Matt Charlton: adland choruses “good is the new sex”

As last Thursday’s D&AD awards confirmed, advertising has become obsessed with ideas that have a positive social message. Forget airbrushed models and ripped guys. Girls no longer need to throw like a girl, they have our permission to throw like a boy.

Weird shaped vegetables that look like alien genitalia have been saved from the scrap heap, Nazis have apparently been marching against Nazis (which I assume is around in circles) and Zlatan has been transformed from the world’s most annoying footballer to a saint with 50 lashes of a felt tip and good chest wax.


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These are remarkable times. It’s been coming for a while but I can’t help seeing this as a kind of tipping point. Or a tipping point of kind. Sure the invention of the White Pencil now looks like a brilliant piece of progressive thinking ahead of its time by Tim Lindsay and his D&AD team but then when you look at what’s been winning at Cannes over the last few years it’s been coming via Dove and ‘Dumb Ways To Die.’

It’s hard to decide if positive social messages and brands really cohabit well in the mind of the consumer. Time will tell. But one thing for sure is that every creative department in the world will be producing ideas that (want to) deliver social change.

Juries want to give presents not just to agencies that help sell things but help harness their connected media power for the good of mankind. I believe it’s not just a cultural reaction to post-crash consumerism but the effect of social media.

Whether we want them or not we are going to be up to our armpits in positive social ideas at the awards shows in the next few years. A sort of collective advertising wind power. Intersecting brands and social change is now officially as cool as an alien-shaped cucumber in adland.

imagesMatt Charlton is CEO of Brothers and Sisters.

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About Stephen Foster

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Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.