The re-birth of advertising as the spearhead of societal change

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download (1)The beautiful part of advertising is that it shapes culture and has the potential to break paradigms. Big social movements have had their discourse fuelled by advertising throughout our recent history, be it for the right or wrong reasons. However, only select brands had the bravery to do so in the past. Now, increasing number of companies realise the importance of having an opinion, and using their power to express that opinion. Not only do their consumers want this, their employees want it, and their future health requires it.

Over the past few Cannes Lions the amount of submissions that are about meaningful social influence has grown. Even the category “Grand Prix For Good” is a testament to the growing importance of “advertising for change”. As the new generation of creative minds brings their power and new value systems to the advertising world, I expect to see a lot more of this type of work, and I am incredibly excited about this.

There were a few themes that spread across the work this year. Allow me to share them with you.

The first theme was about diversity and the importance to break down stereotypes and enjoy and nourish the beauty in differences. Two wonderful examples that celebrate diversity are by Honey Maid and the Ad Council. The “This is Wholesome” campaign from Honey Maid forced the discussion about same sex and mixed gender families into the American consciousness, and “Love Has No Labels” Valentine’s Day campaign by the Ad Council equally broke the paradigms about what a couple should look like. On judgment, the most powerful campaign was called “A Proud Whopper” by Burger King. Essentially the Brand simply put a new wrapper on their Whopper and renamed it. Once people opened the wrapper they were told that we are all the same inside. Absolutely beautiful. Have a look.

The second theme was about forcing Government reform about a variety of topics in many different corners of the world. This is where creativity really can shine and where agencies can become agents of real change as they were in the past. The world is breaking in so many places and the systems in place are too corrupt or too dated to make the shifts that are required to bring health to their societies. This is where the people need to step in. All they need is a spark, an inspiration. Some examples of this are the Guns With History pop up store initiative by States United where shoppers are told about the past killings of a gun they are looking at buying, Lebanon4Sale by Leo Burnett that tries to “bankrupt” corruption, and Holograms for freedom that found a technological way of allowing the Spanish people to demonstrate when their government put down a gag order. Have a look at the case studies.

The third big theme was around female empowerment. Having a daughter, I am particularly touched by these initiatives because they are helping carve out a better future for her. It is also striking that there are some horrific stereotypes and inequalities that still exist. The best example is the “Like A Girl” campaign by Always. I’ve written about this before but it is so powerful that it deserves mention again. It puts a spotlight on how society has warped everyone’s mind about what a girl should behave like. The second campaign is by Sport England called “This Girl Can”, a powerful program that takes inspiration from Dove’s Real Beauty philosophy and shows regular girls and women exercising so that they encourage all types of women of all shapes and sizes to go out and do sport. Have a look.

The last theme is around road safety. The topics covered weren’t simply about safe driving, but more about about those affected by unsafe drivers and what can be done to either protect these people or provide them with quick and effective care should something happen. Interestingly the best examples weren’t communication initiatives, rather they were product developments. The first was by Volvo called “Life Paint”. Essentially this is a transparent spray for bicyclists that you can put on any clothes that light up at night so that drivers can see you. In the UK where bicyclists regularly get hit by trucks and cars this was a big project. The second innovation is called SOS SMS, a mobile technology that allows medics to quickly get medical details of injured people so that they can be correctly taken care of. The third was an innovative way from Samsung of using LEDs on the back of trucks and on-board cameras to allow drivers behind big lorries to see in-front of the truck and thus be able to pass them safely. Watch the case studies for more information.

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