I attended a D&AD Breakfast Presentation at CMW with Tim Lindsay alongside an engaged audience composed of sustainability strategists, charity professionals and media executives…
So, what did Tim have to say? (As expected, not all positive - but constructive criticism is key to creative progression). He said, “Advertising has fallen into disrepute” and provided data to support his discredit. In 1985, the TGI asked the UK “Do you like the ads as much as the programmes?” 56% actually said ‘yes’ but in 2013, a mere 9% had the same response.
Clearly advertising has always pushed to work effectively for causes but now the game has changed irrevocably. Clients have more corporate social responsibility and Tim drew on Paul Polman’s (CEO of Unilever) innovative approach to sustainable business as an example of how even the rules to win the game have become more complex and strategic. Polman made the courageous decision to launch Unilever’s Sustainable Living Growth Plan – and actively advises businesses to rip up their traditional business models and start again - encouraging collaboration with producers, NGOs and governments in a way that is sustainable.
In the name of sustainability and change for good, the D&AD created the White Pencil award which they consider to be both a message and a movement. Whilst it symbolises the power of creativity, it also incentivises response and action to make the world a better place. So kudos to D&AD! (The future formula of marketing becomes clearer to me…) If social agenda can unify with commercial agenda the halo-effect will endear brand advocates whilst raising awareness of good social practise and behaviour.
Which leads me to Tim’s next point, how can brands instigate and effect change? With fun! Fun can change behaviour for the better. The funtheory.com (an initiative of Volkswagen) believe that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better. ‘Be it for yourself, for the environment or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better.’ Assuming you have already seen these piano steps in action but just in case you haven’t, make sure you watch this real world example of how ‘fun’ effects change in everyone!
The government has had sustainability strategies in place for the last 20 years but practising change for good is harder than preaching wise words. The Barclays Bike scheme initiated by Boris for example, has in fact been haemorrhaging money and is currently in a bid to stem losses to make the scheme “financially sustainable.” Let’s hope that engaged tax payers see this scheme as a sustainable investment in their own future.
Tim addressed the fact that the power of marketing should be used as a force for communicating momentous sustainable change that occurs in industry. He was not convinced that mainstream ad-land are taking advantage of our internet empowered population, which is a crucial step as we enter an age where business conduct and the needs of the planet are forcing marketers to re-consider more meaningful values. Though he did not paint design agencies with the same brush, seeing their creative process as more responsive to problem solving. To quote Lord Leverhulme who was enlightened in 1890...“We do well by doing good…” The trick we are missing is that, marketing for good, is actually, also very good for marketing!” This approach is exactly what the White Pencil seeks to stimulate in creative minds everywhere.
The white elephant in the room with a rather uncomfortable, hypocritical niggle in his lower back is trumping: “but everything the advertising industry does is obsessed with increasing consumption and driving profits which just is not sustainable!” So what is the answer to this imminent problem then? Perhaps, ‘do less but do it better’ - but then how would this work as a business model for FMCGs? I certainly do not know the answer and neither did Tim. It’s the part of the puzzle we are still working out, I just hope someone figures it out before this planet runs out!
Harking back to my core mantra of why design matters both socially and culturally; this morning proved that the presentation of a concept is fundamental to its ability to affect change for good. If the D&AD White Pencil award is the creative community’s prize and incentive to drive social change and collective responsibility for our planet’s welfare one creative concept at a time, then it can only be considered a remarkable initiative and I am proud to be working in an industry that cares for the planet whilst having the power to stimulate and motivate change. The cynic in me knows the journey will be an incredibly slow burner.