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Creativity for Good: These Campaigns Inspired Social Change in 2018

From reducing ocean waste and environmental degradation to hate-speech-detecting AI, these innovative advertising and social campaigns use creative ingenuity to help make the world a better place.

While Millennials and younger generations are praised for seeing through the haze of classic Mad Men style campaigns, these ads are still a big part of our cultural landscape. Brands continue to dedicate massive budgets to their production and placement. Superbowl advertising spots, for example, according to this article in Ad Age, have continued to rise year-over-year, with an average spend of just over $5MM for a 30-second spot in 2017.

In good contrast, many agencies known for inventively slinging products have also dedicated resources to producing creative campaigns for social change. Many regularly use their creativity to support progressive causes and non-profit organizations that might not have stadium-sized budgets.

Often racking up recognition at prestigious awards shows like Cannes Lions and D&AD’s Impact Awards, these campaigns use the same creative chops for selling product as they do for creating change in the world. Below are a few favorites from 2018. This is just the tip of the creative iceberg — we’d love to hear what other socially conscious campaigns moved you — drop us a note or link in the comments.

Danger In The Water

Advertising Agency: Partners + Napier, Rochester, USA
Organization: Project Worldwide

In November 2018, Less Plastic, a UK organization established in 2015 to raise awareness about the environmental impact of plastic in the oceans partnered with Project Worldwide to create a series of playful, yet hard-hitting posters, print and social ad highlighting the danger of hastily discarded plastic materials on ocean life.

In one photo highlighting the threat of Tsunamis, a plastic garbage bag is molded to resemble a giant wave below the text “More than 8 million metric tons of plastic flood our ocean every day.” In another, plastic knives protrude from the surface of the ocean (also illustrated by garbage bags!), with the text “More than 100,000 marine animals lose their lives to plastic each year.”

The visual parallels are some of the smartest we’ve seen, the photography is direct and effective, and the copy is spot on. It’s creative, approachable, and visually edgy without feeling dogmatic or sensational.

The Coming Out Kit

Agency: AMV BBDO
Organization: The Outside Project

In celebration of Pride UK 2018, AMV BBDO and The Outside Project partnered to create The Coming Out Kit a campaign to drive awareness about LGBTQ homelessness in the UK. According to campaign stats, 1 in 4 homeless people in the UK identify as LGBTQ, yet their voices often go unnoticed. So, going deeper than celebratory, rainbow emblazoned paraphernalia, the kit included things needed for surviving on the street: a sleeping bag, a woolly hat, warm socks. Gina Kelly and Olga Pope, the creatives behind the idea, said: “Pride London has come and gone, but not everyone could go home afterwards.” Each item in the kit is decorated with a quote from an LGBTQ person telling their story.

The kit was paired with an online film and website: comingoutkit.com displaying its saddening contents while encouraging readers to donate to the cause.

The Palau Pledge / Palau Legacy Project

Agency: Host/Havas and Red Agency
Palau Legacy Project

Technically this launched at the end of 2017, but it gathered momentum in 2018 and is so direct and impactful that we decided to include it in our list for 2018. Historically, the Oceanic country of Palau has been subject to incredible environmental degradation, largely a result of litter from visiting tourists.

To help curb this, Host/Havas and Red Agency partnered with the Palau Legacy Project to produce a “pledge” — a contract stamped on tourists passports upon visiting, pledging to not only abstain from littering and behave environmentally responsibly during their stay, with fines reaching up to $1MM. This clean, no frills stamp, was translated into multiple languages for maximum impact, was paired with a robust PR campaign to help build awareness for the project, and won awards from D&AD, Cannes Lions, The Clio Awards and more.

Safe, Affordable Energy on Demand

Advertising Agencies: Ogilvy Colombia, Ogilvy Guatemala
Client: Kingo

Ogilvy Colombia worked with Kingo, a startup that produces prepaid solar energy kits to rural communities that have no access to electricity. Leonardo DiCaprio recently came on as a major investor, and to announce his involvement, spread the word about Kingo’s mission and raise awareness about the need for access to safe energy, Ogvily produced this documentary-style video which won multiple awards including a Cannes Lion, as well as critical acclaim in magazines like Ad Age, Fast Company, AdWeek Adforum and Creative Review.

Perspectives: Cyberbullying

Agency: Wunderman
Client: Movistar

Cyberbullying continues to be a major problem around the world with lasting effects. So leading digital agency Wunderman worked with Movistar in Buenos Aires to produce “Perspectives,” a mobile campaign developed using a unique digital storytelling tool allowing viewers to experience dual video perspectives simultaneously — simply by rotating their phones.

“Perspectives” presents the story of a teenager split between parallel timelines viewers can follow. On one side, viewers see cyberbullying happening at school. When the phone is rotated, the alternative scenario shows the teenager at home, where you can see the gradual changes in their mood and behavior resulting from their experience. Like a classic choose-your-own-adventure story, it has two different endings depending on the viewer (adults or kids) with a call of action for adults to understand the signs of cyberbullying from teenagers and encourage the victims to ask adults for help.

From Up Here: Delta Election Day

Agency: Wieden + Kennedy
Brand: Delta

The United States’ political climate is increasingly divided. Online and in-real-life echo-chambers don’t help this and leading up to the midterm elections this past November, tensions seemed to be mounting greater than ever before.

In response, Delta hired Weiden + Kennedy to produce a From Up Here, a commercial which aired on election day highlighting not what pulls Americans apart, but what brings them together. While the company stirred controversy for removing discounts to NRA members, the video remains non-partisan in its approach. It’s an uplifting video, a compilation of various aerial shots of United States topography as a metaphor for the vast, diverse landscapes shared by diverse people, paired with a calm, inspiring narration.

