Give-Back Advertising in Australia

After recently listening to an interview with Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS Shoes, via NPR’s ‘How I Built This’ podcast, I wondered if this model of giving back to the community should extend to the world of advertising and marketing. TOMS is a shoe company that matches every pair of shoes purchased with a new pair of shoes for a child in need, in their ‘One for One’ program. So far they have donated more than 60 million pairs of shoes, operate in 75 countries and perhaps what’s most impressive is that around 40% of all shoes given away are made in the countries where they’re distributed.

What began as a simple idea has evolved to become something much more with TOMS branching out into other charitable areas including safe birth, eye-sight and clean water projects. 
Closer to home, Zambrero – an Australian founded quick-service restaurant chain – donates meals to those in need with their ‘Plate 4 Plate’ initiative with every bowl or burrito sold. So far the company has donated more than 30 million meals worldwide and this number is only expected to grow with new stores seeming to pop up faster than I could inhale a burrito!

Some other companies which have adopted this ‘give back’ philosophy include:

One thing we notice when considering these companies is that they all deal in consumer goods, but what if this extended to the services industry? Specifically, ours: advertising and marketing solutions.

As such, my question to marketing and advertising agencies in Australia is: Should we be engaging in more pro-bono work with local charities? We’re not talking about big charities with big budgets. We’re talking about small charitable organizations or groups within our communities who could use a hand spreading the word about their good work. Whether it’s:

  • SEO optimization: ensuring they are reaching the right people in their community
  • Web design: updating an old website to improve UX and engagement from audiences
  • Consulting: which channels to use to reach the desired audience.
  • Graphic design: designing a contemporary brand that community members can easily identify, that helps them better communicate who they are

A potential model for this type of work could be a project ratio. Meaning with every two to three for-profit projects an agency takes on, they engage in one not-for-profit activity for a local charity. It is not uncommon for creatives to become disillusioned with their work and wonder ‘Why am I doing this? Is it really helping anyone?’. By throwing themselves into socially conscious, give-back oriented work they can take pride in knowing that they’re having a positive impact on their community. The effects of such work can span all kinds of personal and professional areas, like boosting morale and helping forge a thriving working environment.

Another key benefit of give-back advertising is that it’s likely to generate new business amongst other socially conscious clients, whose values are aligned with this model of advertising. So essentially, everyone’s a winner!

Shining Examples of Give-Back Advertising

This model of give-back advertising manifests itself within a Singaporean NGO called Creatives for Causes. A company that pairs charities with creative volunteers in the areas of:

  • Photography and videography
  • Graphic design
  • Copywriting
  • PR
  • Social media
  • Blogging

Charlies Liew, the treasurer of Willing Hearts, and a satisfied user of the organization commented: “The Willing Hearts story with photos generated immense interest amongst netizens. From this article, there are a lot more volunteers coming forward to assist us in our cause.” I’m not suggesting that creative agencies become totally not-for-profit like Creatives for Causes, but to at least be aware of the needs of the community and areas where they could assist.

Back on Aussie soil, a Melbourne-based SEO agency iformat is leading the way in give-back marketing. Offering pro bono or heavily-reduced rates for ongoing development and web support for charities all over Australia. For example, they “designed and developed a simple ready-to-go website free of charge” to assist Caitlin’s Retreat. A property on the outskirts of Melbourne that gives families of special needs children the chance to get away and enjoy a much-needed break together as a family.

Moreover, in 2015 Starship undertook an important pro-bono project teaming up with Sea Shepherd to create a video to sell merchandise and raise funds for its conservation campaigns. We created an upbeat, colourful and positive campaign for Sea Shepherd Australia focused on getting existing Sea Shepherd supporters to help grow Sea Shepherd’s ‘ground crew’, by encouraging them and their friends to buy gift cards or merchandise for the upcoming holiday season. As a result, Sea Shepherd Australia received the highest holiday season merchandise sales on record.

So come on guys, let’s band together and start helping our communities!

This was a guest blog by our intern, David Holyoake.

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