Socially Responsible Advertising

A reflection and call to action from AdWeek New York.

We recently sent two people from the Level team to #AWNewYork. They took us behind the scenes of the New York hustle on Snapchat, and captured live, inspiring chats from industry leaders like Sheryl Sandberg and Marc Pritchard on Twitter. Below, our Director of Client Services shares her personal perspectives and takeaways from the week’s events.


I’ve been in the industry for over 10 years. Not green but, also not a grizzled veteran. I had my inaugural attendance at Advertising Week in New York this past week. I gained new perspectives on the industry as a whole, and the prospect we have to impact positive change in the world.

I spend most of my working days in the Silicon Valley surrounded by brilliant and creative minds, but somehow my perspective was narrow. I was so focused on the people and the developments happening between the white walls and white desktops and big shiny displays that I lost sight of truly focusing on the impact of what we create and how we create it.


Sure, every business needs to make a profit to stay alive and it’s the essence of advertisers to help them do this through engaging and thoughtful storytelling. Advertisers help market and sell the product, sell the story, sell the self. This is not news to anyone. However, just think for a moment about where we are today and how far we have come with data driven marketing and advertising. Think about how much we know about consumer behavior and engagement. According to the McKinsey&Company 2015 Global Media Report, total global media spending will reach above $2 trillion by 2019. And a stat cited at Adweek claimed P&G ads “…touch 5 billion people around the world alone.”

Think about the sheer volume of resources we have invested in: blogs, podcasts, whitepapers, and conferences all focused on customer acquisition, sales, marketing — all trying to help us be the best in the industry. The majority of these resources strive to improve sales of consumer products and services. However, when Taco Bell leverages these tools to go all out, running a HUGE influencer campaign leading up to a 30-second Super Bowl spot just to unveil a new type of taco, I have to ask: where is the social good in that? Why didn’t they unveil it live at a foodbank or a Boys and Girls Club?

Why aren’t there more brands and companies in the world leveraging the opportunity of their overwhelming reach and resources as a platform to effect positive change and demonstrate social responsibility?


Nielsen conducted a study in 2014 on corporate social responsibility. There were over 30,000 consumers in 60 countries that took part. More than 50% of respondents confirmed that they are willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies committed to positive social and environmental impact.

According to Amy Fenton from Nielsen, “It’s no longer a question if consumers care about social impact. Consumers do care and show they do through their actions. Now the focus is on determining how your brand can effectively create shared value by marrying the appropriate social cause and consumer segments.”

As catalysts within the advertising industry, we can help get brands there.


Last week, Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer at Procter & Gamble shared an example of a top consumer brand in India doing this the right way.

The Ariel #Sharetheload campaign leveraged their advertising platform to create social awareness and push for gender neutrality in India — it also increased product sales by 60%. #Sharetheload messaging was cleverly placed on garment wash instruction care tags, as well as on the most popular India based match making’s website questionnaire. Take a look at their powerful ad spot.


So what am I saying? Being passionate about a socially responsible cause can lead to strong, more meaningful stories. In this industry, we have the opportunity to reach billions of people around the world at any given moment. It’s not just about how your company is running a socially responsible business and contributing with dollars or products to great causes. Creating awareness is just as important. It is what you are communicating via advertisements to the massive audiences waiting at every touch point.

Align your values as an individual with those you seek out as a business to think more critically about what the right partnerships are from brands to agencies to influencers. Be authentic and 100% behind anything you contribute to, and I bet you will see that this genuine, socially responsible storytelling will equal storyselling and — leave a positive impact on the world.


Building on this, I am challenging myself to find for-profit consumer brands, such as Ariel, that are leveraging their vast advertising platforms to tell stories that try to move the needle on good causes for positive change in the world. Stay tuned for my reports!

Mikal Robinson is Director of Client Services at Level, a purpose-driven digital design firm. Connect with Mikal on LinkedIn and Twitter to continue the conversation.