Conscious Communications Is An Emerging Field With A Ways To Go

EnviroMedia, with offices in Austin and Portland, claims to be something other than a typical ad agency. In fact, this is how they open “the conversation.”
I don’t know the answer to their rhetorical question, but I’m not sure there is a wrong answer in this case. If you dig a page deeper, there’s this:

What We Do
If you’re looking for ads, go to an ad agency. If you’re in search of smart, memorable campaigns that connect with your target to drive real change, we’re going to get along fabulously.

I’m never too impressed by creative services providers that claim to be something other than an agency. If you have clients, there’s an agency relationship. It’s nothing to hide from.
I don’t mean to pick on this one provider, I merely want to examine the idea that an agency or media company can “drive real change.” Most agencies exist to build brands and drive sales. Non-profits also need to build their brand and drive “sales”, whatever that might mean. For many groups, it means asking the consumer to part with money and get nothing in return but a promise. That’s a tough sell in any economy. My point is this–marketing people who want to do good with their skills need to be incredibly gifted and disciplined. There’s a terrible idea floating through way too many non-profits that their particular cause is cause enough. This is rarely true.
I want to see non-profits utilize advertising to further their cause and it makes sense for clients to work with like-minded people on these initiatives. But not too like-minded. To break through the clutter and make real connections with people, all the rules of consumer marketing still apply. Maybe a certain top-of-mind cause gives an organization a head start, but a working relationship with the member or customer has to be initiated and maintained. It takes money to do that; it also takes skill, perseverance and vision.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. kGhasbigmouth. says:

    i applaud your chance for communication about what makes an agency an agency, and what we truly do as providers of a service. but social marketing is not advertising. and its main goal is not consumption or buy, buy, buy — it really and truly is, behavior change. and to put it bluntly, the proof’s in the pudding, really. our goals met include: curbing peak day water use (Texas experiences droughts, y’all) by 200 million gallons, curbing tobacco use among teens by 30%, decreasing roadside litter (thru Don’t Mess with Texas) by at least 30% in the years we’ve had the campaign. The list goes on. Sure, we want money. But, our goals, our “action items” we want the public to actively follow up on: stop smoking, turn off your water when you brush your teeth (save 6 gallons a day), and stop throwing trash on the ground. and when we do research that says, yes, these messages are working, yes people are saving water and the air is cleaner, etc, that’s when we’ve done our job. so in that sense, our web site says what it means. we really do what we say we do. any exposure is good exposure, so thanks adpulp for the coverage, but i just wish you’d done more research as to what we actually do, and why we would say the things we say on our web site. we have been able to make change happen. we’ve got the research to prove it. and it feels good to work here. we don’t just talk it, we walk it. and that needs no validation from any blog. it’s what we live.

  2. Yuppers says:

    Oh snap!

  3. Hi kGhasbigmouth,
    Thanks for stating your case here.
    There’s no indication in the post that your firm doesn’t deliver.
    The question I’m asking is this: Is it best for a non-profit to work with an “agency” dedicated to the cause, whatever it may be, or is it best to work with an agency dedicated to the cause of reaching people via stimulating communications?
    Naturally, a firm can do both.

  4. Celeste says:

    “a firm can do both”….right, so if you could answer your own question then why did you have to bring some firm into the equation using uninformed assumptions? this post just seems like meandering mutterings to oneself rather than a real probe into the subject.

  5. Cool story, bro.

  6. What uninformed assumption is bothering you, Celeste? I said I’m unimpressed by agencies that won’t refer to themselves as such.
    The two ponderous paragraphs at the end are likely the troublesome ones, but I’m not addressing EnviroMedia there, rather I’m wondering about the nature of firms that exclusively serve other cause-based firms.
    For the record, it seems like a good business to be in and I hope the firms in this segment of the industry do well. My question–and yes, I do take the liberty to ask them in imperfectly formed posts here–is are these firms staffed by advertising people or professional do-gooders?
    It’s a fair question.