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Managing Marketing: Marketing and Advertising Doing Good

Herve_de_Clerck

Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by TrinityP3 Founder and Global CEO, Darren Woolley. Each podcast is a conversation with a thought-leader, professional or practitioner of marketing and communications on the issues, insights and opportunities in the marketing management category. Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals.

Hervé de Clerck is the Founder of AdForum, the Dream Leader at ACT Responsible and a World Board Director at the International Advertising Association (IAA). He talks about how the events of 9/11 inspired many agencies and creative people to express their grief through messages that do good. This became the basis of ACT Responsible to showcase the good in advertising from the world to the world. He also shares his thoughts on the state of doing good in the world region by region.

You can listen to the podcast here:

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Transcription:

Darren:

Welcome to Managing Marketing, a weekly podcast where we discuss the issues of interest to marketing, media and advertising. Today I’m at Ad Forum offices in Manhattan and talking with Hervé De Clerck who is the founder of Ad Forum, dream leader of ACT Responsible and a world board director at the IAA; International Advertising Association. That’s quite a mouthful Hervé, but welcome.

Hervé:

Thank you, Darren.

Darren:

In fact thank you for hosting me; these are your new offices in New York.

Hervé:

This is my first day in the office and the second day the offices opened.

Darren:

Excellent. I think we’ve known each other tracking it back to 2007 so it’s a little over a decade. The reason I wanted to sit down and have a conversation with you is that apart from Ad Forum and the Ad Forum summit, which is how we’ve worked together and interacted, I’ve always been aware through the work you’ve done at Cannes Lion festival and generally the conversations that you talk about, that you have a real interest in the idea of advertising doing good for society, not just selling products. Is that a fair statement?

Hervé:

Absolutely. Probably the way I should start on this is how the whole thing started at Forum apart from doing the summit which is the meeting between so called pitch consultants and agencies. It’s a huge data base of agencies from all over the world and it’s also a huge data base of creative work. We have like 200,000 or more creative campaigns from all over the world. It’s based in Paris and in New York and in 2001 two planes bumped into the Twin Towers.

Darren:

Yeah, September 11.

Hervé:

My apartment was one block away, I could see it and as a matter of fact I was there and I saw it and remember at that time the whole world became America. A lot of things have changed since, but at that time it was a moving moment.

Darren:

I remember because in Australia it was late at night. It was early morning here in New York, and I had come home from being out at a function and I turned on the TV and they were showing the first plane going into the World Trade Centre, the first tower. While they were doing that live coverage I saw the second plane and I just thought this is the end of the world; this is world war three coming.

It was so shocking even on the other side of the world so I can only imagine being that close in proximity it must have been life changing.

Hervé:

It was life changing and obviously all of us were sitting there not knowing what we could do, totally stunned in silence and obviously we were not going to call clients and try and sell our stuff.

So we started to think what can we do and one guy suggested we should do our job which was to talk to the community and get them to give money and blood and you name it.

Finally what we did the day after was basically we started and put a banner on our website saying, ‘donate your talent’ and in a matter of hours we started receiving campaigns against terrorism and campaigns in support of fire-fighters, police, families and so forth.

We put this work on Media as much as we could. We had over 100 campaigns at that time and we decided to do an exhibition of that work because it was so moving. We presented it in November in Paris advertising week and there I sat down with the Mayor of Cannes who was a former DDB guy (Bernard Brochand, former president of DDB) and he told me bring this to Cannes for the next festival, so that was our first exhibition of work.

Everybody went there and looked at this work and it was so moving we decided to continue to show the world that the advertising industry can play its role and can really do good. The following year we asked the Mayor if we can stay there; you give us the space during the festival to show work for good and that’s how it started.

Since then it moved a lot, the basis was this exhibition in Cannes. It’s still going on every year, we gather work from all over the world and we build exhibitions. We were the only advertising exhibition ever in Davos years ago. We bought in Kofi Annan to speak on the Cannes stage. We had a film support calling on the industry talent by Ban Ki- moon, so we used our voice, this basis as a way to inspire the community, inspire the ACT means advertising community together.

Darren:

So that’s ACT responsible, Advertising Community Together, being responsible.

Hervé:

Exactly.

Darren:

I was wondering as I took it very literally as acting responsibly.

