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Skewed Public Perception of Advertising

A guest speaker once made the comment to an audience of advertising communication graduates that advertising was “all about selling things to people they don’t need”. I’m sure it was said to raise a laugh and not meant seriously, but it was nevertheless, a dismissively flippant statement.

However, it does echo a generalised and commonly held view of advertising that many members of the public share. What they tend to forget or fail to take cognizance of is that that successful companies employ instead of retrenching people. That employed people have take-home salaries that besides many other necessities, also pays for the education that many graduates, like those in the audience, received over multiple years.

Consumer Sustained Growth

Success means being capable of sustaining and growing a business by persuading consumers that the goods or services being offered, are competitive and worthy of their consideration, and that requires effective marketing and advertising communication to provoke a knowledgeable and rewarding consumer interest.

Inadequate Public Awareness of Agency Goodwill

Furthermore, what is often not adequately acknowledged, is just how many Advertising Agencies, around the world, readily apply their communication skills and expertise to important social causes and much needed social upliftment initiatives, often at little or no cost.

Industry appreciation and acknowledgement is often forthcoming in the form of advertising awards and accolades but in the public domain unfortunately, precious little awareness of such exists.

Here are some of my favourite Advertising Agency social upliftment initiatives.

1. The Night Haven Shelter, The Street Store

Advertising Agency: M&C Saatchi Abel, Cape Town

Under the guidance of Executive Creative Director and founding partner Mike Able, this agency-initiated campaign was spear headed by Art Director Max Pazak, and Copywriter Kayli Vee Levitan. Their cleverly simple and effective concept was enthusiastically adopted by many overseas cities.

2. School of Justice for India’s Free Girl Movement

Advertising Agency: JWT, Amsterdam

After being approached to help raise awareness about child prostitution for ‘India’s Free Girl Movement’, JWT took the insightful and pro-active initiative of setting up a ‘School of Justice’ to help child prostitution victims become lawyers.

They concluded from their research that a conventional advertising campaign would not be sufficient to sustain any meaningful progress in seeking redress and justice.

Their aim is to make a real-world impact by educating young women, who previously worked in brothels, for a career in law, armed with the insightful understanding of this social scourge and its causes.

3. Reword to End Cyber Bullying

Advertising Agency: Leo Burnett, Melbourne

Research conducted by the Australian government revealed that the country has one of the highest rates of cyber-bullying in the world.

Leo Burnett reacted by iniatiating a working partnership with an organisation called ‘Headspace’ to come up with a technological innovation to combat on-line abuse, in real time, named ‘Reword’.

4. Rio Olympics Refugee Nation

Advertising Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, New York

In 2016 the International Olympic Committee declared that they would include, for the first time ever, a team of qualifing refugee athletes to compete in the Rio Olympics to highlight the worldwide refugee crisis.

Ogilvy & Mather teamed up with Amnesty International for help in supporting the team to participate with dignity as a ‘Refugee Nation’ by sending them to the Rio Olympics with their own flag and national anthem.

With Amnesty’s tireless collaboration, O&M said, “the flag became a powerful symbol that created a societal awareness of their plight and challenged prejudices against refugees”.

Ogilvy & Mather New York’s Refugee Nation initiative won a Titanium Lion, the Cannes International Festival of Creativity’s highest honour, and also took home a ‘Best of Show’ trophy at The One Show Advertising Awards.

Kevin Swanepoel, CEO of ‘The One Club for Creativity’ in a press statement said that “in a year rife with political discord and social upheaval all around the world, ‘The Refugee Nation’ is a prime example of how our communication industry can both beneficially reflect and influence our culture”.

5. The Face of Litter

Advertising Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, Hong Kong

The idea behind the grounbreaking ‘The Face of Litter’ campaign for the Hong Kong Cleanup Intiative Environmental Group, as the title suggests, was about ‘giving a face’ to anonomous litterbugs.

O&M collected litter found on local streets and sent it Parobon Nanolabs in the U.S. Using their DNA phenotyping system, Parobon were able to construct accurate portraits of the liiter perpretators.

These representative facial images were then used by the agency for a very effective outdoor campaing causing a huge stirr on social media that reached over four million people.