I’ve just belatedly read a bit in Ad Age declaring the importance of values such as sustainability and social responsibility in the year ahead, and offering various resolutions for 2009 to its readership of commercial persuasion pros. Number 3 is:
Pick a local, entrepreneurial company that has a business model with social or envieronmental responsibility at its core, and go and work for them — pro-bono if there’s no other way.
That strikes me as pretty lame and unimaginative.
Why? Because the basic paradigm offered is that all agencies do is “go and work for” somebody. They don’t have their own ideas, they don’t have their own beliefs. They’re willing to “work for” someone who stands for something — but they themselves stand for nothing. And are (or so this “resolution” suggests) essentially incapable of standing for anything.
So I would say a better resolution might be:
Pick an idea that you believe in — with social or environmental responsibility at its core.
Now go out there and use your persuasion talents to advance that idea in the public sphere. Change behavior in ways that do not involve buying your clients’ stuff, that do not involve the profit motive at all.
Do it because you — yes, you; not an entrepreneur or a brand that you work for; you — actually believe in something, and you stand for something, and you have ideas, and you care.
Don’t look for a client, pro bono or otherwise, who has values. Just have values.
In fact, I hereby issue the Murketing Challenge to all commercial persuasion pros (in advertising, marketing, PR, “ideation,” whatever) for 2009: If you do a project like this, of any kind, something where you, the commercial persuader, or your agency, does work to advance an idea that you believe in, tell me about it and I will happily publicize it here. And if anybody really does anything, maybe I’ll even give out a prize. (If so I would base it on the reactions of Murketing.com readers, etc., not just my personal reaction.)
This is not work on behalf of a client of any kind — company, nonprofit, politician, political group, or charity — it’s work on behalf of you, and something you believe in.
It can be as big as unconsumption, and as small as making a positive change in the neighborhood where you are based.
If you like this idea, then spread this post, and tell me what you come up with at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you don’t like this idea, then don’t.