Rooting for a good cause

OMD's Paddy Crawshaw breaks down the various forms of purpose-led campaign that won favour with the judges -- and which type he thinks should win more metal

At Cannes 2016, cause-led ideas continued to be a well-rewarded way for the industry to find a meaningful place in the wider world. By my analysis, 47 of the 89 awarded campaigns in the Media category were directly cause related. I have sought to create a set of seven archetypes based on an analysis of the Media Lions Winners in 2016 to afford us a basis for hypothesising about where the genre might head in 2017.

The Shocker: Work that is disarming and confronting. We are all pretty familiar with these case studies. All slow piano music, grim statistics and raging guilt. In terms of sheer numbers these remain the dominant force in the genre.

The Disciplinarian: Campaigns talking directly to you as either the active wrongdoer or an unwitting accomplice. With SMS Last Words, The Global Road Safety Partnership in China admonished those guilty of texting whilst driving. Songs of Violence in Brazil opened people’s eye to their blind acceptance of lyrics in songs that glorified violence against women.

The Generous Stakeholder: For my money, the superstars of the cause-led genre, and worryingly few in number. These campaigns manage to find a confluence of product, brand and social ill before developing an innovative media solution to tackle it. Tata’s fantastic Dipper Condoms campaign encouraging truck drivers to practice safe sex was ingenious and under-rewarded.

The All-In Crusader: Campaigns that identify a societal failing that has little direct link to their brand but overcome this disconnect by committing whole-heartedly to championing the cause. ANZ are clearly very active in this space and put their brand on the line repeatedly [and with increasing intensity] to make a powerful statement, whether it be for gay rights or gender equality.

The Half-Hearted Opportunist: These campaigns tend to be the lackluster cousin of the All-In Crusader. Looking at it very cynically, but probably quite realistically, they identified a tactical opportunity to turn a good deed into an award entry. Best not call out the guilty parties. They hopefully know who they are.

The Helping Hand: The more likeable cousin of The Half-Hearted Opportunist. They might be tactical, but they are also insightful, relevant and provide a useful service. See Renault’s Business Booster that sought to overcome the strains of the father-and-son business model.

The Local Hero: Campaigns that play close to home. Australian Road Safety and San Juan Beer are not natural bedfellows but both in their way identified wrongs on the consumer’s doorstep and were all the more powerful for it.

What cause-led archetype will float to the top in 2017? Two predictions:

The Local Hero will be politicized. Trump and Brexit loomed large in every Q&A. The manifestation of the widening political and cultural fault lines are increasingly felt close to home by industry folk and the public alike. I predict the terrible plight of the hidden abused and afflicted will for a period play second fiddle to the wrongs that are the common currency of political debate. Societal issues like gun crime, gay rights and racism will become increasingly localised. Furthermore, people will demand not only that a brand take a stand but that they affect genuine change in their local area.

The Disciplinarian will go on the rampage. This is a fascinating genre that will be blown wide open in a world of Big Data. Advertisers will see growing opportunity to create a one-on-one dialogue with the perpetrator to change their behaviour directly, rather than take a circuitous route through the masses. Smart campaigns like Search Racism will use data to invade previously inaccessible breeding grounds of wrongdoing.

My hope for 2017:

We are generous to the Generous Stakeholder. Effectiveness should play a greater role at Cannes, and by this I mean the extraction of short-term value and the creation of foundational strength. Only cause-led campaigns that identify a credible role for the brand and invest behind it have the opportunity to achieve both.

Paddy Crawshaw is head of communications planning with OMD Asia Pacific.

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