Writer: Noor Fathima Warsia - Tuesday, Jun 21,2011 9:41 AM
Cannes Lions 2011: Communication with a Cause

It is not always about selling a product. Agencies and corporate have seen communication services a route to impact the consumer’s life, sometimes addressing social issues that concern people the most. Leo Burnett’s Worldwide Chief Creative Officer, Mark Tutssel, spoke of experience, which started three years ago, when he was in the midst of a conversation on the growing concern around global warming.

Tutssel recalled, “Everyone was talking about global warming, but it was just not enough to make people aware at the time – that was happening anyway. The idea was to get them to do something, and that gave birth to Earth Hour. It was a simple idea – for 60 seconds, switch off the lights at a particular day, on a particular time, if you cared about this issue. The first year was so successful, we have this idea in its third year now and countries like India have participated for the first time in the last edition. One in seven people on the planet switched off lights that day and that is saying something. The big idea has to be always rooted in human behaviour. Everything we do has to have the ability to change lives.”

Earth Hour also became one of the very works to have the coveted Titanium Lion. The idea brought the human race together to create a change. Tutssel observed, “That is the kind of participation idea that we are looking for all the time, and it has spread like wildfire and growing each year.”

Powerful ideas can change behaviour and another one that Tutssel spoke to the audience about was the work ‘Hope’ done for Red Cross. Pointing out the gravity of a problem would not necessarily get an audience to react. In the case of Hope, Leo Burnett created a bookstore look alike for Red Cross – the only difference being every book in that store had a story title, but the pages were blank. But there was hope that if someone bought a book, there was a chance that the story title would come true. And the success of that idea saw more such stores launching across cities. Tutssel said, “It was an example of a big scalable idea that invites participation. It was not advertising, it is an act, and it was also a business idea, a solution to a problem.”

Wunderman has its own way of spreading hope. Daniel Morel, Chairman and CEO, Wunderman, informed that every Wunderman office had a local cause that they needed to support. Morel said, “We speak so much about how our businesses are also about the local sensibilities, so why not work on something that impacts a community. We agree that there are some larger issues of road safety and so on, but sometimes, you want to look at a local problem. I am reminded of women in Saudi Arabia when they took the wheel; it was a very local issue, but why would you not be able to support an issue like that – it was important to them.”

Morel took the audience through some of the work that Wunderman has done in specific markets, including getting commitments or pledging support for initiatives such as Earth Hour, and how the agency has used the digital medium to engage with people and get their views on issues such as freedom of press.

Another interesting point came from PepsiCo’s EVP – Sales and Marketing, UK, Salman Amin, on some of the work that Pepsi did in this domain. Amin took the audience through Pepsi Refresh, where the company brought accountability in the equation. He said, “We called it Performance with Purpose. Pepsi’s Refresh project was all about getting consumers to tell us what mattered to them. Even though there is a lot more for us to do, but we felt terrific we were able to do this last year. Performance and purpose must live together and we have to get rid of the tyranny of either-or. This is the kind of work that connects the brand with its consumers.”

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