CSR works for brands when you are serious about it. When there is serious intent and commitment. “And there’s a lot of messaging out there without serious commitment,” said Liz Musch, CEO, Ipsos ASI. She was addressing an audience that turned out early, in good numbers. The topic was: ‘Can creativity build a better world?’ The stage was one of the smaller ones at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2013. But it was a keenly watched one.
Substantiated through brilliant examples across sessions was this - that consumers spend twice the time with cause-related ads (than they do with ads that sell a product or service or make a corporate statement).
Elsewhere, Rob Feakins, CCO and president, Publicis Kaplan Thaler, observed, “Pro bono work actually gives an influencer culture to the agency. People want to feel good about what they do every day.”
Yet another reality that shows brands, agencies and causes need to work together was underlined by Herve de Clerck, dream leader, ACT Responsible, and founder of AdForum. He said, “’Non-profit and social causes’ is a most popular category at awards. It is natural. Creative guys want to do good - and win awards.” And then he posed the key question, “But does it work for clients?”
It is obvious that it does, going by what many of the speakers showed us. But what we were shown were the good ones – the ones that worked. Like the ones from P&G. Presenting them was Pete Carter, director, brand building integrated communications.
One of the cases was on Dawn dishwashing liquid, launched in 1978. The brand took over market leadership with its core equity of ‘cutting grease’. Cutting a long story short, requests to clean up wildlife affected by spills came in much later. When a Gulf oil spill happened, the brand had something ready to offer, without taking off from its core plank of effective cleaning of grease. They did some communication. The animals were cute, the appeal emotional. The promise was real.
When hurricane Katrina struck in the US, brand Tide was ready. To do what it does best. Wash clothes. Only this time, it cleaned clothes ‘to renew hope’. To make people feel good again. With respect. The spokesperson said it worked because it was authentic. It got elevated because it was.
Another natural calamity, another place – New Jersey. Another brand from the stable, Duracell, was ready to deliver some ‘power relief’ to the power deprived.
“Whatever we do, has to be rooted in deep insight. There has to be something in it for the consumer. All of these things actually work for the business - and for the cause and for people. These things have tremendous RoI. They open up partnerships that we would never have imagined,” disclosed an emotional Carter, fighting back tears.
That was the ‘It works’ side. IPSOS’ Musch came armed with some findings on ‘Who cares for CSR’.
In her address, she made the point that CSR today is critical to succeed in fast growth regions. While purchase decisions show an increased degree of social responsibility, CSR needs cited by consumers are aligned to local needs.
And then came the key part. Compared to all advertising tested, CSR ads are weaker on the ‘branding’ parameter. From IPSOS’ global database, she compared CSR ads on key parameters, against 100 for ‘All ads’ on each: Stirred emotions (141), Would like to see again (127), Branding (83), Interesting (102).
This brings forth a home truth that brands should have a consistent and stated point of view. Only then will they be trusted when they associate with a cause.
Another speaker’s observation might explain another niggling disconnect, this one on the other side of the brand-agency-social cause pipeline: “Ad agencies can give you wonderful award-winning moments. Charities struggle with sustained loyalty and engagement.”
What the awards do not see through, consumers clearly do.