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Brief Published: 4 Oct 2019

Ad:Tech 2019: Rules for Change

Co-op's latest ad campaign

At this year's Ad:Tech conference in London (September 25-26), speakers from brands such as the BBC and British retail company The Co-operative Group discussed key strategies for successfully engaging through purposeful content.

"There's an erosion of trust," commented Simon Shelley, global director of programme partnerships at the BBC, when asked to explain why consumers are responding positively to purposeful brand campaigns. "But I think brands are acting on this because they're feeling that this sentiment might change buying decisions, not for altruistic reasons."

Consumers will likely see through this, said Josephine Parmee, head of impact partnerships at UK media firm TCO London. Brands need to pursue "sustained initiatives that run at the heart of your business" if they don't want to be considered bandwagon-jumpers – take note of the backlash against Gillette's We Believe campaign, for example.

Parmee stressed that brand purpose "doesn't always have to be something creating social change – it can be about making life easier for your consumers, so they can make change." Tackle subtler systemic problems, she advised: "Think about your casting: cast women in leadership roles in your content; that's going to create role models."

For Manchester-based retail company Co-Op, the key to successful purpose-driven marketing was connecting at a local level. Discussing the brand's recent renovation, Cate Hardiman, strategy partner from Co-Op's media planning partner Dentsu Aegis, said: "People connect much more deeply with causes that are grounded in the everyday and much closer to home. That was the insight we built everything out from."

Dentsu worked with London-based cinema advertising agency DCM at 220 different picture houses around the UK to create location-specific overlays at the end of Co-Op cinema ads. Each overlay "connected the creative to the good being done in each community," said Hardiman. Out-of-home creative was also localised. In total, Co-Op put together 475 different executions, resulting in significant and sustained awareness from consumers, according to Sam Walker, head of marketing campaigns at The Co-operative Group.

For more on purpose-driven marketing, see How to Win Over Gen Z: YMS NYC 2019, and Brands as Change Leaders.