Apr 9

The Role of Purpose in Advertising

Paul Massey

Our client partners at BSR, a global nonprofit organization working with more than 250 member companies to build a just and sustainable world, have released a report with Participant Media, Transparency, Purpose and the Empowered Consumer: A New Paradigm for Advertising.

It examines a central question: can advertising linked to corporate social responsibility (CSR) deepen engagement with consumers?

The answer is a resounding yes.

Content centered on CSR can build trust and affinity, provided that it is truthful and accurate, empowers consumer expression and dialogue, and is purposeful.

In fact, as the report documents, there’s been an encouraging trend of major brands putting purpose at the center of their advertising. It’s a demonstration of how CSR is bringing purpose and profits closer together. This spans industries and includes:

  • Patagonia’s Responsible Economy campaign, including a memorable Black Friday ad in The New York Times with the headline “Don’t Buy this Jacket”
  • Chipotle’s Scarecrow ad on sustainable farming
  • Unilever’s (client) “Why bring a child into this world” short film, launching Project Sunlight, a campaign to engage consumers in living a more sustainable life, as part of the company’s Sustainable Living Plan

The BSR report is timely, given the recent heightened attention to corporate engagement on social issues, from companies like Apple, Salesforce and Nike (client) taking forceful stands on the issue of LGBT equality in Indiana; to Starbuck’s effort, Race Together, addressing the complex issue of race in America.

Increasingly, companies see engagement on critical social issues as a business imperative (no longer a nice-to-do), in order to advance their business interests and to bring their expertise and scale to tackle social problems. It’s encouraging that there is a rise in advertising that reflects CSR as a strategic business priority.  It increases the likelihood that consumers will know more about which companies are contributing to both economic and social progress and reward them with their business and loyalty. 


Nov 7

BSR Conference 2014: Finding (and Using) Your Voice

Emily Semmelman

Weber Shandwick is the global agency partner for the BSR Conference 2014: Transparency & Transformation. Our Social Impact team will be sharing insights from the conference on this blog.


“This is a tangent, but I just want to say I’m addicted to Twitter,” Ford Foundation President Darren Walker addressed the BSR Conference audience, “Many times a leader’s voice is created by corporate communications - and it sounds so constructed! Social media lets you find your voice.”


Darren Walker is the president of the Ford Foundation, a leading, global organization committed to social change. He joined the 2014 BSR Conference as a plenary speaker to share his and the Foundation’s views and commitment to alleviating inequality, preserving human dignity and the intersection of corporations and non-profit organizations to advocate for social good.


Some lessons he shared:

  • Collaboration is Key: No one has the resources to get everything they want to accomplish done on their own. Walker urged everyone to improve in their ability to embrace partnerships. He remarked on how business and nonprofits need to come together to create partnerships for social good. There is a new paradigm where business and society come together for justice and inclusion.
  • Embrace the Power of Storytelling: Walker urged the BSR crowd to get on board with the storytelling to make a real impact. Storytelling tends to be underappreciated at foundations. As Walker frankly put it, “Some foundations will take really exciting things and just deaden them!” Stories carry more weight than hard data; meaningful, humanized messages change hearts and minds.
  • Use Your (Authentic) Voice: Anyone can, and should, be a storyteller. In addition to advocating for tapping social media to create an authentic voice, Walker urged leaders to stand up and speak up for their values and investments. As he proclaimed, it’s time for executives to forget jargon, stop relying on messaging and find a genuine voice.



Nov 7

BSR Conference 2014: Shifting Focus to the Long Term

Katy Reddin

Weber Shandwick is the global agency partner for the BSR Conference 2014: Transparency & Transformation. Our Social Impact team will be sharing insights from the conference on this blog.


BSR Conference 2014 was a strong call-to-action for business leaders, with PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi’s impassioned presentation being the primary example. Arguing that capitalism has been hijacked by short-term thinking, Nooyi posited that the system cannot function at its fullest potential when such a large number of people cannot contribute, and when the resources on which the system depends are being depleted so quickly.


Nooyi called upon leaders to write a second chapter of capitalism that focuses on short-term profitability and long-term sustainability, using examples from PepsiCo’s own work to demonstrate this mindset.  She stressed, however, that this second chapter cannot be written until the evaluation of business performance is altered, calling for a strong convener to create a global scorecard that all companies can utilize.


Finally, and perhaps most compellingly, was her insistence that business executives and other leaders remain “lifelong students,” reflecting upon her own roots in a water-deprived village in India and how this has enabled her to approach this issue with a “heart, head and hands” mentality. The importance of feeling an issue to the core in order to run a global enterprise that successfully incorporates sustainability is one that the audience instantly reacted to, and an idea that will likely be reflected upon more throughout the conference.





Nov 7

BSR Conference 2014 Kicks Off

Katy Reddin

Weber Shandwick is the global agency partner for the BSR Conference 2014: Transparency & Transformation. Our Social Impact team will be sharing insights from the conference on this blog.


“If we want things to stay as they are, things are going to have to change.” BSR’s President and CEO Aron Cramer shared this line from the Italian novel The Leopard to kick off the 2014 BSR conference, which took place this week (Nov. 4-6) in New York City. This idea resonated through each of the plenary addresses from distinguished C-suite executives as well as the panel sessions with notable decision-makers across industries, with all speakers reflecting on the conference theme of “Transparency and Transformation.”


The conference opened with commentary on the necessary advancement of sustainability and inclusive economies, broadly and specifically to Africa:


  • GlaxoSmithKline CEO Andrew Witty, reflected on the importance of staying dynamic and actively shifting business models to reflect ongoing changes in culture, tying this to the extension of his company’s work in Africa to not only develop vaccines but also create training programs to cultivate much-needed frontline healthcare workers.  Witty recognized that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa recently highlighted this deficiency.
  • Actor Jeffrey Wright pointed out that the epidemic revealed unsettling biases in our attitude toward Africa that have potentially limited our willingness to help. 
  • Maersk Group CEO Nils S. Anderson also spoke of his company’s work in Africa but through a different lens, presenting compelling data that demonstrated the many ways that trade can enable people from poor backgrounds to become a part of the global economy.




Nov 3



Weber Shandwick is the global agency partner for the BSR Conference 2014: Transparency & Transformation. Our Social Impact team will be sharing insights from the conference on this blog.


This week, members of our Social Impact team are in New York City attending the annual BSR Conference. This year's conference focuses on Transparency & Transformation and will explore how transparent business practices and transformative thinking can help lead the way to a more sustainable future.

 How to Follow Along

  1. Check Out the Storify: We’ll be weaving together the best tweets from the week so you can check out what’s happening at the conference in one stop. Check it out below or follow along here.
  2. Connect on Social: Our team will be sharing insights all week on Twitter @WSSocialImpact Join the conversation on our handle and #BSR14.
  3. Tune in to the Livestream: BSR will broadcast much of the conference, including plenary and I3 speakers and the Take10 and Collaboration in Action sessions. Visit the conference homepage to learn more.

 We're proud to be a sponsor again this year, and to partner with BSR on its strategic communications work. We'll be sharing insights throughout the week, and if you are at #BSR14 be sure to look for EricEmily and Katy.




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