World’s largest advertising companies put their differences aside for the Common Future

To help the United Nations tackle issues like poverty, climate change and inequality, the six largest advertising holding companies in the world along with independent advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy have joined forces. They will be lending personnel and expertise to develop a campaign to confront some of the world’s biggest problems.

In fact, on Wednesday (June 14), the Common Ground alliance launched the Common Future Project, an initiative aimed at driving awareness and action specifically among Gen Z, or 15- to 24-year-olds, in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted at the United Nations in 2015.

There are 17 SDGs the UN seeks to address by 2030, including: No poverty, zero hunger and gender equality.

Over a three-day period in April, teams including representatives from each of the advertising holding companies in the Common Ground alliance – Dentsu, Havas, IPG, Omnicom, Publicis Groupe and WPP – and Wieden+Kennedy, gathered at the YouTube Space NY to develop ideas to mobilize Gen Z around these SDGs via YouTube.

Common Ground

Common Ground was established by the six major advertising holding companies in June 2016 at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. It represents a working partnership that transcends their commercial rivalry to: accelerate the achievement of the SDGs; demonstrate to the world the goals are of universal importance and require universal contribution, and inspire other industries to follow suit.

As The Drum previously reported, the idea started with a conversation between WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell and former US Vice President Al Gore at Cannes the year before, with Sorrell calling on his competitors to join forces against climate change.

In addition to the YouTube campaign, each holding company will also focus on one SDG: Havas on climate change, IPG on safe water, Publicis on food, Dentsu on health, Omnicom on education and WPP on gender diversity.

In a joint statement, Toshihiro Yamamoto, president and chief executive of Dentsu; Yannick Bolloré, chief executive of Havas; Michael Roth, chief executive of IPG; John Wren, president and chief executive of Omnicom; Arthur Sadoun, chief executive of Publicis; Neil Christie, global chief operating officer of Wieden+Kennedy; and Sorrell said:

“In the year since the launch of Common Ground, we have seen companies across the world uniting behind the [SDGs]. The Common Future Project is an unprecedented physical manifestation of that commitment to collaborate and to the important role our industry can take in addressing some of the world's most pressing challenges.”

Common Future

As part of the three-day workshop hosted by YouTube earlier this year, teams had briefings from the UN Deputy Secretary General and the UN’s SDG team on the challenges of galvanizing Gen Z and others around the SDGs. The teams also “explored the cultural influence of YouTube and how the power of video is helping brands and creators generate positive social change”, the release said.

From there, the teams brainstormed ideas, such as a good news network to spotlight there’s still good in the world, a feel good fix to prompt young people to do something good whenever they use their mobile devices to swipe on a love interest or take a selfie and even a proposed movement to demand the voting age be lowered. Participants voted on the ideas to determine which would move forward.

On the final day, the teams had three hours to shoot, produce and edit rough videos of their concepts before pitching a panel of experts including: UN SDG advocate Alaa Murabit; Jake Horowitz, co-founder of media company Mic.com; Madonna Badger, chief creative officer, Badger and Winters; and Golriz Lucina, head of creative, SoulPancake.

A virtual cross-agency team is developing and producing the winning idea into a broader campaign, which will be revealed this summer.

A release also noted it will tap into storytelling capabilities on YouTube, including built-for-mobile bumper ads (:06) and longer-form content. Torrence Boone, vice president of global agency development at Google, said the former is a “bite-size ad format we built for mobile, which connects directly to [Gen Z]”.

In addition, Google is committing a grant of global YouTube media to support and amplify the campaign.

‘50% say they can’t live without YouTube’

Boone said Google felt YouTube was a really powerful platform to address Gen Z because they are tuned in and they are socially and politically active.

“We found compelling based on our research [that] Gen Zers are 50% more likely to care about making an impact on the world than Millennials [were] at the same age. You often hear about how socially, politically attuned and invested Millennials are – Gen Z is even more so,” Boone said. “You marry that with the fact that they are tuned in – 50% say they can’t live without YouTube…they spend a tremendous amount of time exchanging videos – it just makes sense we tap into that scale and influence to create a rallying cry…we know video is a really powerful medium and YouTube specifically has demonstrated the ability to move people in exceptional ways, to be at the forefront of a number of social movements.”

In a statement, UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed added, “The Sustainable Development Agenda is the most ambitious anti-poverty, pro-planet agenda ever adopted by the UN. The Common Future Project recognizes the power of young people as global agents of change. I commend the Common Ground partners for this creative effort to transform the video platforms that young people use into platforms for action for a world of peace and dignity for all.”

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