Conscious advertising: why Media Bounty puts purpose at the heart of its agency model

Members of the Media Bounty team trekked the bridges of London.

Media Bounty won the Grand Prix at The Drum Agency Business Awards 2019, having already clinched the Social Media Agency of the Year and Corporate Purpose awards. Here, the agency reveals how and why it is has put ethical standards at the heart of its business philosophy.

The challenge

We are Media Bounty. A creative social media agency with a conscience. For us, corporate purpose means more than just words. It means stepping up to take responsibility for effecting change.

We are facing unprecedented threats to our way of life and very existence – we believe individuals and businesses have a responsibility to effect social and environmental change, and we seek to partner with brands taking this responsibility seriously. In fact, consumers are demanding it.

The 2019 Havas Meaningful Brands report suggests 55% of people believe companies have a more important role than governments in creating a better future.

Of course, this social and environmental consciousness is becoming very fashionable in 2019. But not many agencies have a 10-year track record in this arena. We do.

The strategy

Protecting our world for future generations is central to our vision (along with the long-term growth of our clients and our people). That means having an environmental conscience, but also working in a socially conscious way and embracing genuine transparency to effect change in our industry too.

Environmental

Since our inception 10 years ago, we have supported our charity partner, World Land Trust - an international conservation charity protecting critically threatened habitat, acre by acre. To date, we have donated in excess of £58,000, saving habitat equivalent to the size of Monaco (and some!).

This support has been consistent since we started the business, with us making a donation for each client project we undertake – meaning we’ve donated even when historically we haven’t made a profit. But we are more than just a donor. We have invested time, as well as money, over the long-term. One of our directors is an ambassador for the charity and our whole team is engaged with the cause. We frequently undertake pro-bono work to support the charity’s comms. This year we produced a comprehensive social media strategy for them, volunteered at their events, and continue to work on an ongoing consultancy basis.

In Q4 2018 six of us fundraised in excess of £2,000 by walking the Thames Bridges Trek to raise money to protect the Nangaritza Valley in Ecuador.

Later this month we are closing the agency to join the Global Climate Strike and have been approached to talk to other agencies in the ‘Create & Strike’ movement about how they can clean up their acts with regard to the type of companies they work with. We blacklist certain industries – we have turned down lucrative briefs from petrochemical, tobacco and gambling companies in 2019 alone.

We are also organising a canal clean with former employee and #PlasticPatrol founder, Lizzie Carr. And we’re proud to use 100% renewable energy, be militant about recycling (Gold status with First Mile recycling!), choose eco office products where possible, and work to reduce our carbon footprint.

Social

Since the agency was founded, we have offered all staff up to five days supplementary paid leave for voluntary work in the community as a contractual benefit. To date, our employees have partaken in a broad range of activities including: listening to school children read in schools; supporting youth groups with mentoring and summer camps; cooking meals in homeless shelters; gardening for an urban bee project; building an artificial reef in Thailand; and supporting the elderly LGBTQ+ community. We strongly believe this supports our employees’ personal development as well as benefitting the community and/or environment.

Earlier this year we also undertook a pro-bono media campaign for Clarity (soap company) which provides employment, training and support for people with disabilities.

On a more personal level, we believe in offering staff a genuine work/life balance and were early adopters of flexible working. This revolves around core hours of 10am to 4pm and employees can time-shift their day either side of that. Working from home is also an established part of our culture. In practical terms, this means that one member of our staff has just successfully completed his MA and made this compatible with a full-time role. In addition, we have a number of parents working part-time, all on different working patterns.

Industry

We passionately believe in dealing responsibly, openly and fairly with clients and potential clients. We are strong advocates of genuinely transparent media, and have a zero-tolerance policy towards bribery, corruption and anti-competitive practices. We rally against the culture of rebates and marking up third party costs. By maintaining these ethical standards we believe we are able to maintain the trust that is essential for long-term client relationships to flourish. Our greatest achievement in this area has been the establishment of the Conscious Advertising Network (CAN), founded by our MD, Jake Dubbins and strategist Harriet Kingaby.

The initiative seeks to ensure industry ethics catch up with the technology of modern advertising, by, for example, eradicating ad fraud, producing diverse content, and ensuring brands are not funding hate speech or ‘fake news’. We are proud partners of Fenestra and offer complete transparency in the ad buying supply chain.

In the context of all of this, we want to work with brands to help them find their brave. We’re immensely proud of our work with Bodyform which has broken taboos around menstruation and female bodies and helped them achieve recognition as Brave Brand of the Year in Q4 2018.

The results

2019 saw the official launch of CAN. As co-founders Jake and Harriet formed this voluntary coalition of more than 60 organisations to ensure industry ethics keeps pace with digital technology.

The aim is to actively encourage the advertising industry to adopt a leadership position on these ethical issues by embedding relevant criteria into company internal policies, creative guidelines and agency briefs. The initiative has the backing of ISBA and led to Jake being invited to address the UN Compact on Migration in Marrakesh in December 2018.

Media Bounty has led the way in adopting the principles it helped to formulate. We have just been shortlisted with Fenestra for the Tech Transparency Award in the M&M Global Awards for International Media and Marketing, for work we did with Method & Ecover.

We are also honoured to have been chosen by Greenpeace and UKSGN to work with them on a media campaign for the Global Climate Strike later this month.

“We love their commitment to ethical advertising, something which is very important to us an ethical and transparent brand, and sets them apart from their competition. Media Bounty care and are truly committed to doing the right thing, partnering with us to achieve the most efficient, effective and engaging campaigns we’ve ever had.” - Holly Rix, Head of Brand, People Against Dirty (Method & Ecover).

“The relationship we have with Media Bounty is hugely important to us as an organisation. Their passion for what they do, what we do and their ethical approach shines through and we are extremely pleased to be working with them.” - Dan Bradbury, Director of Communications & Development, World Land Trust.

"Great boutique agency that always delivers challenging, engaging content. Understands brand DNA and business context and able to adapt team structure to respond to business needs. A pleasure to work with." - Nicola Coronado, marketing director, Essity (parent company of Bodyform).

Media Bounty was a winner at The Drum Agency Business Awards 2019.

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