Contribute Something To The Culture

Deborah Morrison, an academic with a storied history of preparing creatives for the ad biz, recently penned an interesting column for Talent Zoo. Her thesis is that creatives often look beyond the brief, to make larger commentary on the society.

There’s a solid group of professionals working out there, creating content beyond the simple obligation to sell products honestly, beyond persuasion and strategy, beyond even the cool and groovy of a hip new brand.
These people are working to change culture, all the while doing a helluva job making ads.
It’s not volunteerism or pro bono work I’m talking about, though we all know those are important gifts to the community. The focus here is on smart strategy honing sharp ads for mainstream goods and services. It seems to me that the people crafting those ads often have an interesting two-pronged agenda. Their first objective is to produce relevant, rewarding work for a client. But the second objective for these creatives is to help fuel how people think and feel, how they frame issues and ideas in a cultural context. It’s about doing something meaningful that is beyond obligation.

Morrison makes an excellent point. Advertising is a powerful medium. It’s rarely used for good, but in the rare cases when it is, everyone wins. My favorite example of this, is Janet Champ’s work for Nike in the mid-90s, which was all about female empowerment. It just happened to be brought to you by a shoe company. Dove is up to the same thing today. Dove’s efforts are not nearly as poetic, nor memorable, but the idea is right.
What are your favorite examples of work that sells more than the product or service at hand?



About David Burn

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. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.