“When you rise above the noise, the tweets, the talking heads, what you hear and what you see are two different things. You hear about how we’re a nation divided. Yet from where we sit, we see no such thing.”

In a LinkedIn post, Delta CEO Ed Bastian crystalised the mission of the ad:

“We witness this every day, not only on our airplanes and at our airports, but through the examples we set by living by our values of respect, integrity and inclusion.”

The R Word

Agency: Marketforce / BBDO
Organization: Avivo

The word “retarded” packs a similar sting to the n-word and countless other derogatory terms. Yet many consider it fair game, letting it roll off the tongue, on Twitter, where it appears once every 5 seconds and other forms of social media with no thought to its damaging consequences. Its bite hits not only people with Down’s Syndrome and other conditions it refers to, but to their family and friends.

To counter its overuse, Avivo, an Australian non-profit championing people with disabilities partnered with BBDO to create a Twitter bot to detect any English language use of the word and instantly replied to their tweets with one of twelve one-on-one video messages from people affected by the word. Offenders were also directed to the project’s website to learn more about the effects of the word’s overuse and the people behind each video. The campaign’s thoughtful creativity gained it a Bronze Lion Award at this year’s Creative Data Lions, had global engagement across 30 countries, and 62% of recipients watched their video message. Within one week of launching, direct video messages had been viewed over 10,000 times.


Organization: Life After Hate

This campaign is similar to BBDO and Avivo’s “The R Word,” but responds to a broader umbrella of hate speech on the rise. The campaign leads with a video, which begins with various stats on the rise of hate speech. For example, it cites, in 2017 alone, there were 16 million hate speech tweets, eclipsing the Super Bowl by over 5 million. To counter this, with a deep understanding of social media’s power to globally spread messages — good and bad — POSSIBLE Agency produced a campaign designed to transform hate into donations for the organization Life After Hate.

Like “The R Word” campaign, POSSIBLE, in conjunction with the social software Spredfast, developed an AI platform to identify hate speech, measure its impact, and respond. Hateful tweets were handed to a real human who would respond “This hateful tweet is now being countered. Think twice before retweeting. For every retweet, a donation will be committed to a non-profit fighting for equality, inclusion and diversity,” and $1 was donated to the organization for every retweet.

Safer ≠ Safe

Agency: 72 and Sunny
Client: Truth

As vaping has become a phenomenon over the past few years, many young adults justify it as “safer than smoking.” While this is true on some level, it’s not entirely safe, and often has its own health-impinging consequences, and many young vapers have been resistant to hearing messaging against it. So 72 and Sunny worked with anti-smoking organization Truth to create a funny, absurd campaign using puppets to help shed some light. The agency has a long history of collaborating with Truth, and its light-hearted, nostalgic tone, and, like many of these campaigns, communicates an important message while avoiding potentially condescending dogma.


Agency: Edelman Miami
Organization: Mentes Puertorriqueñas en Acción (MPA)

In September 2017, hurricanes Irma and Maria ravaged Puerto Rico — leaving thousands dead and many homeless and without basic resources. This past year, Edelman Miami partnered with non-profit Mentes Puertorriqueñas en Acción (MPA) to provide hands-on assistance with cleanup, raise funds for rebuilding.

The Price of Our Lives

Agency: McCann New York
Organization: March For Our Lives

A simple price tag design with a simple message. Responding to a wave of student shootings in the United States, McCann created a wearable $1.05 price tag to symbolize the price politicians — calculated by dividing the amount the received from the NRA by the total number of students — put on student lives. The price tags were downloadable and distributed on social media by student activists like Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg with massive Twitter followings. They also wore the pricetags during media interviews, increasing the visibility by hundreds of thousands of people.

First Breath — Alzheimer’s Research UK

Agency: AMV BBDO
Client: Alzheimer’s Research UK

In advance of World Alzheimer’s day on September 21, 2018, AMV BBDO and Alzheimer’s Research UK produced this moving short film of a baby swimming in a dark underwater world destined to break free and find the light. It’s all about survival, and English actress Lena Headey, known for playing Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones, ads her compelling voice to the spot, with music from Hollywood composer Daniel Hart.

What Have They Done / What Diversity Gives Us

Agency: Dailey
Client: What Diversity Gives Us

This simply designed website responds to the often asked question “What has ___ (ethnic, religious, etc) group done for America anyway?” filling in the blank with a clickable opportunity to see that group’s contributions to American history, industry, government, and a limitless range of possibilities. Beyond a comprehensive list of results, many of the contributions are not what one might stereotypically expect. For example, the first result querying “Jews” is “White Christmas Song,” the first result for “Muslims” is “Surgery,” African Americans is “Humanity,” and Mexicans is “Extinction Theory.” Each result is clickable, backed by supporting evidence and stories.

This is a great example of how the simplicity of design, combined with deep data and research can inspire and hopefully change popular perceptions.

Immigration: 14,000 and Counting

Agency: 72U (72 And Sunny)

72U — 72 and Sunny’s creative residency program, after learning that the number of detained children had risen from 2,400 in 2017 to 14,00 in 2018, decided to take action. Referencing the 1980s and 1990s missing children campaign that ran on milk cartons across the United States, the agency created a 20ft milk carton. It was comprised of many smaller cartons with text that referenced what each child was missing while they were being detained: love, hugs, freedom, play, and much more.

Think we missed a stellar socially charged 2018 campaign? Feel free to share it with us in the comments!

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Jon Feinstein @ Wemark

Jon Feinstein @ Wemark

Director of Content Marketing Strategy at Wemark