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Marketing Can Change the World Media Social Good

How LadBible’s redefinition of Lad is furthering social good


By John McCarthy, Opinion editor

July 10, 2018 | 7 min read

Over the last year, LadBible has been picking up awards left, right and centre for its social good pursuits, in particular, by creating a dialogue around mental health in young men and raising awareness of ocean plastic pollution. This is part of its mission to build a 'Positively Social’ platform that can harness an audience to effect change.

The publisher has come a long way in a short time, once a Facebook page in the void left by the collapse of lad mags, epitomised by weekly features such as Cleavage Thursday or Bumday Monday, which are purged from the archives. At the time, social community Everyday Sexism said LadBible exuded “a culture of misogyny sickeningly disguised as 'banter'."

Then, back in 2016, it was (at the time) marketing director Mimi Turner who was charged with turning around this perception, even jumping on the radio to deny LadBible was a sexist. She outlined that a quarter of the ‘Lads’ reading the site – were women. She did concede it time to “scale up” the content on the site, and do something more meaningful. The work was built upon by the editorial team in Manchester and the marketing team led Stephen Mai for the next few years, until his departure for Boiler Room.

It was time to listen to the audience that was quickly approaching 40% women, notably now with women sharing more LadBible content than men. Among its research efforts, it took to Instagram to ask the audience which issues they care deepest about. With this data, LadBible built some editorial and marketing cornerstones. Mental health was the audience's biggest concern, followed by the environment, and politics.

Now a few years and award wins down the line, Peter Heneghan, head of communications at LadBible told The Drum, “as a brand we have been constantly evolving”. For the last few years it has operated under the mantra “With Social Power Comes Social Responsibility”.

That social power, they say, equates to 1 billion monthly views and 62 million followers across its social portfolio. It has also made the bold claim to reach half of UK millennials.

The campaigns

At the back end of 2016, the brand drew its first line in the sand in this space with the ‘U OK M8’ campaign, looking to tackle the issue that suicide is the single biggest killer of British men under the age of 45. It worked with men’s mental health charity Calm which brought to the table research claiming that 41% of the men who contemplated ending their lives - never actually spoke to anyone about it.

That project is ongoing, and is openly visible on the home page. Editorially, this hub touches on mental health, suicides, celebs and role models talking about their depression. Heneghan admits this campaign, which won The Drum Dadi Award Grand Prix in 2017 (picked up by Mai), had to be relatable to the audience.


Heneghan said: “This was something that people wanted to talk about. Young men in particular struggled to talk about these issues so we created a campaign they could relate to, something they could use down the pub to talk to their mates. ‘Did you see that video on LadBible about mental health?' starts a conversation that leads to ‘hey guys, I'm struggling here’. Our content was an enabler.”

According to LadBible, the campaign reached 36 million people and had 823,000 engagements. The “Everyday Heroes’ video series racked up nearly 5m views and reached 11 million people. The articles populating the hub received 390,000 clicks.

Next in the tube was a collaboration with AMV BBDO who conceived the Trash Isles. Its idea to demonstrate just how much plastic is in the oceans by showing that the north Pacific Ocean hosts enough waste plastic to create a state almost the size of France.

Among a slew of celebrities getting behind the campaign was former vice president Al Gore, the first honorary citizen of the isle. British actor Judi Dench also became its queen and helped encourage members of the public to sign up for citizenship as the group tried to get the United Nations to identify the Plastic Isle as a state. The drive was developed with help from the Plastic Oceans Foundation who said it served as a “powerful tool for awareness”.

At Cannes Lions 2018, it scooped two Grand Prix Awards, putting the finishing touches on the publisher’s first official visit to the advertising festival.

Heneghan said: “After U OK M8 Was a great success, we now had the confidence to tackle the harder issues, knowing the audience would come with us.”

The Trash Isles, as a result, was a “marketing-led” effort, conceived by the agency, built upon and distributed by LadBible. “We joined the dots and released it, this was before Blue Planet spoke to a wider audience about plastic, the issue was out of sight and out of mind.”

He noted that these award wins, while not the reason for these social good efforts, helped legitimize the publisher in some critics’ eyes. “Industry perception of LadBible compared to where we were, was out of sync. We knew we reach a huge audience who love our content but there were older generations who were absolutely clueless about what we are all about. Winning several Cannes Lions has made them take us more seriously.”

Now, there’s a new campaign running on the site, called Free To Be. LadBible's creative agency Joyride, working with Smirnoff, is exploring what it really means to be a lad, exploring different aspects of nightlife with an exclusive lens looking to highlight minority communities including LGBTQ+ and disabled people. To date, it has shined a spotlight on the wisdom of a toilet attendant, a female bouncer, and two trans people, one a bodybuilder, the other a bartender and ran a series of articles about new lad culture.

Heneghan added: "We can bring our audience in a positive direction around inclusivity." He went on to say that the aim is to shift mass perception of these groups in a positive direction by the end of the year.

On the group's work, he concluded: "The audience wants to talk about these subjects, but you have to approach them in a relatable way. Rather than a straight-hard-hitting content or being dry, talk about it in a way that encourages the audience to participate. If you take it that way, bring them into the creative process and empower them, then they will come along for the ride."

Coming along for this ride just now is brands and groups including Smirnoff, a handful of government departments, Netflix, RNLI (who claim LadBible content saved six lives), Braun, Adidas, Halifax, McDonald's, Sony Pictures, Disney, Unilever, Cancer Research UK and Dominos.

The Drum’s deputy editor Cameron Clarke paneled an Advertising Week Europe session on social good campaigns where LadBible delved into a deeper discussion around their role developing meaningful campaigns.

To enter The Drum DADI Awards for your own chance to reward your own work, see the website for more details and an entry form.

Marketing Can Change the World Media Social Good

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LADbible is a social media and entertainment company based in London and Manchester, United Kingdom. 

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