Hervé:

We should act responsibly also.

Darren:

So it works both ways which is the best acronym you can possibly have.

I remember the consultant summit in New York in 2009 was just before and in the lead up to Copenhagen 09 which was about Climate change. I remember yourself and David Jones who at that stage was Havus, were quite proactive in the support of Cop 9.

I know that as well because I went back in my blog at TrinityP3, 10 years ago until now in October was 17 posts, almost all of them in support of the activities in the industry you and David were organising in support of Copenhagen.

We were all hoping and so full of enthusiasm that this would be the start of the big change in dealing with climate change.

Hervé:

I agree. It was interesting because we worked with David Jones on the Campaign called Tick,Tick,Tick , time is ticking.

Darren:

That’s right.

Hervé:

It was one part of a very successful campaign that was supporting the climate justice effort by Kofi Annan. But at that time on the other side I was also involved in the development of a campaign via the International Advertising Association through the United Nations’ Ban Ki-moon, who was supporting another campaign called Hopenhagen the same year. So in both ways we were pushing this effort which was not a very good success.

It was the failure of the international community to act together and do something. When you say that was 2009 it was 10 years ago and only now we are seeing the start of a movement; not even a movement, only the start of an awareness of the importance of the subject through Greta Thunberg, through other rebellion and so forth.

Darren:

It has been interesting because looking back on those posts that I did when I came back from the summit in New York and went back to Australia and was rapidly trying to support Tick,Tick,Tick and Hopenhagen. There was a TV commercial that I had conversations about having it run for Tick,Tick,Tick and yet the disappointment that I think everyone felt was because basically with all the best intentions to address this issue, reading what came out of it was the fact that the world is not unified in its view of the problem.

Hervé:

Absolutely.

Darren:

And that what we had was first world, well established markets like the UK and the USA and Australia having a very different view of the world to say India and China who at that stage 10 years ago are rapidly evolving their middle classes and improving their quality of life. A great metaphor was the western world sitting having a lavish three course meal of carbon and Copenhagen was effectively saying let’s split the bill equally between everyone.

And the Chinese and the Indians are going ‘hang on, we only got here for dessert or coffee. Why are we picking up your share?’ So it’s where politics and economics got in the way of doing what’s best for humanity.

Hervé:

Very good metaphor and it’s still the case. The divide between developed countries and emerging countries is still very big and I don’t see a lot of improvement. No, I should say I see some improvement, not a lot but some due to the fact that now, collectively, we begin to be aware and it has finally come to the table.

Darren:

Close to my home, there was a meeting of the countries of Oceania, who are facing the oceans rising up and wiping out the very land they live on and Australia, for its part, is still watering down any decision or action on climate change. The Australian prime minister walked into parliament with a big lump of coal and said, ‘that’s the future of Australian electricity’.

Hervé:

I can’t imagine.

Darren:

And this is at a time when to be a climate change denier seems ridiculous. It’s like being a flat-earther.

Hervé:

It’s still the case.

Darren:

In your career and business you travel (businesses on either side of the Atlantic); you have a global network of people. Do you see these differences as ever being overcome?

Hervé:

I see a lot of differences between big blocks. As a generalisation, the Anglo-Saxon big block, the Latin block, and the Asian or emerging block are 3 different things. We have a database specifically on good. This database is divided into 3 sub databases. One is about environment, one is about social, and one is about health; 3 different focuses of campaigns for good.

If I look at the repetition of these 3 focuses between these blocks you see a lot of differences. Environment is very important in Asia, a little less important in Europe, and definitely not on the board for here in the U.S. The obvious example is the impact of Greta Thunberg; it’s far bigger in Europe than anywhere else. There’s still a lot of climate denial here and no climate denial in Europe.

Darren:

Which is why the backlash from what they saw as the male, pale, and stale climate denier was so much bigger in the U.S. The criticism about Greta and her role was vitriolic from parts of the US whereas you read almost nothing but support from Europe.

Hervé:

Exactly. We couldn’t talk about her for a long long time. A lot of people here will tell you she’s a manipulator and things like that. And they talk about her; her face, her smile.

Darren:

But not what she represents.

