Advertising Lecture Takes on Social Responsibility

October 29, 2010  

By Amanda Oldham
aoldham@smu.edu

Representatives of three advertising giants sat down in Caruth Auditorium Thursday evening for the ExxonMobil Lecture series to discuss what the advertising industry is contributing to corporate social responsibility.

The three speakers seemed to agree that the current direction of the industry was positive so long as companies walk the walk, rather than just talk the talk.
Undergraduate and graduate students boasted as the future of the advertising industry packed the room to hear words of advice for the years to come.

Importance of Branding

James Datri, President of the American Advertising Federation, discussed his belief that the ability of the industry to create a brand for itself exemplified its ability to be socially responsible.

“We as an industry have to start thinking of ourselves [as a brand,]” Datri said. “It shows the power of this agency for good.”

Brand was the word of the hour, as Datri promoted his philosophy that by branding together, with a clear purpose, people are more willing to give money to charities or participate in socially responsible behavior.

“Brands are becoming a community,” Datri said. “They become another avenue for people to come together. People want to feel a part of the brand.”

Techniques to Solutions

Peggy Conlon, President of The Ad Council, and Nancy Hill, President of American’s Association of Advertising Agencies joined Datri. Both discussed ways to make advertisements and corporations effective in their approach regarding issues of social responsibility.

Conlon lectured about the four ways corporations practice this behavior, claiming that a successful and socially responsible company blended authenticity, sustainability, transparency and strong communication.

“They have to take the time to make an impact on the social issue,” Conlon said.

While Conlon explained the main techniques corporations use to act responsibly, Hill talked about the most effective methods that advertisements themselves use to help make the public more aware of the issues: simplicity.

“You can’t expect everyone to try and figure it out by themselves,” Hill said. “You have to make it easy for people to respond to.”

Hill also mentioned a big reason for people giving to charitable organizations was that people need to feel as though their contribution is actually helping affect change.

“There is the sense that people want to know how the dollar they’re spending is giving back,” Hill said.

Both Conlon and Hill showed ads that represented the best work of their agencies, ranging from the recent campaign to fight child obesity to raising funding and donors for a Rhode Island food bank by selling cans of Nothing.

“The lecture tonight presented the positive aspect of advertising, and how big agencies such as the 4As are working to resolve social issues through creativity,” sophomore Mary Fan said.

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