Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Published in Nov-Dec 2015

The trinity of goodvertising

Award winning Creative Director on how to avoid the shackles of mediocre advertising.

So what do you do for a living?”

This sometimes doesn’t go too well. Reply saying “I’m in advertising,” and you risk getting “Where do you keep your pitchfork?” as further conversation.

“I’m just the messenger” doesn’t cut it. And sometimes rightly so. Advertising has a bad rep: buy, buy, buy, profit, profit, profit, commerce, capital, toothpaste, washing detergent, car, Afridi’s skin whitening, tea, tea, DRINK MORE TEA DAMMIT! It is after all the visible face of business, the thing that interrupts your cricket game and the salesman ringing at your door. And the quality of the message gets worse every year. Who is going to respect it?

Tim Lindsay, CEO, D&AD, put it well: “Does advertising continue producing an increasingly inferior product for diminishing levels of client fee; or does it lead the charge towards more sustainable and responsible business models and demonstrate that marketing communication can be a powerful force for good?”

Advertising is insanely powerful – people who read this magazine know this. Even with something mediocre and annoying to say, you have the strength to move a mountain of biscuits from a supermarket shelf.

Business is not blind to this fact, and neither is it deaf to the hatred generated towards businesses that pursue profit without a concern for much more. And so the visible shift in paradigm in which more and more businesses are seeking a cleaner reputation to build a more loyal fan base. A reputation that speaks of living up to the responsibility of wielding the power of advertising – not just to build a bank account but to build better lives for humanity.

A bland, hidden or irrelevant CSR campaign for the sake of it is no longer enough: one notices that brands are becoming more and more relevant to causes, even going to the lengths of engineering or re-engineering products to solve problems. We have two good examples in Pakistan: Pepsi’s ‘Liter of Light’ and Moltyfoam’s ‘The World’s First Billbed’.

Advertising leaders around the world recognise this – often choosing to celebrate and reward work that set out with this goal of being a force for good; Cannes jury presidents went so far as to mention this in their speeches. “We are looking for work that does more than just sell the product” was something you heard plenty.

That the art of advertising has done wonders for non-profit causes is well known (yet curiously ignored) – from teaching people about condoms to protecting wildlife. What I would like to focus on is when advertising does well even while selling products.

Here are some examples which demonstrate what I refer to as the Trinity of Goodvertising: building brand value, doing good for humanity and communicating in an interesting and compelling manner.

1 The Samsung Safety Truck

Advertising with a cause: Samsung fixed cameras at the front of the trucks and big video screens at the back to help avoid accidents caused due to overtaking.
Advertising with a cause: Samsung fixed cameras at the front of the trucks and big video screens at the back to help avoid accidents caused due to overtaking.

In Argentina, one of the biggest causes of road accidents is when car drivers try to overtake trucks on single lane highways. They cannot see what is ahead until it is too late. In comes Samsung with the simplest of solutions: fix cameras at the front of the trucks, and big video screens at the back. This way, before overtaking, a car driver behind the truck will be able to see what is ahead and then decide whether it is safe to overtake or not. This is not rocket science, just smart thinking and great application of a brand’s technology, that (in their own words) “doesn’t just change lives, but saves them.”

2 Always ‘Like A Girl’

“What does it mean when you say you will do something ‘like a girl’?” asks the director to one of the subjects in this powerful film. It’s a loaded question, and really, she is asking all of us. P&G’s Always discovered through research that half of the women experienced a drop in confidence at puberty. What better time than this to empower them? And champion the girls who would be the future of the brand. So the brand decided to turn the phrase “Like a girl” – which is usually used as an insult (“You run like a girl”) into an empowering term.

This is a brand doing more than just selling a product. This is a brand starting a movement. A movement to encourage women to recognise that doing something like a girl can mean that they are doing it better, stronger and faster.

3 Lifebuoy’s ‘Roti Reminder’

To communicate the potentially life-saving benefit of washing your hands, Lifebuoy India came up with a highly innovative media placement: on a roti itself. They heat-stamped millions of rotis at the legendary Khumb Mela with a simple message reminding people to wash their hands with Lifebuoy. They followed it up by placing Lifebuoy soap bars in the restrooms of eateries.

4 Vodafone’s ‘Between Us’
To tackle domestic violence in Turkey, Vodafone decided to build a secret app. Called ‘Red Light’, the app sends a call for help to three pre-selected friends simply by shaking the phone a certain way, and the function is hidden inside a flashlight app.

So how did Vodafone communicate this to women? With an incredible media campaign: messages were put up in ladies’ bathrooms and clothing tags, they were embedded deep inside online cosmetic tutorials, and even printed on wax strips, asking women to download the app.

And a quarter of all female mobile phone users in Turkey did.

5 Volvo’s ‘Life Paint’
Road safety is big with Volvo, but this time instead of just making car drivers safe, Volvo chose to make pedestrians and bicycle riders safe. By inventing nothing that goes on a car. They introduced ‘LifePaint’, a unique reflective spray that stays invisible in daylight but glows brightly in the glare of car headlights. You can apply the spray on your bicycle, clothes, helmet, backpack, even your dog collar, and you will become very very visible to car drivers at night. And of course, it’s free.

All of the campaigns above are examples of smart people thinking of smart, simple ways to use the power of advertising for good. And they manage to do it while building love for their brands too. They recognise that there is a responsibility they have to live up to, and that this business we are in is not entirely a selfish one.

They have the right answer to the question “So what do you do for a living?”

Ali Rez is a Creative Director who consults between South Asia and the Middle East. He has won Gold at Cannes and Clio in 2015.