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.”