Baking in the good

Cause Company's Marie Magnin on why cause marketing shouldn't be siloed anymore.


By Marie Magnin

Having recently launched a cause division of an ad agency, my lens on our industry may be somewhat skewed, but I can’t help but wonder if we are doing our fair share to keep up with the evolution of CSR. Gone are the days when companies produced a CSR report and called it a day.  More and more corporations are embedding purpose right into their DNA. Have agencies kept up?

There is no arguing that the evolution of CSR has brought about unprecedented societal change and along with it a wonderful set of challenges for marketers and agencies alike. Ad agencies, not too surprisingly, have wholeheartedly embraced their corporate clients’ CSR initiatives.  It has provided a plethora of dreamy opportunities for bold, emotive creative and enables us to hold hands with our clients and celebrate results beyond selling more stuff.

Not to mention the fact that cause related marketing campaigns are increasingly the darling of the awards shows – a trend that isn’t lost on any agency or marketer. Wonderful creative opportunities, meaningful business and societal results – mastering the art of cause-related marketing may just be the key to advertising bliss.

Remember in the not so distant past when digital and traditional were silos within agencies? Over time, we integrated, and looking back it seems crazy that we ever operated in silos. My prediction is that within the next decade we’ll look back and wonder how it was that cause wasn’t more integrated into all we do. Much in the way that corporate America has made strides in embedding purpose into their business models, agencies have the opportunity to do the same. After all, we are in the business of moving people and compelling them to act. Ad agencies are uniquely positioned to make a real difference.

Cause marketing, pro bono work for non-profits, fundraisers and volunteer work are certainly commonplace in agencies these days, which is great. But I’m suggesting we take it a little further. Let’s be leaders. What if in every strategy exercise and creative brief we built in “Ideas for Good”? Clients may not always buy it, but I can’t imagine that they won’t appreciate it. It could result in anything from proposing a strategic partnership with a non-profit to an activation that furthers an existing cause the client is aligned with. If, as an industry, we decide to integrate doing good into our core offering – there is only upside.

Are you wondering if this is a “too much of a good thing” scenario? Could all this do-gooding contribute to “cause-fatigue”? Unlike our binge Netflix watching or alcohol consumption, I don’t think the amount of good we do as an industry needs to be moderated.

I’m not denying that “cause fatigue” is a real thing. It is. But it’s up to our industry to be innovative and come up with new ways to inject purpose into what we do and overcome obstacles along the way. We need to always be in pursuit of genuine, authentic social good while furthering the business objectives for our organizations and the brands we represent. 
If there’s one thing I’ve learned since the launch of my agency’s cause division, it’s that everybody loves to do things that matter. Fortunately, this is not a shocking insight, but what is a bit surprising to me is the degree to which people embrace these opportunities. Our agency can be going at 200%, but when a do-good opportunity pops up everyone has the time and is grateful for the opportunity to put their skills towards something meaningful.

With agencies actively seeking out cause marketing strategies for their clients, and non-profits holding their agencies to a higher set of standards than ever before, competition for cause-related work is more intense than ever. And, this means we are producing better work than ever. If we operationalized a consistent pursuit of positive social outcomes right into the core of what we do – imagine the potential cumulative impact.

I don’t see a scenario where the integration of cause into all we do isn’t a win-win-win. More work, work we love, and a better world. So my challenge to my fellow ad agency peeps is – let’s be leaders in merging profit and purpose. And to all marketers out there, expect more from us.  We’ll all benefit – our brands, our causes and our hearts.

MarieMarie Magnin is VP and group account director at Cause Company, a division of KBS.