Over the past few years, consumers have demanded that the companies they do business with take greater action to produce and market their wares in more sustainable ways, be more diverse, and generally be better corporate citizens.
That applies to agencies and their clients as well. And sometimes, as 4A’s government relations head Alison Pepper pointed out at a session during the Decisions 2022 conference today, it’s hard for brands to know where to begin when tackling big initiatives around the environment, DEI and other societal issues.
And she asked Mindshare global CEO Adam Gerhart how brands should get started. “Look at your business,” he replied. More specifically, he added, brands should examine their purpose and values to determine if they’re aligned with consumer expectations and how that translates to creative, media and other advertising and marketing functions.
Most importantly, he said, “walking the walk,” is critical, not just making bold statements of intent. “Small actions add up,” he said.
Asked to define “good growth,” Gerhart responded, “good growth is enduring, diversified and sustainable.”
And while different stakeholders (clients, staff, the industry and society) have different agendas, good growth is something they can all rally around, Gerhart asserted.
Asked about the agency’s value structure versus clients, Gerhart said the agency’s focus on good growth “is not about passing judgment” but rather about helping clients “define their lens.” That said, Gerhart noted that the agency has walked away from clients with conflicting values. Consumer expectations, he added will help “create new bell curves for the clients we work with.”
An example of how mindshare has helped amplify the work of underrepresented industry voices is through the creation of several diverse DMPs over the past two years including ones dedicated to LGBTQ, Black and Latinx media platforms. They started with one or two clients, Gerhart, noted, “and gained momentum from there.”
Such efforts support both brand and agency values and generally are “more reflective of the world we live in,” he said.
The agency, with client Unilever created what Gerhart called a “data ethics compass,” which he said focuses on how and how not to apply data that brands have access to.
Sustainability is a huge challenge, he said, noting the agency’s commitment to a carbon neutral footprint by 2025. It has also set a goal of a carbon neutral supply chain by 2030. A big issue: measuring progress quantifiably.
“Sustainability takes a lot of forms but allows us to play in a lot of spaces,” Gerhart said. “We’re just scratching the surface to be honest.”