Sunday 15 January 2017

How advertising can save the world

Advertising has the power to change minds, not just toothpaste. And based on what's going on in the Middle East, and even the Frankston bus, there are lots of minds that need changing.

I have school mates who work for the WHO. Uni friends that've set up schools in Timor, and then there's me, in advertising. These friends, the same ones I'd save the world over a cigarette with, are confounded by my decision to work in the ad industry. But i believe in advertising. 

We're at an interesting time in history. Everyone's hyper aware of all the bad in the world.
It's become the 10 minute newsfeed cycle. Clicktavists hit 'like', feel morally satiated and move on. 

And, unfortunately, the people and organisations that do care are like any client too close to their brand. They believe all they need to do is tell people and they'll act. Plus, they simply don't have the money, time or resources for a big behavioural change campaign.

Enter advertising. 
"Advertising justifies itself when it is used for social purposes." Howard Luck Gossage said that, and he's right. 

Advertising holds the key. We know it takes creativity to change minds. Like a kick in the gut, we're versed in the magic that makes people 'feel' problems - not just be aware of them. Not only that, but we also know where a whole lot of money is - our clients. 

That's why it's our job to marry the private greed with the public need. To convince our clients to spend their marketing dollars on campaigns that actually make a difference. 

And it doesn't need to be as lofty as solving humanity's greatest problems like the Coke stuff below (but don't let me stop you).

We live in a time where there's higher levels of depression than ever before. Everywhere you turn; every link you follow there's some charlatan pushing a new brand of self-help. 

So even if we simply created ads that make people laugh - over a sales guy yelling over a powerpoint presentation hurtling a laundry list of features at you - we can help increase the collective utility and make the world a better place. 

This is not the wistful musings of a self-loathing adman. Corporations (our cashed up clients) truly can help save the planet while simultaneously making better advertising than they do. 

Thanks to the Ehrenberg Bass Institute, we all now know that advertising works by helping brands become and stay mentally available - not on how persuasive they can be. And, equally, thanks to IPA's 'Long and Short of It' it's also now irrefutable that effective advertising is about creating big fame-making, emotion-inducing ideas. 

That means, creating and refreshing memory structures is the number one objective of any advertising effort. Whatever ownable association we decide to use to achieve this is up to us. So why wouldn't we use ones that can do some good along the way? Ones that, it turns out, have a greater potential to find fame, incite emotion and ultimately be more effective. 

Every brand you have ever worked on, and will ever work on, has an association with a problem. I've worked on a university  - so we pitched an idea about solving adult illiteracy. I've worked on a bedding retail store - pitched an idea to provide beds for the homeless. 

Think about Luxottica, who owns eye health, how they along 
with Saatchi Sydney won big with their brilliant campaign that tested kids' eyes with the Penny the Pirate kids' book.

Plus, earned media has become the holy grail. Doing good things gets brands in the news like nothing else. 

You have to be inside a plane to change its trajectory. That's why all of us in advertising have to help elevate our industry out of its quagmire of greed and superficiality. 

Advertising is powerful. It can change behaviour. It reaches the masses, which means it has the power to shape culture like nothing else. And like Uncle Ben in Spiderman says: "With great power comes great responsibility". So what are we waiting for?  

Christopher Ott