Jamie Oliver leads the annual Food Revolution Day campaign
Jamie Oliver leads the annual Food Revolution Day campaign
A view from Dylan Williams

The rise of the brand as a social movement

Brand purpose has been a dominant theme at Cannes, with successful brands embracing the death of the traditional sales campaign to promote long-term social change.

Our industry is in the midst of a fundamental shift as brands seek to move away from the traditional sales campaign in order to positively contribute to culture, rather than interrupt it. It is a sea change in thinking that has been embraced by Jamie Oliver, a man who has evolved from the narrow definition of a 'celebrity chef' to an international food and welfare evangelist and provocateur.

When he spoke at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity about his own experiences during this evolution, it made for an interesting talk about the power dynamic between big business and government, and also how brands can ensure that by acting responsibly and being true they will remain in business.

Marketing as a force for good

Imploring food companies to be more honest with their communications in order to help stop the blight of obesity and poor diet, he also drew on his experiences in championing better diets and doing good.

Having started his career at his parent’s pub, before TV fame and the development of his own content company that bypassed the restrictions traditional broadcasters put on him, Oliver said that his experiences at the pub – the democratic focal point of his community – had helped shape his views when dealing with the global difference in food consumption. His rise to global fame helped him articulate this message to a worldwide audience.

A war on brands

It seemed implicit in his discussion that richer countries, where brands have evolved, seemed to have poorer diets than poorer countries where foodstuffs were primarily basics. This seems to suggest that some brands have inherently become malevolent and contributed to poor diet, so it is incumbent on those working within them to drive change.

But Oliver did not declare an outright war on brands – rather, he insisted that it was very much in their best interests to be clear and honest. It was no surprise that the problem of childhood obesity was still in his crosshairs and that he felt it was the responsibility of brands rather than government, which he criticised for being slow-moving and flaccid, to lead this change.

For his part, Oliver has created the annual Food Revolution Day, a global movement intended to draw attention to where food comes from and what it contains in order to focus public opinion. It is one of several initiatives that he has supported over the 17 years since he leapt onto our screens with his Toploader album, drum kit and scooter and became a brand himself – something that he admits he finds difficult to comprehend.

But as a lesson to other consumer brands, his talk offered some (healthy) food for thought.

Dylan WIlliams is global chief strategy and Innovation officer at Publicis.