Why Brands, Agencies and Media Companies Need to Collaborate to Create Conscious Content

The creative evolution created more competition amongst industry players

Statues of people are seen taking selfies; a little girl stands amongst the statues frightened
Dove partnered with Cartoon Network and Ogilvy U.K. to create a Steven Universe-inspired spot. Dove

Creating meaningful connections between brands and consumers has never been more critical or more complex. Consumer trust is at an all-time low, the traditional agency model is officially disrupted and the expectation of brands to “do well by doing good” is the new normal, meaning brands must ensure they are taking a stand on social issues and creating content that makes an impact, also known as “conscious content.” Consider that two-thirds of consumers say it’s important for brands to take public stands on social and political issues, 88 percent of Americans would buy a product from a purpose-driven company and 60 percent of consumers say brands should make it easier to see its values and its position on important issues at the point of sale.

At the same time, the explosion in the number of players in the creative world has resulted in an entirely new landscape. The definition of the “creative” has expanded, and the tools with which to build content keep growing. While the marketplace feels more competitive than ever, this evolution has led to a welcome openness to fresh ideas and a fertile market for compelling and resonant branded content. Rather than feed into the competitiveness, the most effective path to creating conscious content is through smart collaboration between brands, agencies and media companies. It is only through these types of triangulations that the ad model will shift from disrupted to transformed.

The more brands can mean something to the consumer, the more likely that consumer will remember them when it’s time to buy.

The new ad model

In today’s crowded advertising landscape, media companies with a clearly defined mission and deep-rooted purpose have a tremendous advantage in setting up agency and client partnerships that resonate far beyond just a clever creative idea or a smart media buy.

One of my favorite examples of nailing this winning formula is Dove’s partnership with Cartoon Network and Ogilvy U.K. on “I’m Fine.” Employing trippy and revelatory images from the creators of Steven Universe, “I’m Fine” gives voice to teenagers’ oft-unspoken emotional baggage in a way that, I hope as a mother of two young girls, will encourage them to speak up and have a voice.

It makes perfect sense that a major theme at the recent ANA Masters of Marketing conference in October centered on brand purpose. Several CMOs, from FedEx to Ancestry.com, showcased their efforts to emotionally connect with customers through marketing.

The “I’m Fine” campaign is not only an example of great work that lights a fire and builds brand affinity among young people today but is also indicative of the collaboration-over-competition approach in this growing area of marketing. These types of trifecta alliances will succeed in creating bespoke conscious content and marketing solutions, improve relations between agencies and brands and provides value in its streamlined approach, creating less clutter and more creativity in service of the audience.

Claim your power

Content is most powerful when it reflects the consumer’s mindset and needs, and it’s clear that the expectation for conscious content is here to stay.

As the world faces more challenges, whether economic or environmental, brands have the opportunity to stand for something bigger than themselves. The more brands can mean something to the consumer, the more likely that consumer will remember them when it’s time to buy.

Ashley Miles is chief client officer, head of advertising, North America at Refinery29.