Why 'doing good' must inspire a new creative revolution

The momentum in the industry to do work that does good can be a springboard for a new creative revolution, argues Charlie Carpenter, the managing director of Creativebrief.

The "This girl can" campaign tackled gender issues.
The "This girl can" campaign tackled gender issues.

We all know it. Brands acting with social cause and purpose has gone mainstream. It’s everywhere; there’s simply no escaping it. And the sense is that it’s here to stay if the new generation of value-driven, millennial marketers coming through the ranks have anything to do with it.

It’s not just brands and agencies driving this either. Everyone’s doing it. Even industry bodies are embracing the movement. The IPA for example have aligned themselves behind the agenda ‘here for good’.

At Cannes Lions this year, it was also more than clear that ‘purpose beyond profit’ was no longer a niche. The awards themselves were the first indicator: 2015 saw the launch of The Glass Lion for work that addresses issues of gender inequality or prejudice. Entry proceeds (fittingly) were donated to a good cause.

Across the board, brands and agencies were handsomely rewarded for work that used stand-out creativity to heighten awareness of social issues and causes; that aimed to make the world a better place with a stronger social conscience.

"This girl can", "like a girl", "touch the pickle" and many more campaigns brilliantly tackled the gender issue. Tech as an enabler for brands to accelerate societal improvement and (in particular) to make the world a safer place went stratospheric. Optus’ "clever buoy", Samsung’s "safety trucks", Volvo’s "life paint", Vodafone’s "red light" app, R/GA’s Hammerhead. The list goes on. And on. And on.

But it was the talk around the good works that was the clincher for me. The place was abuzz (and the wider industry still is now) with clients and agencies who only wanted to discuss this, and seemingly nothing else.

Here’s the thing about that. We should embrace this with open and welcoming arms, acknowledging that it’s helping us to find our mojo again. Not meet it with the inevitable sniping and cynicism that creeps in as the movement grows in prevalence.

The past six or seven years have been bruising for our industry. We’ve experienced a tough and debilitating recession, we’ve weathered bitter and sustained attacks about our ‘objectionably consumerist’ values at odds with the concepts of society and moral conscience. Many within our ranks have (understandably so) felt a bit dirty and embarrassed.

But with clients and their agencies now more focused than ever on a new approach, and feeling (no, make that genuinely believing actually) that they can add some value to society at the same time as building brands and selling products – the industry and its leaders are holding their heads just a little bit higher than they have in quite some time.

So here’s my challenge to said industry and people: let’s harness this newfound vigour and energy and self-belief into a fresh wave of creative brilliance for a new era. Let’s use it as a galvanising platform from which to launch our very own creative revolution.

Charlie Carpenter is the managing director of Creativebrief.


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