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Cannes 2011: How can advertising address social issues?

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Cannes | In Advertising | June 21, 2011
In the last session of Day Two at the Cannes Lions festival, a well-selected panel discussed the issue of how advertising can successfully address social issues.

The issue of how advertising can successfully address social causes was discussed by a panel at the last session held at the Debussy on the second day of the 58th International Festival of Creativity.

The panel comprised moderator Hervé de Clerck, founder, AdForum and dream leader, ACT (Advertising Community Together) Responsible, Peggy Conlon, president and chief executive officer, The Advertising Council, Salman Amin, executive vice-president, sales and marketing, PepsiCo, Daniel Morel, chairperson and chief executive officer, Wunderman, and Mark Tutssel, chief creative officer, Leo Burnett Worldwide.

Conlon and de Clerck introduced the topic by speaking about public service categories and the need for brands to do more 'pro bono' (Latin for 'for the public good') work in order to up their creative glory. They underscored that non-paid advertising could have a very good impact on the agency-client relationship. They also brought to light the genuine problem of NGOs not having adequate means and funds to measure the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns.

Tutssel then shared the key ingredients that go into effective public service campaigns. "Agencies should treat these assignments the way they treat any regular, big brands. The idea, though, must be rooted in human behaviour," he suggested. Tutssel gave the examples of Burnett's campaigns, one of which addressed the problem of climate change ('Vote Earth' campaign), and the other that helped Portuguese Red Cross connect with its TG (target group) by opening stores that "sold hope".

He spoke about yet another campaign that urged people to wear seat belts. "Greater the audience participation, more successful is the idea," he advised, reminding the audience that consumer involvement in these campaigns is crucial to their success.

Morel spoke about how the digital space can be used to spread awareness about public service campaigns. He shared the example of how Reporters Without Borders used the online medium to spread the message of freedom of press. A website was designed, wherein readers' comments were erased as soon as they were typed and a pro-government slogan appeared in its place. These false comments were published with the respondents' names.

'Earth Hour' is another instance that Morel spoke about, in which a website was created, which allowed users to virtually switch off a light.

Lastly, Amin said, "Corporate social responsibility (CSR) benefits both corporations, as well as brands; CSR is as important as the financial success of any organisation." He added that five years ago, his company, PepsiCo, started looking into three CSR-related areas, namely, employee benefit, environmental issues and health and wellness.

To view interviews from Cannes 2011, click here.

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