Yes media for good – but you can’t be ‘good’ at everything 

Yes media for good – but you can’t be ‘good’ at everything 

Brands do not need to own every moment and it is time for them to pick their battles.


At the time of writing this, we have just come out of Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW).

I shared my own thoughts on this on social platforms, regardless of stance, although I know it is in the best interests to improve people’s wellbeing, I have feared it has become another content calendar moment, one offering the opportunity to virtue signal a brand’s way out of corners so they are at the summit of the related concern or movement. All words, no action type stuff.

A couple of weeks ago we had Earth Day, a chance for every social media manager or activation to pivot itself to show how green and sustainable they are, even though their emissions of their product, and probably serving the ads, outweigh their real contribution.

And then of course, International Women’s Day a month earlier, the annual call to arms to ensure gender parity and equity of opportunity, ironically touted by male-dominated environments who scramble to get the three females in their office on some kind of panel or podcast.

There is something bigger here I have started to spot, the perpetual need for brands to always be there for everything.

Call me cynical, but there is no way that brands can be brilliant at all these things.

The right moments, in the right context

Of course, based on the content you get served annually on a particular day online, you would believe that every brand is reducing lightbulb wattage and eliminating plastic waste on 22 April, sourcing more female talent on 8 March and then this MHAW all are so empathetic and moving the needle, they are perennial providers of smoothies and free hotpod yoga sessions.

But the voice notes and direct messages I have received from industry and client friends recently speak to anything but.

There is seemingly a gaping disconnect between what these companies say they are like and what they are really like.

It is time to pick your battles… and of course from an overall advertising standpoint there are both creative and media considerations.

The creative sets the tone and has married the insight and positioning with a compelling message and look/feel, but the role of media and channel selection is very much in the hands of the buyer, so do meditate on this for a second and consider the impetus on the back of this.

Effectiveness tsar Peter Field famously quipped: “what is the point of building a cathedral in a desert?”

Well, we want to ensure the right eyeballs see this oh so virtuous cathedral.

Media has the power to weigh the right narratives, but by the same token can overplay its hand, especially if the core proposition, product or culture is misaligned from the communications output.

How much you spend and typically how many people subsequently see and talk about your brand’s action sets the tone. There is no reverse cashing of the particular cheque.

Pick your battles and do good

The major agency networks have all signed a pledge to achieve net-zero carbon in their advertising supply by the end of the decade.

An interesting pledge, and the supply chain plays a huge part of that. Dedicated donate-by-watching type solutions like Good-Loop help here with attempts to improve the advertising supply chain, but don’t just add them as a line item, think about the overall.

If you really want your message to land, less of them are more, and upweight more of that particular message if you really want to position as agents of change, as the majority of the audience will just not buy it!

When I worked on public sector clients, profligacy was seen as a bad thing, as in a high price-signalling move which could be seen as wasteful in the eyes of the taxpayer –  don’t waste too much money on big swanky digital activations, just pop it on a static mid-page unit (MPU) or a poster at Baker Street.

But I guess now, if you really want to get behind something, go BIG on it. Shout about it and wrap the whole of Oxford Circus instead. That could be seen as really putting your money where your mouth is too.

Sometimes the channel itself is just at odds

Aside from the moment selection, some channels just will not work.

Yes, every planner knows each channel has its primary (and usually secondary) purpose from an effectiveness/outcome standpoint, but it is important to think of the societal and cultural impact of the activation and the optics. Or unintended consequences of bad PR.

For example, if you were a brand shouting about your green credentials, burning through KwH on a screen in Piccadilly Circus is also a huge oxymoron for a the brand that wants sustainable do-good creds, or if you were Mental Health App for sleep promoting itself through non-skippable videos in exchange for coins in a gamified app experience forcing attention, this would itself be the antithesis of the app’s goal.

Then there is one of my favourite examples: the curious case of Lush, the lovely smelling soapy brand. Lush decided a few months ago to come off social channels completely as the distribution method of the message is at odds with the outcome they want to achieve for their customers.

Jack Constantine, with the duality of being inventor and chief digital officer added some colour: “As an inventor of bath bombs, I pour all my efforts into creating products that help people switch off, relax and pay attention to their wellbeing. Social media platforms have become the antithesis of this aim, with algorithms designed to keep people scrolling and stopping them from switching off from relaxing.”

So think about the role of media and how it plays its part in how you buy, where you buy and how much you buy for a particular message.

This could be setting the future barometer of your brand and setting the precedent of how consumers place trust in you.

Simon Akers is a marketing consultant, media strategist, and founder of Archmon, a performance and marketing consultancy

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