Bringing Hope to Unlikely Places
Hope, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is a desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment. The hopes of the Levant region all revolve around things that are definitely desired, but far, very far, from being expected to happen.
By Nicolas Geahchan, Regional Executive Creative Director of JWT MENA. This article originally appeared in Communicate Magazine.
This gloomy situation has a negative effect on everyone but, most importantly, on businesses. Putting the tourism industry aside for one minute, I believe our marketing communications sector is undeniably one of the sectors that has been affected the most by this recent development.
Ours is an industry fueled by the profound desire to make a difference; to deliver on the promise of positive outcomes and thereby generate happiness. By default, "positivity" and "happiness" tend to be rather rare commodities in countries ravaged by war, religious extremism, violence or economic slowdown and the accompanying - but no less equally important - social issues of poverty, racism and sexism.
No wonder then, when you look back at the best ideas coming from the Levant region this last year, you will notice most are pro-bono, proactive pieces, orbiting around the same recurring themes - which constantly come back in different guises every other year, under different names and for different NGOs. All are aiming to make the world a better place, where happiness, positivity and hope are easier to find.
Whenever I am discussing work from our region with peers from other regions, I am always on the receiving end of a vast array of reactions that range from the most respectful to the most skeptical. The way the marketing communications industry operates in our region is frequently questioned and the real purpose behind the majority of ideas is regularly doubted.
Good communication in our region has become DO-GOOD advertising, which announces itself loudly, as though with capitalized letters. But for many of these campaigns, there aren't necessarily quite such "good" reasons behind them. Because, the fact of the matter is that, while many DO-GOOD campaigns are linked to current events, they actually represent a rather easy opportunity, which will, first and foremost, benefit the agency behind the work.
In the Levant, as award show deadlines loom closer and closer, we cannot help but suddenly trip up over pro-bono campaigns and activations for all types of NGOs. Most of their messages are universal truths that practically everyone will agree with and share across social media pages. Unfortunately, however, I very much doubt that "likes" and "shares" on social are actions which will genuinely transform the world into a better place in which to live...because these campaigns are not actually asking the audience to take any form of palpable action, or do anything that ladders up to a concrete and effective change in the situation. "Sharing", "liking or "petitioning online" is not taking action, in my view.
Which is why it is so important that our industry, particularly in the Levant, aligns itself with the other form of do-good campaigns - that of doing good. This is where there is a very real client who has a very real purpose behind his or her brief and an entirely measurable goal which they are commissioning the agency to achieve. Of course, these campaigns are usually driven by brands; brands that have woken up to conveying their empathy in a meaningful way and, as such, are seeking a share of their audiences' hearts - not merely a share of their wallets.
These brands come with the crystal-clear intention of walking the talk, which manifests in a real demonstration of standing by their brand promise. They know only too well that communication today is a conversation where the audience has more power and the biggest share of that conversation than at any other time in our industry's history. They understand not only the principle, but the mechanics of a brand's conversation being a two-way dialogue.
Whenever doing-good campaigns succeed, they do so beautifully, because they truly have brought hope to the most unlikely of places. They have succeeded in making "hope" something that can actually be grasped with both hands; something strong, something tangible. They haven't taken the easier route and simply lit a candle to "hope" via an esoteric conversation around a dinner table or column inches in a newspaper...
This isn't to say that all pro-bono NGO campaigns are opportunistic. Nor, for that matter, that every socially responsible brand campaign maintains its purpose through to the very end...Steering clear of generalizations, you know as well as I do that sometimes the drive to maintain a purposeful campaign ends up being thwarted by a mountain of guidelines and seemingly bottomless pit of global approvals.
At the end of the day, however, there is no greater thrill than seeing an idea - and let's face it, any idea - positively impact the world around us. When our industry makes this happen in the most unlikely place of a Levant market, it should be seen as an immense source of collective pride, satisfaction and hope for the future. So here's to hope; real, tangible and achievable hope.