The White Pencil Symposium
As part of our work with D&AD’s newest initiative, NB went along to see the beginnings of our identity work for The White Pencil Symposium, held at the Royal Institution in Mayfair. As Lord David Puttnam put it in a powerful and impassioned speech, the choice of venue was significant – many of the major scientific breakthroughs in the last century were first discussed, presented and announced in the hallowed lecture theatre, which is also home to the famous Christmas Lectures.
This combination of a special venue and varied speakers gave the evening a revelatory and at times revolutionary feel.
Whilst we allow the dust to settle and the inspiration to take hold, we’ve reduced and combined what were fascinating talks into 5 key themes and facts that defined the evening for us:
1. Businesses & brands must embrace and act with sustainability and positive social change at the heart of what they do. The challenge for agencies like NB is to help establish this thinking at the core of everything our client does or wants to do.
2. Sustainability and positive social impact = business growth. Accenture reports commissioned by OgilvyEarth split consumers into 4 groups, with decreasing levels of interest and concern over sustainability; Super Greens, Upper Middle Greens, Lower Middle Greens & Green rejectors. The study estimates that the middle two groups - Upper Middles and Lower Middles represent roughly 67% of the available market.
3. Sustainable and ‘green’ products, marketing and advertising often fail for the same reasons. Research indicates that green products are marketed as too feminine (think curvy electric cars, canvas bags), too expensive, or seemingly aimed at a niche, ecologically concerned section of the market rather than the afore mentioned 67%. The key is to ‘normalise’ sustainable living rather than place it on a pedestal; so as to not be out of reach to the vast majority.
4. We are in the Age of Damage – customer perception of business & brands can be altered in hours thanks to social media. See BP’s Unofficial PR twitter feed in the wake of the oil spill (it has infinitely more followers than the official feed), Barclays (recently dismissed) Head of Asia FX Strategy’s violent outburst at builders in Singapore, or indeed the video of a FedEx delivery driver throwing a TV over a fence. The challenge for brands is how they respond - look at Domino’s transparency campaign as a good example of how this can be done.
5. All consumers have a residual need for goodness and trust in their business and brands. In this age of information (and misinformation) the truth is the most effective marketing message a brand or business can convey. As Jan Chipchase of Frog put it: a petrol station is an elevated container of petrol and a tube. Everything else is fluff.
We’re excited about how we can develop the White Pencil identity with D&AD and inspired ask new questions of the businesses and brands we work with. Credit to D&AD for a great event and to Stephen Johnson, David Jones, Kim Slicklein, Jan Chipchase, Marc Mathieu, Jeremy Gilley & Lord David Puttnam for fascinating talks.