The Profit Ethos

According to The Wall Street Journal (paid sub. req.), Ethos JWT, a cause-related marketing shop is one of the fastest growing units inside JWT.

Corporate-responsibility campaigns, once a backwater in the ad business, have taken off in recent years. Recognizing the rising fervor around environmental and social issues such as education, hunger and poverty, companies are devising ad campaigns to remind consumers of whatever do-good efforts they have made.
“Our clients want to raise their social profile, but they want to do it in a better way,” says Ethos Vice President Pamela Divinsky, who notes that social responsibility is a way for a company to differentiate itself from its competition. “Ultimately, they do business with us because they believe it will affect their bottom line.”

Sounding a note of caution is J. Walker Smith, president of Chapel Hill, N.C., research consultancy Yankelovich. He says, “Consumer trust in big business is about as low as it has ever been. There is a huge risk of backlash if people think that you’re not being sincere or authentic in the initiatives that you’re taking in the marketplace.”

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. Can’t help but think this type of advertising is a rung below political advertising—or even like diversity advertising. If a company is truly doing good things, why spend money bragging about it? Be a responsible corporate citizen, do your good deeds, and let word-of-mouth happen naturally.

  2. Do you know the origins of cause related marketing? In 1959, shortly after Martin Calle created THE GREEN CARD for American Express, the rest of the investment community wanted to get in on the bandwagon. Copy cats flourished including Visa and MasterCard. Consumers gobbled up credit until the insideous truth came out in advertising – LIFE TAKES VISA.
    Anyway, back to the subject. Looking for disruptive ways to segment the market and create new categories of goods and services, Martin Calle, later to become founder of Calle & Company whose positioning strategies carried the brands of P&G during the 70s, 80s and 90s was hired as a consultant by THE NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE to find new “product-based” selling solutions to this marketing problem.
    Early research with consumers revealed a desire on the part of institutional investors to place substantial holdings in politally correct investments as a way to offset legislative incursions. The first cause-related investment opportunity piloted by Solomon Brothers grouped companies protecting the wilderness with politically correct logging and “deforestation/replenishment” strategies in 1971. It was a breakthrough, as investors both private/retail and commercial/institutional can choose from a bevy of cause-related places to park capital.
    Martin Calle III
    Chief of Strategy
    Disruptive Consumer Intelligence

  3. Martin Calle,
    Do the origins of cause marketing really matter? We should examine and question cause marketing as it exists today. Why do these corporations feel the need to hype their good deeds? To offset the greater bad deeds? Dow launched its Human Element campaign, yet one can’t help but wonder why the corporation didn’t use the advertising and media budget to help a community its products have harmed. Ditto BP with its inane messages. Stop telling us you’re doing good things. Rather, do more meaningful good things. The public will recognize legitimate good deeds without a multimillion-dollar marketing effort.