Claire Beale is the editor of Campaign
Claire Beale is the editor of Campaign
A view from Claire Beale

Claire Beale: Adland needs principles as Britain goes on strike

David Jones, the global chief of Havas, is not a man shy of his own achievements.

So when his new book, Who Cares Wins, was ready for reviewing, it was only natural he should share it with his good friends Prime Minister David Cameron and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. They duly offered gushing endorsements.

Jones has already built for himself a reputation as a social conscience. Euro RSCG created the "Tck Tck Tck" campaign for the Global Humanitarian Forum and he is a founder of One Young World, the global forum giving young people a voice on world issues. Now, his book discusses how the ubiquity and speed of social media is forcing businesses, politicians and leaders to be more socially responsible: "It will reward those who are. And remove those who aren’t." The radical transparency of the digital world means businesses can no longer pursue profits at any cost, even if the investment analysts haven’t quite come to terms with the idea yet.

Jones’ influential friends agree. Cameron says: "In the future, the success stories will be those businesses who acknowledge the social as well as the economic value they have the power to create, and who realise the difference we all can make by the decisions that we take."

Most big companies are keen to be recognised as responsible corporate citizens now. It’s good for business. So sustainability was something of a theme at the Marketing Society conference on Tuesday. Unilever’s Keith Weed took to the platform to emphasise the role that brands and marketing must play in driving environmental and social sustainability. And Unilever’s on a mission – he says – to bake the idea of sustainability into its corporate DNA.

The ad industry needs to join in the chorus. So often considered synonymous with materialism and unnecessary consumption, advertising is in a perilous position as pressure mounts to take a more responsible approach to spending and a more sustainable approach to consumption. As Britain went on strike this Wednesday, advertising’s elite were drinking (reasonably priced) sparkling wine in celebration of their inclusion in this year’s Campaign A List.

No need to apologise; it was a well-deserved pause for the industry’s senior players after a difficult year driving revenues and protecting jobs. But the Champagne, the revenues and the jobs depend increasingly on agencies being able to work with clients to enhance the honesty and integrity of their brands. And the ad industry must ensure it’s got its own principles in order first.

Principled and responsible businesses have a better chance of surviving economic turmoil and social media-propelled consumer opprobrium. There’s a big opportunity here for agencies to help clients navigate the issues and deal with the threats. Jones might not be a role model for everyone in advertising, but his message is well worth a hearing. It’s almost certainly good for business.