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A tale of two campaigns: It was the best of ads, it was the worst of ads

May 17, 2022

With access to more information than ever, consumers aren’t only researching the best products and deals. Many are also willing to take the additional step of making sure their money is spent with companies that share their values.

A Cone Communications’ Corporate Social Responsibility study showed that fully 87 percent of consumers say they would purchase a product from a company that “stood up or advocated for” an issue they care about.

Plastic pollution is certainly an issue on the radar of many consumers thanks to depressing new stories about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP), a floating island of plastic and other trash covering an estimated 1.6 million square kilometres – an area twice the size of Texas or three times the size of France – in the Pacific. It has become a tangible symbol of the damage humans are doing to the seas.


Plastic promises

SC Johnson, makers of numerous household products, tried to hit its customers in the environmental feels by claiming its Windex cleaning spray bottles were made from 100% “ocean plastic”.

But, there were never any trawlers crewed by teams of SC Johnson employees salvaging plastic from the sea in order to recycle it into Windex bottles.

In fact, the plastic used to make the bottles was never in the ocean at all. It was pulled from plastic banks in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Haiti, according to the industry publication Packaging 360.

This type of plastic is known as ocean-bound plastic because it would have otherwise ended up in the ocean. But SC Johnson clearly wanted consumers to believe that the plastic in their spray bottle had been fished out of the ocean. A class-action lawsuit has been filed against the company disputing its claims and asking for damages.

RELATED: Go woke or go broke?
Do consumers really want brands to take a stand?

Fair seas and following winds

A company that got it right when creating an environmental campaign designed to draw attention to pollution in the ocean was Hyundai Motor Europe.

A huge problem affecting the health of the world’s seas and marine life is ‘ghost gear’: lost, abandoned or discarded fishing nets, cages and traps.

Made from durable Nylon 6 plastic yarn, they can take decades to break down and travel vast distances upon ocean currents.

All the while, the gear does what it’s designed to do – catch and kill marine life.

RELATED: Emotional film about an abandoned fish farm in Greece
delivers a powerful message

BBC StoryWorks produced an emotional and informative film documenting the clean-up of an abandoned fish farm by the NGO Healthy Seas in the waters surrounding Ithaca, Greece.

The farm was wreaking havoc on the environment and the livelihoods of local fishermen.
The documentary focused mainly on the NGO's work, linking the common environmental goals with Hyundai's commitment to developing a circular economy.

Recycling the ghosts

Hyundai's dedication to social responsibility is woven throughout the film, which closes on a global call to fight for a sustainable future while showcasing Hyundai's use of ghost gear in its products.

“That strikes me as a really, really good example of what native advertising, branded content is at its best,” Richard Pattison, Senior Vice President, BBC StoryWorks, told us. “It's a brand really genuinely making a difference and then they're using the waste material in their interiors as well.”

RELATED: Read our interview with Richard Pattinson of BBC StoryWorks
"Quite often in native advertising, we measure the wrong things"

Hyundai, Healthy Seas and BBC Storyworks strived to make sure that their production of the film was done sustainably.

Through the team's efforts, the project reduced 7.2 tonnes of emissions to 2.6 tonnes, which were offset as part of the campaign budget.

“We created it in as sustainable a way as possible,” said Pattison.

The production was awarded an Albert Certificate of sustainability by BAFTA.


A sustainable story

Sustainability in production is a hard but necessary task in order to continue to raise awareness of such projects. No brand should seek to promote sustainable behaviour without fully examining its own methods.

The native advertising format allowed Hyundai to tell this longer and more complex story and create a partnership with their customers.

“Consumers are turning away from fake news and shallow attempts to seduce them,” said Jesper Laursen, founder of the Native Advertising Institute. “They are looking for brands that can provide them with credible, empathetic and relevant information.”

Story by Ray Weaver

Ray Weaver is a professional communicator with experience as both a broadcast and print journalist. He was the Public Information Officer for several government jurisdictions in the US, including the Governor of the State of Maryland. He is also an experienced voice-over artist, actor and published author and singer/songwriter.

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