David Gianatasio wrote an article for adweek recently regarding how Allstate featured a home ravaged by hurricane Sandy in a commercial (to show how altruistic the company is) while simultaneously fighting the homeowners on claims that the house had been ravaged by floods.
The commercial is the second I’ve seen this year displaying a surreal display of irony (the first being Apple’s DND spot featuring Venus and Serena Williams).
Gianatasio articulates a real problem with advertising an aspect and portraying to the world that a company doesn’t always put it’s money where its mouth is like this:
It just underscores the fundamental disconnect between the ad-driven idealized representation of a brand and how said brand behaves, or is perceived to behave, in real life.
This disconnect. This disconnect is real for many agencies.
It’s a candidate on the campaign trail visiting homes for the blind for PR, yet slamming/defunding programs for the same individuals once elected. It’s beyond bait and switch.
I believe an agency shouldn’t advocate to a client that promoting how good the company is will help redefine the benevolent efforts in the eyes of consumers. Instead, it may be better for an agency to compel their clients to genuinely change the mindset of the people working there, and provide genuine community service (that is not done purely for PR or advertising). That way, the brand’s presence will spread organically. Once the mindset of the company changes, it would be appropriate to advertise it (and genuine efforts should be advertised when the time is right).
An agency who can convince their clients to adapt to this way of thinking, I feel, will be more valuable as the true values of the brand will line up with the messaging in any ad. Instead of having a brand that can counter any altruistic message regarding their brand with real-life company practices.
And I think a company would appreciate an agency who tries to do this convincing.
It may be difficult to deal with a client who desperately wants to convey a sense of “giving back to the community” or “caring for the community”, when the mindset isn’t heartfelt. It can come off as phony (hurting the brand) or worse, be easily found out when the true colors of the company come to light.