Hervé:

Even if she is now surrounded by people who are helping her, she started alone; a schoolgirl in front of the parliament in Sweden and look at the impact and awareness that created for that issue. And suddenly this is part of the conversation around the dinner table everywhere including here.

But still the environment is far behind the focus of the Americans or the Saxons in general.

Darren:

Because it extends to Australia and the UK.

Hervé:

Yes, it does.

Darren:

I personally find the conversations around the environment in Europe including the Nordic much more intense. There is a greater level of engagement. I’m not sure if you’re aware but back in 2007 I partnered with one of my consultants, Christopher Sewell (the Gaia Partnership). Back in 2007 he developed a methodology for measuring the CO2 contribution of advertising, media and production which would allow advertisers to optimise their media choices to minimise their carbon.

Now, in Australia, the US and UK, very few people are interested, but in Europe people are leaning forward and asking lots of questions and asking how could we use this to optimise our choices of media so that we contribute less carbon.

Hervé:

I think this is really the core of our issue. We should take a moment to discuss this specifically. I’d like to finish on the differences though. The other big difference is on the social issue. Social issues here are not the same as they are in Continental Europe. The obsession Americans and Anglo-Saxons have on diversity inclusion, gender equality and LGTB is far greater than the social issues the Europeans are interested in.

In Europe they are more concerned about domestic violence (a big topic). Here, the agencies, in every single presentation there is an LGTB or inclusion or diversity moment, which is good but it’s very different from the focus of meetings in Paris, Madrid or Hamburg.

Darren:

You grew up in France and the French had a revolution about egalitarianism. Do you think as a society that it’s taken more for granted that inclusion is part of society or is it just not seen as an issue?

Hervé:

It is seen as an issue. Me too exists in Europe as well. I’m talking about the importance of it and the issue should be there because we’ve all lived in a different world than we live in now.

The point I wanted to make is that there is a cultural effect on this. We’re not so puritan in Europe; it’s more catholic than the northern part of Europe or the US. The puritan aspect must have an effect. But even if you go more south or east, the way they see these issues (e.g. women in Arab or eastern countries) is very different.

For good or for bad. We think because we are the dominant culture we think it’s for bad and we think we should impose our views on the others. That’s a big question between the universal values and the cultural values; there is a big divide.

Darren:

It’s always a fascinating consideration when you’re talking about global whether it’s global business, trends, politics that one of the things that makes the world so interesting is the differences.

It’s quite a puritan perspective to want to judge everyone else based on a set of values that this is right and everyone else is wrong because some of those cultures we’re talking about are older by millennia than the puritan or Anglo-Saxon culture. They’ve been around for a very long time.

Hervé:

For example take China; in terms of number of people, importance of ancient civilisation and so forth, they have a voice to the table. I don’t think they have the same view on diversity, gender equality or age. Here I am an old man. Over there I am a wise man.

Darren:

That is true. They have a set of values that are all about respecting your elders and they think of the family as quite an extended family. Regarding the roles of men and women, they see men and women quite differently, not necessarily unequally but certainly differently.

Even the fact that China is considered a communist country; interestingly it’s embraced capitalism in almost all forms to raise the standard of living for 1.4 billion people.

Hervé:

Exactly.

Darren:

The way you judge Chinese society depends on your perspective but there are some things where you have to say they’ve achieved a huge evolution in quality of life but there are other costs associated with that and what’s acceptable or not.

It must be interesting doing business with all these different people? You’re involved with the International Advertising Association—that’s a global role. Your role with ACT Responsible is global because you’re bringing work in. It must be a constant feast seeing these tensions and really wondering how to navigate the way through?

Hervé:

This is probably one of the most difficult things you have to manage; trying to put yourself in the shoes of the other people in front of you. But you travel as much as I do and you’re even more global than I am because you have more Asian experience than I have. I travel to Asia sometimes; meetings with the international Advertising Association who are very strong in Asia and less in the rest of the world so I have to meet Korean, Chinese and so forth.

It’s extremely interesting. You mentioned the fact that it opens your mind to other ways of looking at things. And the idea of universal values leading to universal culture leading to universal advertising is bullshit basically. It doesn’t work that way.

Even if there are some commonalities and even more and more commonalities in the world because it’s more and more global we are still moved or animated by our culture, by my parents, grandparents and the French Revolution.

