Sustainable development campaigns must raise their game
Creative work shouldn’t just support change, it should drive it
Our world is changing at breakneck speed. For years, the focus has been on humanity’s disastrous contribution to climate change and how best to protect the planet for the future. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic, and the focus switched. Now it’s about how to best protect our health.
As an industry, we now have a chance to play a critical role. As communications experts, we can harness the power of creativity to change behaviour. But we need to make it a priority, identifying what needs to change and the role we have in making these changes happen. As President of the Cannes Lions 2020/1 Sustainable Development Goals Jury, I will be looking for tangible evidence of these initiatives in this year’s submissions.
First, I’d like to see evidence of creative work that not just supports change but drives it. Don’t tell us about plastics in the sea; suggest a creative solution to the problem. Second, I’d like to see a more ambitious approach when it comes to identifying and tackling goals. And third, organisations need to show that they are working towards all 17 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Not just the same two or three.
We need to stop viewing nature as something we can exploit for profit and, instead, act in a way that recognises that we are part of nature and that it is at the core of our very existence.
Agencies should be delivering more action-driven creative ideas – work that offers a solution to a problem rather than simply highlighting it. We don’t want another communication plan; we want action and positive impact.
Two of our own recent campaigns epitomise action-driven creative
- The Choice, for P&G in partnership with KM Cartwright, implores white America to use its power to help stamp out racism with the simple but powerful message, “Not being racist is not enough”. This emotive ad supports SDG Goal 10: to reduce inequalities.
- As part of a campaign to highlight widely criticised government corruption in the Czech Republic, we created a pre-pay app for Czech toll roads (work we did pro bono during a three-day hackathon). The campaign promotes SDG Goal 16: to achieve peace, justice and strong institutions.
Working together for real change
Every client has a carbon footprint. As agencies, it is not our role to drag or nudge, but to collaborate with our clients to create work that affects permanent, positive, tangible change. This is not a pipe dream; it is within our power and it is what we should be looking to achieve with any idea.
We need to be consistent and stay focused. We need to have principles and follow them. We need to be accountable and find ways to measure our effectiveness and our contribution. If we are to help businesses deliver against all 17 SDGs by the end of the 10-year deadline, we need to take this seriously.
As an industry, our strength lies in creative solutions – it’s what we do. And when it is done well, we can deliver powerful, world-changing results. That is why it will be so exciting to see, in the next few months, what entries are submitted to the SDG Jury and what real change the power of our collective creativity has enabled.
26 June 2020
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