For harnessing the tools of marketing to fix society and capitalizing on watercooler moments to promote important causes, we explore the best organizations in marketing in 2018.
2018 may not have been the breakout year for virtual reality that some trends decks predicted, but from a surprising source came a powerful reminder of why the technology has the potential to be so much more than a gimmick. That unlikely hub of innovation was the Loros Hospice in the English city of Leicester, which has embraced VR to transform the lives of terminally ill people.
Thanks to Loros’ partnership with VR studio Cats Are Not Peas, its patients have been given one more opportunity to revisit some of their favorite places. They’ve already enjoyed specially created VR tours taking in serene spots such as the Chatsworth House stately home, the Gower peninsula and a treasured local park, and the hospice recently ran a competition to encourage filmmakers to help expand its library of therapeutic experiences. Loros is now partnering with similar organizations across the UK to give their patients the same gift of escapism.
Experiencing VR has not only sparked happy reminiscing among the patients, but some have even reported that it has distracted them from their pain. “This is, by definition, the reason VR exists,” said Cats are not Peas’ Alex Rühl, one of the driving forces behind the pioneering project. “It’s to give someone who can’t have an experience an experience. To make the impossible possible.”
Against the backdrop of #MeToo and #TimesUp grassroots feminist group Level Up has enacted change across the marketing and media industry from, well, the ground up.
The inclusive feminist organization launched in January with one mission: to end sexism in the UK. Its 50,000-plus members have already had a palpable impact across the marketing and media industry.
In June it launched a campaign to get Love Island to stop showing cosmetic surgery and diet pill ads during its commercial breaks after its own research found that 40% of women who watched the popular show felt more self-conscious about their bodies afterwards. Level Up issued a rallying cry to supporters to contact ITV about it and thousands did.
The movement eventually prompted the channel’s chief executive Carolyn McCall to launch an internal review into whether ads for cosmetic surgery were appropriately aired next to the summer smash hit.
Level Up’s latest work has been focused on getting the Independent Press Standards Organization (Ipso) to introduce guidelines on reporting domestic violence deaths, which it believes are “often reported in a way that compromises the dignity of the deceased woman and her surviving family” and getting Facebook to take harassment seriously.
Despite sending ripples throughout the industry, the organization has a small team: executive director Carys Afoko, who is a former comms director at SumOfUs, Bryony Walker, who previously worked for petitioning platform 38 Degrees, and Janey Starling who joined from Shelter’s campaign team.
The Football Association
‘Everyone seems to know the score, they’ve seen it all before.’ For fans of the England men’s football team, summer tournaments have followed an all too familiar pattern: a dismal early exit followed by weeks of flagellation on the nation’s airwaves and social media. Convinced that, once again, England’s over-hyped mercenaries were gonna throw it away, gonna blow it away, the build-up to the World Cup in Russia was one of the most subdued in recent memory.
On the eve of the tournament the FA announced its squad not with the traditional pompous press release but with an inspired social video created by Wieden+Kennedy. Channeling the spirit of its ‘LDNR’ campaign for Nike (England’s kit sponsor, it just so happens), the short film showed kids from across the country revealing the names of the 23-man traveling party. It was the first sign that English football's governing body – hitherto hardly celebrated for its fan-friendliness – was going to adopt a radically different approach to this tournament.
A canny move to get the country’s ever-critical media onside followed. Broadcasters, news reporters and even vloggers were invited to a Superbowl-style press day at England’s training base at St George’s Park where every player (freshly media trained to bring down their barriers) was put up for interview. This new spirit of openness, which would later see players take on the press corps in darts matches after training in Russia, stood in stark contrast to that ill-fated Euro 2016 campaign when goalkeeper Joe Hart refused to even tell the media which player had won the team’s in-house battle of the arrows.
If you’re English, you’ll remember what happens next. 6-1 against Panama. A once-in-a-lifetime penalty shootout victory against Colombia. Harry Maguire’s slabhead. Moments to be replayed again and again set to a backdrop of tweets and memes from young men who actually looked like they were loving their job for once, lapped up by fans who were loving their team.
You’ll remember another familiar refrain too, of course. It didn’t come home in the end, but for once, that didn’t really matter.
Greenpeace is on the front line of driving awareness about environmental causes – a role all the more important now a climate change denier sits in the White House. Microbeads, fracking, plastics, renewable energies, fishing and deforestation are just a few of the topics that have hit its agenda in 2018, and have all been tackled with creative comms activations.
Greenpeace presented a pastiche of Coca-Cola’s Christmas lorries to tackle ocean plastic, a host of anthropomorphic hip-hop barbecue meats in France to encourage vegetarianism and, most recently, a painstakingly hand-crafted animation that explores the dark underbelly of palm oil production. Readers will by now be very familiar with the palm oil animation featuring Rang-tan that UK retailer Iceland tried and failed to run as a Christmas campaign.
The campaign group told The Drum how it encourages creative freedom across all of its regional cells and encourages staff to “break out of the box” with its creative.
John Sauven, the charity’s executive director for the UK, outlined the strength of the group’s convictions, noting: “There are forces much larger than us that have immense power and the immense power to hit back against us.”
In 2018, the world politically zigged where previous years zagged. Despite growing support for diversity and inclusion, for many the feeling is we are going backwards on both fronts. This makes strong, uniform organizations that can wield consistent and impactful messaging all the more relevant. Organizations also need to understand local nuance and cultural differences, and this is where UN Women has made its mark in 2018.
Major campaigns include ‘Making Every Women and Girl Count’, which aims to highlight that only 13% of countries dedicate state budgets towards collating gender statistics. It also ran ‘16 days of activism’ between the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Human Rights Day, as well as its ‘Ring the Bell for Gender Equality’ which asked stock exchanges to ring its bells for the cause on International Women’s Day.
These ran alongside smaller but smart, local executions. It also struck up some smart partnerships too, as UN Women in APAC worked alongside major co-working space WeWork to educate on its 50/50 parity messaging. In all of this, UN Women is showing how organizations can be globally impactful while retaining local relevance.
Singapore Tourism Board
The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) threw its weight behind the Crazy Rich Asians movie – the first film by a major Hollywood studio to feature a majority Asian American cast in a modern setting since The Joy Luck Club in 1993 – in the belief that it would show off Singapore, and Asians, to the world.
It succeeded, taking in more than $236m worldwide, making it the highest-grossing romantic comedy in a decade. The film also showcased Singapore in Hollywood, in a year when the country also hosted the Trump-Kim Summit.
The film also went a long way in strengthening STB’s new ‘Passion Made Possible’ branding, launched in 2017 in the hope of showcasing the country’s entrepreneurial and innovative strengths to the world under a joint branding campaign between its tourism and business government agencies to market the country to tourists, consumers, investors and businesses.
The Drum's New Year Honors were first published in the January issue of The Drum magazine, which looks back at the year in marketing and advertising and mulls over some of the lessons learned in 2018. Buy your copy here.