Darren:

Absolutely, that’s why I find China so fascinating; the Chinese call us Westerners. There are a large number of Westerners that think Chinese want to become like us Westerners, but they don’t. They want to be modern but they want to be modern on their terms so they look at what’s happening elsewhere in the world and they’ll pick something up and then turn it into something uniquely Chinese.

They’ll interpret everything from their cultural base because they’ve got 5,000 years of culture of continuous history. One of the things my wife shared with me is the average dynasty in China is 300 years. So, if you think about the communists, the People’s Republic of China, they’re only 70 years into a 300 year dynasty.

And that’s the way the Chinese think. They have a view of the world that is not just about winning the battle; they think about a 300 year transformation.

Hervé:

Versus the quarterly results.

Darren:

Exactly. So, it’s fascinating when you get an opportunity to delve into the underlying thinking? It requires you to have a much more open mind.

Hervé:

Definitely. If we look at advertising to come back to one of your points—a difference of perception. Twenty years ago, I started that forum, there was no Google, no YouTube, no Facebook at all and the environment did not mean anything here in the US and was already present in Europe.

When you talked about sustainability, people didn’t know what you were talking about; they didn’t understand the word. Ask a CEO of an agency what do you do in terms of sustainability? And he would say, ‘oh we do a lot; we do CSR.’ ‘What do you do in terms of CSR?’ ‘We do a lot of pro bono campaigns’.

So, the effort in the industry at that time, 20 years ago, was we do a lot of pro bono campaigns. Was it for CSR or for Cannes awards? You be the judge.

Darren:

Or to make your staff feel good because they’re working on cigarette brands.

Hervé:

Exactly. We laugh but I did work on cigarette brands.

Darren:

And alcohol and gambling.

Hervé:

Exactly and to be honest I loved it, I enjoyed it very much. The truth is the pure concept of doing good didn’t exist. I’m not talking about saving your carbon or taking care of your footprint—that didn’t even exist. It came slowly to the table.

Maybe 10 years ago people really started to understand we’ve got to do something. And agencies started to think how we should be part of that. For me the sparkle started in 2009 when the Dove campaign, ‘natural pure beauty’ came and was a shock to everyone.

It came from London, Unilever and has been the motif of Unilever ever since but that was when this industry started to think in terms of purpose. The word purpose didn’t even exist.

Darren:

Business in the 70s first coined the phrase, the triple bottom line. In the 1970s people were talking about it’s not just financial, it’s environmental and social—that was the triple bottom line. There had been the global oil crisis and this is before climate change came on the main science radar.

This is the early days of Attenborough talking about the need to conserve our wildlife and nature. Then it disappeared in the 80s where greed was good and baby boomers. Then we had the stock market crash of ‘87 then the rebuilding to the 90s, then Y2K leading up to 2000, the technology bubble in there, and then we had the global collapse in 2007/8.

It’s intersecting how these things bubble up between the economic disasters. Every time there is an economic disaster people focus on having a job and getting paid and then when that passes and it invariably does because it always goes in cycles, then we start remembering ‘oh god we need a planet with clean air and water to live on. We want to leave something for the next generation’.

The idea of purpose and having a focus (ethical, social, and environmental—the 3 pillars) is because we’ve now got a generation that have seen what their parents have done. Greta represents that generation that are going to inherit this planet.

Hervé:

She does. When I hear people saying, ‘what can we do; the government have to do something?’ Sure, government has to do something, companies have to do something but they won’t do it unless we have Greta’s and consumers starting to speak out. That’s why purpose became so important.

Today, there is no corporate strategy without the word purpose in it. What’s the purpose of this brand? The purpose of this brand 10 years ago was to sell more brands. What is the social and environmental purpose of that brand? Ten years ago you would see companies starting to do green.

A lot of that green was greenwashing. I remember making a speech at the WFA about green and that was probably 10 years ago. My conclusion was greenwashing is good. Obviously, it was provocative; greenwashing was the first moment when people began to think it is important to be green.

We do greenwashing because we don’t have other options so it’s an easy way to go but that was the first moment when you have the ‘prise de conscience’, the awareness that this was good. So greenwashing was phase 1.

Then phase 2 was purpose and purpose today is still in the area of communications, declaration. It has to be genuine, authentic but it’s still about we or a brand believes in. Now there’s a 3rd phase that you begin to see (it’s about time) which is from declaration or communication to action.

