Two big sectors saying that they like helping people with their work, one of them actually doing so. How come?
Among lawyers, it’s said that helping others with their legal work makes them feel re-energized and recommitted to the law. The former is one of the many reasons that law offices are happy to indulge themselves in pro bono work. Along a sense of self-fulfillment that positively influences attorneys’ other work as well, it provides a good opportunity for collaboration. Pro bono work allows attorneys to work with other lawyers whom they might otherwise not have known, and all this networking leads to business development, which in turn benefits the firm. Not to mention that it appeals to new talent recruits, who often consider doing good to be of paramount importance. Fulfilling that wish by working on pro bono cases builds their skill sets, and that, in the end, increases their chances of winning the sought-after awards that benefit their firm’s reputation.
Don’t worry, this isn’t an article of a lost lawyer who somehow managed to end up writing for an ad magazine. But if you copy the paragraph above and replace ‘law office’ with ‘ad agency’ and “lawyer” with ‘creative’, it says almost exactly the same. The only word that can’t be replaced with something eponymous, is “pro bono”. Because in the world of Advertising, we don’t have a word for doing good for humanity, even though a lot of us keep saying that that’s what we strive to do with our creative work.
“Creativity for good”
“Creativity for good”. Is there anyone who really knows what that means? Some agencies who like to profile themselves with this sense of awareness, swore to only take on “green” clients and brands that want to “give back”, but fail to see that their new found responsibility doesn’t actually make a big change. To be honest, we’re not really helping humanity if we replace the e-cigarettes that we sold them before with vegan ice cream. Don’t get me wrong: I think it’s a very good step for agencies to be critical about which brands they will work for. But in most cases, “creativity for good” is a huge exaggeration of the impact that’s made by doing so.
In some cases, however, we succeed in achieving our grand ambition. You only have to take one look at “The Bread Exam” by McCann Worldgroup in order to be mesmerized by a beautiful, simple solution to a major problem, and especially the amazing subtlety that they address it with. Somehow, they managed to bypass a toxic taboo without humiliating women with the sensitivity of the subject, and will possibly save many lives. Just by teaching them how to knead bread.
As a junior and still a student myself, there is not much that I’d love more than a few good prizes to my name.
As expected, this case won a lot of awards. Our other motivation for making great work that moves mountains. There is nothing wrong with that. As a junior and still a student myself, there is not much that I’d love more than a few good prizes to my name. They often kick-start your career and open doors, not to mention that the parties are supposed to be great fun. But I can’t help but feel like there could be more than waiting for that one brief that allows you to do actual good, and win an award.
So much more.
During my first working experiences, I was instantly amazed by the ability of creatives to solve any problem. I’ve often broken my brain over the question why we weren’t doing this on a bigger scale yet. There are many problems in our world that businesses can’t seem to solve and our governments don’t pay enough attention to. We’re very good at complaining about this, but by now you must have noticed that that isn’t working.
For years, I’ve believed that our creativity is the key to solving problems. We’re more than capable to do so. Our own problem is that we are currently only doing it when being approached by a brand, and even then there is almost always an underlying motive of creating more demand. It’s time we use our abilities to answer a demand that’s already there. The demand for solutions.
The complete term of ‘Pro Bono’ reads ‘Pro Bono Publico’. It literally translates to “for the public good”. When I learned this, I could only think about the fact that if the public good is anyone’s business, it’s ours. Next, I discovered that the reasons why law offices practice pro bono work, are also very applicable to ad agencies, as you’ve read above. Thereupon, I wondered why we weren’t practicing pro bono work ourselves yet, and decided that I would make it my graduation project to change this.
How? By creating advertising’s fist pro bono organization, which connects transformational creativity with unsolved problems. Together with specialists from relevant disciplines we analyse a problem that collectively we will be able to solve more effectively. Additionally, we involve the people affected by the problem. Subsequently, we turn the problem into a briefing and invite creatives to combine the gathered knowledge with creativity to find a solution. The result can be anything; a product, a service, a campaign… whatever solves the problem. Finally, we ask profitable ad agencies to donate a tiny part of their profits, with which we are able to actually execute the solutions.
Our creativity has untapped potential when it comes to solving problems, so let’s invest some of our time and a tiny part of our profits back into society. Pro Bono Publico celebrates the phenomenal creativity within advertising, but also critically questions what purpose it serves, and investigates how it could operate beyond its commercial environment. For the public good.
Follow the progress of @probnonopublico_official on Instagram and contact me if you’re interested in joining this movement.
Role: Jr. Copywriter
Study: Advertising, 4th year
School: Willem de Kooning Academy