Data, tech and real-world change: what impressed The Drum Award for Social Purpose judges?

23 November 2022

Dani Gibson, The Drum

Members of the jury for The Drum Awards for Social Purpose walk us through the main themes that emerged from this year’s entries, including rooting environmental campaigns in hard data, and the rise of technological solutions to do good and authentic storytelling.

What trends did judges of The Drum Awards for Social Purpose see?

Ahead of the awards, we caught up with jurors for the Social Purpose awards to find out their thoughts on this year’s entries.

Whitney Dailey, executive vice-president, purpose, Allison+Partners

I loved the work I saw coming out of the Best Environmental Cause Campaign category this year. There were two things that struck me. First was how many of these campaigns brought to life eye-opening environmental data points that are not part of the mainstream understanding of sustainability issues – like the fact that whales contribute as much carbon capture as all the rainforests on land. It’s critical we root environmental campaigns in hard data that can not only help inform our narrative, but open our eyes and minds to complex environmental realities in an easy-to-understand way.

The second aspect that jumped out to me was how many of the campaigns really leaned into creativity. So often, the world’s environmental issues can seem insurmountable, bewildering and even dire. Yet many of these campaigns led with creative and compelling activations that helped audiences understand how sustainable action can be exciting, engaging – even easy.

To solve the complex and critical environmental challenges we face as a globe, we need to lean in on this type of game-changing, creative thinking that disrupts routine behavior and allows for scalable solutions with accelerated effects. These campaigns brought to the table not only persuasive activations rooted in strong insights, but an impressive impact that goes far beyond impressions.

Carole Diarra, global vice-president marketing, UGG

The standout entries leveraged exceptional creativity and new technology to galvanize communities and solve pressing and often complex problems. The key trends were related to the creative use of new technologies such as augmented reality (AR) to break through and mobilize people for a worthy cause; new approaches to diversity and inclusion that used clever ways to cut through the noise and make their voices heard; and simple yet provocative campaigns that used the digital medium to stand out and make a point for the greater good.

The rigorous judging process centered around the value these campaigns have made in the world and the ‘multiplier effect’ they had on others beyond the immediate target audience. The Grand Prix was an important decision because the recipient should produce the most inspirational work for other brands and organizations that are looking to use creativity and media to make an impact in the world. At UGG, we are consistently looking for like-minded partners who authentically connect with their communities and use their voices to champion others. Many entries served as powerful examples, with campaigns focused on inclusion and the amplification of underserved voices.

Hanisha Kotecha, chief client officer, Creature

There will always be societal problems that need the public’s attention. The challenges are pretty rife out there. From the war in Ukraine and the lack of justice for Grenfell victims and survivors to the seemingly never-ending challenge around inclusion and representation, there’s a lot to be mad about. Through judging, I get to see how people have turned that hate into powerful stories that make us stop and stare for a moment.

One significant difference this year was the rise of technological solutions to do good. From fighting political misinformation to turning hate into funding to capturing lost heritage, the ideas that have stayed with me are those that made me feel grateful for their existence. Grateful that someone (especially a brand) took the time, energy and money to grab attention on behalf of a group of people or cause that otherwise would have their story untold or forgotten.

Weaker entries were those that stopped and started with a stunt, fleeting in their limelight and impact. The best found the right balance between story-telling and societal impact, and are measuring the longer-term impact on their brand too so they can continue to meaningfully champion the cause they have chosen.

Lisa Merrick-Lawless, co-founder, Purpose Disruptors

I was struck by the diversity of ideas and thinking around some of the most pressing social and environmental issues of our time. These are the most important briefs around – the ones that create real and lasting change in the world. Our vision at Purpose Disruptors is an industry transformed in service of a thriving future, and it is incredibly exciting (and reassuring) to see live work in this area.

As a judge, I was looking for real-world impact. Yes creativity, yes clear thinking, but above all, is it going to create real, lasting change? It was interesting to see entrants still missing the mark, wanging on about brand affinity and brand awareness, rather than basing success on doing good in the world. Also for those brands trying to do it all on their own, find partners already doing some of the hard work. Support them to create sustained change on the ground rather than pursuing fleeting fame for PR stunts.

I was blown away by some of the winning submissions that combined real creativity (thinking and output) with unique approaches to solving problems in the world, some with new tech or innovative partnerships thrown in for good measure. We need everyone in every agency to be creating this work above all else. The winners here set the bar for others to follow.

Mark Fawcett, chief executive officer and chairman, We Are Futures

The strongest theme this year has been the pre-eminence of real ‘Story Making’ rather than just Story Telling. The best entries, and the strongest award winners, built their activities on the firm foundations of making a real, strong and positive impact on their audience and communities first. They identified a real social need and then went out into the world using their own corporate strengths, skills and people to tackle that need. It was only after that that they focused on their storytelling to engage wider audiences and customers. Today’s audiences can so easily see through stories that are not backed up by substance.

And the best of the best were those campaigns that were characterized by bravery and ambition, and totally relevant to the brand.

To be a leader and drive real brand and social impact, focus first on making real, relevant and bold stories happen – then on creatively telling them second.

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