What Does it Mean to do Purpose Properly?

One comms director’s reflections


Anthesis’s Orlando Warner insists that, in the right hands, purpose can still be much more than a buzzword.

Read the original article on The Drum

Apathy’s a Tragedy

The world is a gloomy place right now. Wars, malnutrition… you know the deal. And so much purpose work highlights the problems in a negative way, in effect burdening society with yet more negativity. I feel there’s a responsibility to at least try to find a positive angle, perhaps through humor or portraying a desired outcome, that doesn’t just highlight the problem and leave people feeling depressed and apathetic. Because apathy leads to a lack of action.

Yet action is exactly what’s needed. Absolutely everyone can make a difference. Every tiny decision we make on a daily basis has an effect in the world. From how we get to work, to the food we buy for lunch. Even our choice of toilet roll. We live in a world where we can make big differences through micro decisions. Creatively speaking, it’s really important the work helps people understand how they can help, because I genuinely believe most people want to; they just don’t know how. So it’s not just enough to do ‘awareness’ any more. I’m aware the world needs fixing, give me the tools to do it.

Whose Purpose?

I also believe in creating work that has a strong link between the brand and the purpose. It might sound obvious, but so much purpose work seems to be opportunistic – as much for the sake of creating noticeable advertising as it is for the cause itself. There’s an inauthenticity that consumers can sense. I believe in thoroughly researching the given subject before a creative solution is even considered. This affords you the confidence and credibility to execute an idea relevantly and effectively. Often, work is remembered only through the execution. I hope to create work that is remembered as much for the brand.

Our recent anti-bullying work for The Diana Award is, I hope, an example. It followed a survey of over 2,000 parents and children, which revealed that 65% of young people are afraid of going back to school because of bullying. That’s over half of our children fearful of physical or emotional violence. This shocking fact was the perfect springboard from which to start the creative process. So we decided to disrupt the whole premise of ‘Back to School’, starting with a film. Back-to-school ads are always so cheerful, we knew it would be powerful if bullying ‘hijacked’ that nauseatingly optimistic depiction of school as portrayed by the world of advertising. The work then recruited children to become anti-bullying ambassadors in their schools to turn the tide.

An Emotional Craft

Most important in work like this are the principles of craft: the time and energy spent lifting work from the pool of mediocrity into the heavens. Making sure every word, every detail, is contributing to telling your story in the best possible way. Because if people aren’t in some way emotionally engaged with the work, then you’re wasting your time.

This applies to all creative work, but when the purpose lies beyond selling product, it somehow feels even more critical. According to a recent survey, while three-quarters of mainstream ads were able to capture attention, the proportion dropped to two-thirds for purpose work. There is no excuse for this, as purpose is inherently more emotional.

Ultimately, it’s no longer enough just to communicate a problem. It’s about credibly creating impact and leaving the world more hopeful. The sector is called ‘impact’ for a reason. To be effective it has to positively impact the world. And that will only happen if the work hits your target audiences’ consciousness like a de-railed freight train.

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