Steal This Idea, a Campaign Urges

/// Steal This Idea, a Campaign Urges

June 20, 2013  |  Blog

USUALLY, the people who sponsor or create advertising campaigns are loath to see anyone borrow, lift or otherwise copy their ideas. A new effort, however, is intended to encourage such inspirational appropriation.

The goal of the initiative, called Creative for Good, is to make it easier to produce effective public service advertising campaigns on issues like health, education and the environment. Creative for Good is being introduced by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with two partners: the Advertising Council, the nonprofit organization that oversees the creation, production and distribution of public service campaigns in the United States, and Ketchum, a public relations and marketing communications agency that is part of the Omnicom Group.

Executives from the three groups plan to outline the initiative — described as “using the power of creativity and media to spark social change” — in a panel discussion Friday morning at the 60th Cannes Lion International Festival of Creativity in Cannes, France.

The centerpiece of the initiative is a Web site, creative-for-good.org, that is to serve as an online resource for smaller organizations around the world that do not have the wherewithal or experience to develop public service campaigns of their own. The Web site will offer examples of ads that have already run and accomplished their goals, whether to encourage Belgians to stop smoking, discourage South Africans from stealing electricity, urge Vietnamese mothers to breast-feed their babies or stimulate organ and tissue donations in Italy.

The initiative begins with more than 60 public service campaigns available for perusal on the Web site, along with information, in case-study format, in areas like research, strategy, creative approach, media plans, results, conclusions and recommendations. (Those considering use of the campaigns will be encouraged to adapt them for their local markets rather than adopt them as they are.)

Plans call for adding more campaigns to the Web site, among them public service ads that win awards at the Cannes festival. Coincidentally, one of the biggest winners so far this week at the festival has been “Dumb Ways to Die,” a public service campaign to promote rail safety from Metro Trains in Melbourne, Australia, which was created by the Melbourne office of McCann Erickson Worldwide.

The Creative for Good initiative is indicative of the growing interest in the power of public service advertising — also known as social advertising or pro-social advertising — to help affect or change behavior in realms outside the purview of traditional advertising, which seeks to shape shopping or buying habits.

Although many perceive advertising as “an industry that promotes consumerism, that pushes people to buy things they cannot afford,” Diana El-Azar, director for media, entertainment and information industries at the World Economic Forum in Geneva, said in a phone interview, “communications could also be a hugely positive force in influencing people’s behavior.”

The initiative has been in the works for more than two years, Ms. El-Azar said, and was inspired by other attempts at the forum to “share best practices.” She attributed the concept to two members of a forum committee called the Global Agenda Council on the Future of Media: Peggy Conlon, president and chief executive at the Advertising Council, and David Gallagher, chief executive for European operations and chairman of the London office of Ketchum.

“It was clear there was a huge appetite among organizations and charities to find strategies to engage the public,” Mr. Gallagher said. “We want to develop this into a treasure chest and hope it becomes a catalyst for change.”

Ms. Conlon said those involved in the initiative “don’t have the resources to police” potential misuse of the ads on the Web site for commercial products or profit-making purposes. But they are not worried about that, she added, because “it becomes a self-healing platform” — that is, people who discover anyone trying to misappropriate the campaign materials are likely to use social media to blow the whistle on the miscreants.

The leaders of organizations whose campaigns have been selected for inclusion on the Web site say they are elated.

“I can only see good coming from this,” said Liz Feld, president of Autism Speaks in New York, whose public service campaigns are created through the Advertising Council by BBDO New York.

“Autism is a global public health crisis,” she added, and “more than half the people who visit our Web site are from outside the U.S.”

Yulia Koval-Molodtsova, deputy head and international project director at the Laboratory for Social Advertising in Moscow — which produced an H.I.V.-AIDS prevention campaign carrying the theme “What would you do in this situation?” — praised the Campaign for Good Web site as “a database that will make good-quality campaigns more accessible” to “people who don’t have a chance to travel to advertising festivals.”

Ms. Koval-Molodtsova said she believed that “social advertising is more difficult than advertising for products and services” because “you’re selling values.”

As a result, she added, such campaigns ought to provide “a supportive message” rather than rely on scare tactics, assuring the targets of the ads that “there is always a way out, there is always help out there.”

Link: Steal This Idea, a Campaign Urges

The New York Times – Stuart Elliott

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