Advertising was not started with the notion of doing good, not particularly.
Over the years, we’ve seen society continually being influenced by adverting to create and break down stereotypes, design and reconfigure social norms as well as forming and refining culture. This has been the case worldwide. Whether it be for good or for pushing sales, advertising is as much a part of our society as the air we breathe.
Primarily, we sell concepts or ideas that we want people to align with, buy into and subsequently follow, religiously. We are faced right now with a situation where everyone is a brand. We market ourselves daily through the various channels that we have at our disposal. We do this as people but also as brands. We microblog, build networks, manage distant friendships and of late, flash what we have or believe in.
The influence that one has as an ordinary citizen is now measured by the number of people that follow them or are affiliated with them. Anyone with the right acumen, a funny or even controversial side can do just what advertising has been doing for centuries. The question is how do we use these channels to effect the change we want to see in the world?
South Africa has recently been plagued with racial slur that has the country on its toes. University students have taken to social media to change the fee system in various universities around the country. Movements such as #FeesMustFall have grown increasing influential. There was a time when this responsibility was left to the CSI initiatives to effect change. Now, with the right number followers or tweets, one is tempted to think that this role is left to the masses.
In as much as people are able to effect change, there are more instances where this has not been the case. Take for example the #ZumaMustFall initiative, this is yet to have its second stint. Though many highly influential people garnered this protest forward, little has come from it. We take a look at the current drought situation which various corporates have signed-up for though it seems to be dying down by the day. While the drought is still on.
Could it be that these campaigns are not effective? Or, is it that those steering the conversation are merely not as dedicated? Could the students that marched to the Union building, forcing the president to cancel university fee increases, have been willing to do more than just campaign on social?
Last year, the winner of the Cannes Lions Grand Prix in the Health category was a campaign that encouraged women in England to exercise. The campaign featured women in a different light. The footage had women who didn’t care how they looked as long as they were getting fit. From sweating during a spinning class to road-running in gear that is deemed unflattering. This campaign was critically acclaimed. It solicited honest opinions from women of various shapes and sizes telling their story of how they were inspired to take up the challenge. This was successful because it resonated with its target audience.
The power that may have once been thought to have been removed from the strong-hold of advertising and brands, year after year always has the ability to reveal itself. Though it is no longer up to brands and advertisers to steer the conversation, when we do, we need to ensure that we do it right.
By this I mean, we need to appeal to the core reason for which we create a campaign. We need to make sure that it resonates to the core of what we are trying to achieve. Whether it be that we humiliate and overthrow a leader of a Republic or get women to feel empowered in their bodies. Advertising in any form, whether personal or brand needs to ensure that it effects change and directs the native. Failing which, we merely speak for the sake of it, which, in my opinion is futile.