Companies Pitching Lofty Ideals in Ads?


To some, advertising is a scourge of modern society. Take Tyler Durden’s Fight Club philosophizing: “Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy [stuff] we don’t need.” (He didn’t actually say “stuff,” but you get the point.)

Such sentiments have an element of truth. But not all advertising campaigns pitch pointless stuff. Some companies — unexpected ones that peddle athletic wear and insurance — use their marketing might to inspire people to chase lofty ideals.

Enlightened Advertising? Yup.

Nike’s (NKE) Nike Foundation and Liberty Mutual won the top honors at The World Business Academy’s EthicMark Awards recently. The awards recognize advertising that “uplifts the human spirit and society” and were presented at the SRI in the Rockies Conference, where socially responsible investors gather every year.

Nike went well beyond its “Just Do It” tag line in its Nike Foundation ad. “The Girl Effect: The Clock is Ticking” — about using girl power to reduce poverty — won in the not-for-profit category. According to marketing director Emily Brew, “Investing in girls is not just the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do. When girls succeed, so do their families and national economies.”

Along the same lines, Liberty Mutual’s for-profit ad winner, “Responsibility: Do the Right Thing,” catalyzes discussion on doing the right thing — a hot potato topic for a financial firm, given the aftermath of the financial crisis. (If Wall Street’s “finest” had done the right thing before, during, and after the financial crisis, there probably wouldn’t be an Occupy Wall Street campaign right now.)

Having a Corporate Conscience Makes Good Business Sense

EthicMark’s award recipients have hit the pulse of a modern necessity — that people (including corporate management) need to be about something more than just the latest trend. Putting purpose on a pedestal, equal to the pursuit of profit, makes better business and a better world.

Corporate social responsibility efforts can’t just be window dressing. And, more than ever, consumers recognize that the relentless drive for more stuff (and, for corporations, more profits) without a sense of conscience leads to painful economic crisis. And, remember, they are the ones who have the final vote with their spending dollars.

Motley Fool analyst Alyce Lomax runs a real-money portfolio on that focuses on socially responsible investing; she owns no shares of Nike. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Nike. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a diagonal call position in Nike.

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