Back in January 2019, the Advertising Association (AA) commissioned Credos to identify the key drivers behind the public’s waning trust in advertising. The subsequent report depicted an industry teetering on a knife’s edge, balancing between an array of positive and negative factors shaping the collective consensus. 

This begged the question: how might the positives be harnessed to win back favourable opinion? One area seemed particularly promising: altruistic advertising. Fast forward to summer 2019 and Credos was given another mission: to understand the social contribution made by UK advertising and the role it plays in fostering positive public sentiment towards the industry.

The resulting Advertising Pays 8 (AP8) report, released this year, makes things crystal clear. Plainly stated, there exists a potent opportunity for the industry to regain public trust by placing greater emphasis on advertising that gives back. By doing good, it seems that brands can forge stronger bonds with customers. What could be better?

Hang on, though. When it comes to crafting an authentic brand identity, there are fewer things more detrimental than the empty gesture. Let’s dive a little deeper before we set about changing the world…

The state of play

At present, 46% of us feel that advertising has a positive impact, while 18% believe it has a negative impact. Not exactly a rave review.

A perceived effort to effect social change in advertising accounts for 40% of all positive factors shaping public opinion on its societal impact, 38% of public favourability, and 32% of our trust in ads.

Of the factors shaping the total 40%, ‘promoting a more harmonious society’ holds the greatest sway (18%), followed by ‘encouraging individual to seek help or make changes’ (9%), ‘raising awareness/money for good causes’ (8%), ‘bringing people together around important cultural events’ (7%), and ‘promoting products/services that are good for society’ (2%). 

Despite playing the biggest role in this, advertising ‘promoting a more harmonious society’ is the type most infrequently encountered by the public (25%).

More of the good stuff, please

42% of the public believe that advertising can make the world a better place. However, people want to see brands going bigger and bolder with the social messages they embed in their advertising.

Of the topics people want to see receive increased exposure in advertising, mental health (63%) and the environment (59%) take the lead. The majority want to see more advertising that tackles these issues head-on, in addition to the most widely broadcast social messages, not instead of them.

In fact, whilst a notable proportion of the public believes that many social topics are already receiving healthy representation in the ad industry, the lion’s share of us often want said topics to enjoy even more coverage.

For example, 42% of people state that, at present, the volume of advertising promoting physical activity and education is correct. However, 50% would like to see even more messages targeting this topic broadcast. 

The take-home message? More of the good stuff, please.

The scent of scepticism 

Business owners everywhere: the public wants you.

Companies are viewed as fitting agents of social change, with 37% of us citing them as appropriate sponsors of ads focused on goods/services that have a positive impact on people and the planet. 36% see them as ideal benefactors of ads that promote bringing people together around important cultural events and messages.

On the one hand, it seems that good deeds pay off: more than half of UK adults hold brands that attempt to effect positive social change through advertising in higher esteem.

Within AP8, brands such as Always and Dove received off-the-cuff mentions by members of the public for their positive, socially impactful ad campaigns.

The issue? Many feel that businesses are simply jumping on the conscientious bandwagon, with a measly 10% of people strongly agreeing that ads shedding light on social and cultural issues come from a genuine place. 

Practice what you preach

Brands’ advertising campaigns need to do more than pay mere lip service to a good cause. Appear like you’re simply masquerading in altruistic garb and customers will see it as a cynical ruse to boost the bottom line. Authentic social-minded advertising will seamlessly intertwine with a brand’s overall mission, identity, and ethos – in other words, it will echo the values your business already lives and breathes.

Likewise, as AP8 notes, there’s a call for the ad industry itself to re-examine how it operates, owning its responsibility for issues such as intrusive, excessive targeting and dodgy data usage. 

Businesses have a real opportunity to effect positive change; in fact, a third of UK adults acknowledge the role brand advertising has played in pushing them to implement positive change in their life or those of others. But to create advertising underwritten by messages the public deems genuine, the sentiment needs to come from a genuine place.

To find a cause that naturally aligns with your brand, think deeply about what your purpose is – what are you trying to help people with? If you’re an architect helping people create their dream homes, promoting a cause that supports those struggling with homelessness could be a good fit. 

The search for a sincere cause

Here at Resolution, we’re all about building a sustainable future – this is our cause.

We’re committed to minimising our carbon footprint, so 100% of our electricity comes from renewable sources and 100% of our heating is powered by local wood.

Resolution Log Burner

We only work with socially conscious companies, and we believe strongly in giving back to our community, helping to create a vibrant, thriving business ecosystem. We frequently lend our time and support to initiatives that aid the local economy.

Sure, all of the above makes us look good, but it feels good too, because it’s in aid of a cause we care about. It’s genuine. Win-win.

Get in touch and we’ll help you find your cause, too. 

If you want to find out more about the Resolution ethos, listen to our MD share his thoughts on authenticity in marketing here.

Written by. Amalie Bleackley

Amalie Bleackley