade press recently about the Cannes judges choosing small scale charity work that did social good over arguably more creative work for big brands that sell stuff.

It’s an argument that will run and run and it may depend on the definition of creativity or creative thinking applied in the awards – I’d say the Lynx campaign did both and was a worthy winner but I’m clearly a little biased.

But wouldn’t it be great if brands large and small could create campaigns that were genuinely creative in their conception and execution AND managed to be a force for social good whilst increasing sales at the same time? Indeed maybe sales would go up precisely because consumers appreciated the positive social impact of the campaign.

I don’t think every campaign should or could do it but what if one burst of every brand’s activity each year did something positive? It’s a shameless plug but OOH advertising reaches 99.9% of adults in the UK (TV, Radio, Print & Online reach a few folk too of course ) with advertising messages entering the public consciousness in an uninterruptive yet impactful way so why not use that scale to make a difference and engage a large number of people to make a positive change?

Lynx have raised the bar in this area and showed real integrity, bravery and commitment to purpose. I hope that this type of creative thinking continues not just at Unilever but across the advertising industry – the potential to affect positive change through advertising is enormous and I’m genuinely excited to see what comes next.

About Richard Jacobs:

A highly skilled media and marketing professional, with expertise and experience through the line. His specialties include strategy, trading, negotiation, creative solutions, sales, client development, marketing, PR and research & insight.