Now a brand has a stated purpose and we live with that purpose and do something with it. I have in mind a campaign done by Renault (the French car manufacturer) who called its purpose ‘mobility’. They decided to help people who do not have the means to move but who need a car to go and find work.

And they started a system of refurbishing cars for people who can’t find work if they don’t have a car. That’s the moment when your purpose becomes something in action.

Darren:

I understand brands coming up with a purpose and that driving corporate change. The other way is to dig within the organisation and find the purpose if it exists there and then use marketing to communicate and amplify that not just to consumers but also to employees, stakeholders, shareholders, everybody.

Marketing is incredibly powerful at communicating and engaging people so whether you go one way or the other my concern is there have been a number of times where a brand has embraced a purpose and it’s been seen as inauthentic because it’s too far ahead of the organisation to live up to it.

They say things like ‘we’re not going to use palm oil from anywhere that’s not a plantation’ except that we then find out the company still has to make up for a shortfall because there’s not enough plantation palm oil available. And because of social media everyone immediately goes ‘you can’t trust the brand’.

Hervé:

That’s true.

Darren:

And that’s where greenwashing or woke washing (the latest)—you need to be careful. You need to embrace a brand purpose that you can reasonably live up to. That’s why I thought Dove pure or natural beauty was so good because it could be as simple as the selection of talent.

Hervé:

It’s not that obvious to find a purpose you can live with. The pharmaceutical companies or the energy companies (Total or Shell, Exxon or BP) find purpose that’s in their domain; it has to be something to do with the environment. But if BP is organising a sailing race and talking about the power of wind it doesn’t make any sense.

On the other hand they have to invest in their own domain and that’s the domain which pollutes. Now that leads me to what is the domain which pollutes the advertising industry? The agencies are very good at saying brand must have a purpose. But what’s the purpose of an agency and of this industry in general?

Calculating the CO2 you create when do production, taking planes to produce films etc and then around the social aspect there is a lot that can be done, ethical casting for a production or whatever. Agencies have moved in that direction.

The best example is the association done by IPG called the unstereotype; IPG, Unilever, Proctor & Gamble—the alliance. If you think about what is the purpose and footprint of an agency. The footprint of an agency is definitely not consuming plastic, the planes and this and that.

The real footprint is the output; is what you put in the head of the people you communicate to—the mind print if you like. That is the footprint of the industry. That is my big thing. We have to work against the CO2, the carbon print we put in the head of the people and we can do that but it’s tough because we use energy that is carbonated.

The carbon energy we use is stereotypes, hyperbole, generalisation, working on your emotions. All these things are carbonated because they are good but they have a bad part. Stereotype is an incredibly powerful way of communicating and you need that to get to the point to bring a story which talks to you. But on the other hand it is dangerous because it is a stereotype and it can amplify the bad aspect.

Darren:

There’s a copywriter, Ray Black, (retired now) but he said 70 or 80 years ago advertising was also known as propaganda and propaganda was used particularly well by the Nazis. So, if you’re working in advertising you have to realise that you’re working in the propaganda industry and so with great power comes great responsibility because you can use those skills to do good for society or to do bad.

And his speech to young creative people was that the only choice to be made was to use those powers for good.

Hervé:

There is a saying by Bill Bernbach, ‘advertising is a powerful tool; you can use it to further business or for bad’. I can’t remember the exact quote.

Darren:

He had so many of them. Hervé, this has been great except we’ve run out of time. I could talk with you for hours on this because it’s such an interesting area not just for doing good but also the challenges that the world offers in trying to achieve that so I thank you for your time.

Just before we finish up, of all the brands you’ve experienced, which one do you think is doing the most good in the right way?

Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals, Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by Darren Woolley and special guests. Find all the episodes here

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Darren is considered a thought leader on all aspects of marketing management. A Problem Solver, Negotiator, Founder & Global CEO of TrinityP3 - Marketing Management Consultants, founding member of the Marketing FIRST Forum and Author. He is also a Past-Chair of the Australian Marketing Institute, Ex-Medical Scientist and Ex-Creative Director. And in his spare time he sleeps. Darren's Bio Here Email: darren@trinityp3.com

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