Chaka Sobhani urges brands not to be purpose-driven for the sake of it

Leo Burnett CCO claimed consumers can 'sniff out' inauthentic advertising.

Sobhani: 'The conversation has changed'
Sobhani: 'The conversation has changed'

Chaka Sobhani, chief creative officer at Leo Burnett London, has signposted a step away from purpose-led content in the new decade in light of last year's influx of so-called "virtue signalling".

Speaking at the Campaign Breakfast Briefing event in London yesterday (Wednesday), Sobhani said: "We’ve gone through the period of purpose-driven for the sake of purpose-driven, and that was bloody difficult."

She maintained that, although this may still be pertinent in some aspects of advertising, audiences are able to recognise "inauthentic" brand purposes, as showcased by Given London managing director Becky Willan in a post at the end of last year.

"Brands realise that if they can stand for something – whether that [be] the positioning of the brand or the purpose – it's true to what the brand stands for."

Sobhani also emphasised a "consciousness" among big brands to encourage sustainability, but concluded that "the conversation has changed". 

"I don’t think it’s right for brands to be purpose-led. It is something they’re really invested in."

This sentiment was echoed by Toby Horry, brand and content director at TUI UK, during a panel on the year ahead for brands.

Horry said: "I believe that the word 'purpose' has been misused quite a lot. If you’re going to use purpose with regards to things like sustainability, it has to be woven into every brand’s behaviour."

Campaign’s Breakfast Briefing also heard from Damian Collins, former chair of parliament's culture committee, urging brands to call out social media platforms on the authenticity of the accounts that their content is being advertised against.