Some might remember the “dirty is good” advertisement created by a famous brand around the theme of hygiene — it is actually great to grow up by playing and touching. But are all adverts and advertising a dirty matter? Can an advert or a campaign be designed to regain and rebuild what was damaged?
Within the scope of Project Zoom, we came to the end of our online Talk Series together with Damla Özlüer, project director at Myra, a pioneer agency in social good communication. We talked about the content of social impact communication, how to approach social issues from a social good perspective as well as effective communication strategies and examples built around them.
Positioning in the universe of values
Any communication strategy built around a problematic framework has to move through the acknowledgement of all the factors that affect that specific problem. This also involves accessing its universe of values; as we have to take a holistic and sincere approach towards what we are going to build. This type of communication is one of the most important imprints on the path to social good communication. As Damla Özlüer puts it, social good communication is not based on the classic advertising strategy. What is communicated is not the values’ universe of values, but the mind’s, and therefore it is essential to know the social values of the specific field both in practice and in theory.
The concept of social impact, actually known as an economic term and as a decision taken to make profits, has various secondary social consequences. We can consider for example the field of urban transformation. Building housing estates with pools or skyscrapers in a relatively poor neighbourhood, as done by TOKİ, the Turkish government backed housing agency, can on the one hand be a great source of money, while on the other consciously transform the neighbourhood’s existing population. Campaigns for selling these houses are oriented to attract more people and buyers from the upper-middle or upper classes. But social impact-based communication strategies are more concerned with social outcomes rather than product selling. At this point, it is not about product and profit, but about social needs, impact and restructuring. In particular, it is aimed at collectively changing deep-rooted historical issues like gender inequality or climate crisis.
Placing various socio-cultural codes in our traditions and reproducing them in everyday life can reinforce different aspects of inequality. These inequalities appear in the family, business life, social environment and private life, sometimes unknowingly but most of the time intentionally. They stick to our way of being as well as of expressing ourselves.
As a matter of fact, it is well-known that women’s domestic roles and responsibilities, and therefore the burden of domestic exploitation, are higher than for men. For a campaign to be developed in this context, we would need content that would show the inequality experienced by women, which would get in our face to reconstruct the issue in a more equal way. And here is social impact communication, which is what Jacques Derrida defines deconstruction, an invite to revise and reconstruct old meanings. This approach also involves a true sensitiveness towards to the language chosen during such reconstruction.
Social impact oriented campaigns
Advertising seems to involve content that is considered ‘dirty’ for many of us. The Turkish word ‘reklam’, which means advertise, comes from the French ‘réclame’, whose English translation ‘reclaim’ means recovery, demand back and reinterpret. This is why, besides being an industry business, advertising also overlaps with social impact communication strategies.
When the debate — started both in Turkey and in the rest of the world — on sustainability, sustainable development and climate crisis was recently put in the agenda, there was a need for communication campaigns that could generate social impact and social responsibility within the framework of the principles of sustainability. Therefore, various agencies were established within the framework of sustainability and ethical principles under the scope of the international network called DNS (Do Not Smile). These agencies prepared campaigns for those institutions and organizations that felt the pressure of specific legal practices and started to base their work on social impact, which then replaced ‘responsible communication’ in the literature. Non-governmental organizations also started to cooperate with these agencies.
On the other hand, the answer to the question of “what type of communication strategy?” was found in a form of production that recognized the audience it addressed, embraced the issue and aimed to raise awareness. As a result of various experiences, it was clear that the activities designed within social responsibility projects might lead to failure as they were developed without knowing their implementation field and without keeping up with social dynamics.
Creating individual responsibility and public opinion
With the duties and responsibilities we can take individually, we can also raise a social issue and create an impact. The importance of individual efforts and steps of individuals who develop projects for impact-oriented programs is undeniable. On this point, Damla Özlüer added that individual responsibilities alone are not always enough: working with non-governmental organizations, even those who closely follow the activities of private companies, can help creating change in the society.
Social impact communication, and projects related to it, attempt to minimize the damage caused by negative outcomes on the one hand, and to fix the deep-rooted historical issues mentioned above.