Dropping the checkbox: how Mindshare is ingraining CSR into its culture in Singapore

Mindshare uses industry collaboration to show CSR is baked into its culture

The days of ticking the corporate social responsibility (CSR) checkbox for the industry are long gone, as agencies and brands incorporate it into their DNA and even their identity.

Even as Mindshare hits its 20th anniversary, the idea of giving back through CSR initiatives still resound, with 2017’s Singapore Mindshare day aimed at helping Writing Through, a charity aiming to enhance fluency in spoken and written English, while developing and enhancing self-esteem.

James Campbell, general manager at Mindshare Singapore, explained that CSR is not something that can be bolted on, and is not just a flash-in-the-pan for Mindshare.

“Every responsible organisation has a mission… we do a lot of initiatives in the local community, such as working in a soup kitchen,” said Campbell, “I see CSR as an opportunity to make a difference and explore new and interesting things we can do with our partners as well as innovate.”

Amy Kean, strategy and Insights lead, APAC, Mindshare, added that CSR is no longer just a checkbox but something that employees look forward to.

“Working and collaborating with charities makes our own teams happy which is why Mindshare Day is always such a success,” said Kean.

The format for this year’s Mindshare Day has changed to reflect this collaboration with partners, encouraging not just its own staff to use talents but also media owners and suppliers.

The day was essentially a marketing hackathon, a similar format to The Drum’s Do It Day event, with Mindshare teams creating a campaign for Writing Through, using supplier-donated inventory. A winner was selected by a panel of experts from the partners and agency leadership.

Making time to help charities is something that one of Mindshare’s video content partner; Invisible Artists aims to do, according to Joanna Poulton, business director.

“For us, we think it is very important to be helping charities on a local-level, so we make time for initiatives like this,” said Poulton.

For Adcolony, another partner on the day, CSR has become embedded into its DNA. Tom Simpson, director of innovation and growth, APAC, said: “We are a business that is about fairness, so it [CSR} is part of our DNA.”

As for the charity, Writing Through, Martha Scarborough, Singapore coordinator, believes CSR initiatives allows employees the chance to give back something meaningful because it ties with their skill sets.

“I know if I was working for that kind of company, I’d really appreciate the opportunity to feel that I’d be making a difference for people who are unable to access that kind of expertise,” said Scarborough. “We can’t afford to hire this kind of help, and beyond that, the people that we serve won’t think of being able to access this.”

The objectives in the brief were to raise awareness for Writing Through and to primarily drive volunteer recruitment, donations and visitors to the website.

The winning campaign for Writing Through was “Hear Me Out,” by team Melissa, a campaign that focused on letting the people helped by Writing Through be heard.

“It’s not just about giving them a voice, but you have to hear them out, giving them a space and a chance to tell their story,” said Mie Akune, senior manager, Content +, Mindshare Singapore, “once we understand where they are at, we are more willing to help them.”

Marketing for gender equality

The theme for 2017’s Mindshare day was gender equality, a subject that has gained increasing prominence as women continue to face inequality, such as Snap’s only female director being paid less than her male counterparts.

While other organisations continue to struggle with gender equality and diversity, Invisible Artists seems to have it cracked, with their leadership split down the middle.

“There’s four of us in the Singapore office, two females and two males, and the MD (managing director) is female and has been leading the company for the last two years,” explained Poulton, “For us it is super important to have a balance in terms of experience, as well as gender equality.”

Diversity and gender equality is important not just as a point of fairness, but also as innovation and creativity drivers, which are business-critical for media companies, according to Adcolony’s Simpson.

“We’re built on diversity, it is one of the strengths of our business, as different viewpoints build creativity and creates the right environment for creativity to thrive,” said Simpson, “We believe in gender equality as diversity brings important advantages to the business.”

Mindshare’s Kean sees the agency as being responsible for co-leading the charge for gender equality with its clients, and dismisses any talk of just riding the trend.

“It's a way of future-proofing every single one of the businesses we work for,” said Kean, “by making sure we promote equality within our own business, we're making sure that we have access to the best talent and ideas, it really is that simple.”

While Kean claims that Mindshare has a good start with a healthy spilt of male and female leaders, the agency is aiming higher, hoping to tackle the inequality where it is evident.

“The aim of this initiative was to use our fortunate position to tackle inequality in areas where the situation isn't so balanced, like education in some APAC markets,” said Kean.

Achieving change

While it is great to give back with core competencies, what does Mindshare and its partners hope to achieve at the end of the day? And how do such initiatives benefit both the charity, as well as participating organisations?

Writing Through’s Scarborough, believes that such CSR initiatives benefit charities in raising awareness, as well as reaching a wider audience.

“Mindshare has helped us in thinking bigger and reaching a much wider audience, because mostly we’ve [had] a tiny social media presence and word of mouth,” said Scarborough, ”this is a way of helping us move to the next level and become more professional in our visibility.”

Kean agrees, seeing this as not just a great way to give back to charities but also understand their media partners better.

“It's a great way to get to know our media partners' offerings even better, and finally to create a campaign for a charity that would not otherwise have the funds to promote themselves and fulfill their big ambitions,” said Kean.

Normal issues about competition get tossed aside, as well in achieving a better outcome for charity, shared James Rogers, head of sales, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam at Inmobi.

“We’re almost taking ourselves out of the day-to-day business and collaborating more closely with our competitors than we ever have done, as well as our agency partners,” he said.

The outcome for Mindshare, according to Kean, is sending out a positive message on committing to gender equality and providing a catalyst for innovation for its employees.

“We hope to send out a positive message to both employees and the wider industry about the need to commit to the promotion of gender equality,” says Kean, “it's an opportunity for our teams to think differently and provocatively away from the everyday constraints of the office.”

As for the winning campaign, the team hopes to roll it out as soon as possible according to Lyn Lim, account manager, Mindshare Singapore.

“All thanks to our media partners, if not we would never be able to land this,” said Lim,” what we want to achieve for them [Writing Through] is more donors, more volunteers, more awareness about their cause and what it’s all about.”

Elsewhere within Mindshare this week, all 87 global studios took part in a day long project which saw staff challenged by Mindshare North America chief strategy officer Cindy Gustafson to ‘advance gender equality through the lens of a brand’.

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