The word sustainability, first used around 1727, is derived from the Latin sustinere (tenere, to hold; sus, up). By that definition, sustainability just got a boost at the recent Cannes Film Festival as superstar musician/activist Bono was awarded the inaugural Cannes LionHeart award for his humanitarian work.
Bono used the occasion to call on the global advertising community to become the "creative engine of capitalism" and "the world’s thermostat" to tackle problems such as AIDS.
The concept of ‘doing good’ as an essential part of business continues to build momentum and a second new category at Cannes this year, Product Design, rewarded “the applied use of physical products in aiding the communication of a brand ethos, and to have a positive impact on improving people’s lives.”
Pharrell Williams’ G-Star “Raw for the Oceans,” a denim collection made from recycled marine plastic and curated by the singer, won the inaugural Grand Prix in the category. While Intel’s “Project Daniel,” which created 3D-printed prosthetic arms for children of war-torn Sudan, earned five Cannes Lions and a Cannes Titanium Lion Award.
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Taking the practice of ‘doing good as good business’ further is the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), the trade body for agencies in the UK's advertising, media and marketing communications industry.
According to the Institute, their IPA Effectiveness Awards “are widely considered to be the most rigorous effectiveness competition in the world with entrants having to prove beyond reasonable doubt that their marketing communications campaign paid back” — especially relevant and noteworthy when a campaign’s goal goes beyond merely generating revenue for its company.
The 70 entries for the 2014 IPA Effectiveness Awards are from brands including ITV, Kit Kat, Virgin Trains, BT, McDonald’s and O2, and represent a global community spanning Australia, Canada, Columbia, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, India, New Zealand, Philippines, Peru, Singapore, USA and the UK. While many are clever yet traditional campaigns designed to increase product sales, several standouts aimed to highlight important global issues and, in some cases, brands’ role in attempting to solve them:
- I Quit (National Smoking Control Campaign) by Ogilvy & Mather Advertising Singapore — ‘I quit — creating a pro-quitting culture’: Tackling increased cynicism towards government communications in Singapore, the campaign used an always-on social media platform with community-generated content that led to a substantial uptick in calls to Quitline, reached a new high in efficiencies for the Health Promotion Board and reversed a five-year upward trend in smoking in Singapore.
- Lifebuoy by Lowe Lintas + Partners — ‘Help a child reach five’: Lifebuoy’s campaign adopted the village of Thesgora, where the highest incidence of diarrheal child deaths in India occurs, and encouraged millions of people to help every child reach the age of five through a collective commitment to spread the Lifebuoy hand-washing cause. The campaign generated 16 million YouTube views, diarrhea incidence in Thesgora fell 74 percent as the handwashing rate tripled, 20 children’s lives were saved and 20 million rupees in donations were received.
- Virgin Trains by Manning Gottlieb OMD — ‘The long-term influence of brands’: Virgin Trains transformed public opinion to the extent that in 2012 when they lost their franchise for the West Coast of the UK, the public fought with business to overturn the government’s decision. That brand loyalty equated to over £1.8bn in revenue and value add of customers changing from car and air travel to train travel saving nearly 5,000 tons of CO2 emissions and generating £82.1m in incremental sales.
Lorna Hawtin, Disruption Director at TBWA Manchester and 2014 Convenor of Judges for the Awards, added, “The rigour with which campaigns are evaluated obviously continues to improve across the industry and these Awards remain a showcase for the very best practice in this respect — not only in the UK, but increasingly abroad.”
The IPA also runs the Eff Test to help identify and evaluate planning and effectiveness-measurement techniques central to how agencies can create the most effective client campaigns.
“Each business is a victim of Digital Darwinism, the evolution of consumer behavior when society and technology evolve faster than the ability to exploit it. Digital Darwinism does not discriminate. Every business is threatened.” ~ Brian Solis
One growing solution, as illustrated by the highlighting of these efforts and messages at Cannes and by the IPA — to reward behavior by brands and marketers (indeed, the "creative engine of capitalism" and "the world’s thermostat") that evolve the concept of sustainability to solving problems threatening life as we know it a business priority.