Ad Nut
Feb 22, 2022

The point of 'purpose': A lesson in two campaigns

Pop quiz: Which is better, lifting up marginalised voices or insulting your own customers? Seems like an easy choice. And yet...

The point of 'purpose': A lesson in two campaigns

Verily, the universe has smiled on Ad Nut today. Because rarely if ever has Ad Nut come across two pieces of work that better illuminate the difference between doing something well and doing it badly.

That both pieces of work arrived on the same day from two New Zealand tech brands, and that both involve something you can download? Those seem to be coincidences.

The 'something' that both brands are trying to do is a bit of purpose-driven work.
2Degrees, along with TBWA New Zealand, has given us a film that asks us to put our smartphones down and connect with each other, along with an app that lets users put their phone to sleep for a set period of time in exchange for rewards such as restaurant vouchers and movie tickets. 

The plea to put down your phone is completely predictable, well overdone and frankly insulting. Who is watching this and thinking, "You know, I never thought about trying to manage my phone use so that I don't lose connection with my loved ones"? No one. At least no one who has both a phone and a functioning brain. Guess what, 2Degrees? People have been dealing with this issue for years at this point, and there are already plenty of apps to help with it.

So by doing this now, and acting as if this is a new concept, you come across as condescending—toward your own customers! Ad Nut can't for the life of Ad Nut understand why brands do this, but almost nothing gets Ad Nut as riled up (and Ad Nut isn't the only one). Just stop it. Please!

Plus, coming from a mobile telco, it just rings hollow. Or at least it's likely to ring hollow with a lot of people. No matter how good the brand's intentions, no matter how concerned about its customers it actually is, some people are not going to be able to believe this is coming from a genuine place.

So maybe it's best, when there's an issue that runs counter to what everyone knows your business interest to be, to leave that issue alone and pick another one.  

Now let's look at what Spark, a mobile and broadband provider, has done, along with Colenso BBDO. It has developed a bit of website code that can easily be added to forms in order to make them more inclusive for trans and non-binary people. The picture below shows the code itself and the resulting form questions.

Now, to be realistic, no corporation or web developer in the world would need help creating this code. It's dead simple.

The hard part, which Spark and Colenso well know, is convincing people to go to the trouble of putting it in place. So the campaign around this effort also includes a film and a website. These explain the need for the code, through the stories of some lovely individuals who tell us what it feels like to be left out by basically the entire internet, or worse, forced to misgender themselves or conform to a box they're not comfortable in. There's even a presentation that anyone can use to try to convince corporate higher-ups of the need to make the change.

So Spark, rather than wasting time on something everyone already knows and asking its customers to change their behaviour (and insulting them in the process) is both lifting up and punching up. Lifting up, because it's amplifying the voices of real people (real or at least potential customers) and punching up because it's pushing for change by the powers that be.

This is where the code download is especially brilliant. First, it enables the great play on words that is both the name of the campaign and its call to action: 'Beyond binary code'. And second, it's such a little, inconsquential thing! After seeing the code, and the simple, polite, questions it creates, it's impossible to argue that this is a big deal to implement.

So why aren't you doing it? Like, now? 

Ad Nut encourages everyone to read through the website and the personal stories there. Then think about why and how your company asks about gender, and consider making a change. And asking you to do that is just about the highest compliment Ad Nut can give to this remarkable work.

Ad Nut is a surprisingly literate woodland creature that for unknown reasons has an unhealthy obsession with advertising. Ad Nut gathers ads from all over Asia and the world for your viewing pleasure, because Ad Nut loves you. You can also check out Ad Nut's Advertising Hall of Fame, or read about Ad Nut's strange obsession with 'murderous beasts'.


Campaign Asia

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