I’m at Havas Café on the famous Croisette in Cannes, where I’m meeting Pete Favat, the chief creative officer of the global advertising agency Arnold Worldwide. Earlier this week he gave a talk entitled “The balance between ethics and consumerism in advertisement” and I’m keen to talk to him and learn more about his views on the topic. We’ve just ordered coffees and Pete looks out pensively over the Croisette, the beach and the sea beyond.
“I used to hate advertising,” he says. “The idea that you’re using your power of persuasion, only to sell stuff to consumers.”
“Interesting comment from an advertising expert and speaker at the world’s most important advertising festival,” I say. “What changed?”
“Well I realized that this power of persuasion can be used for different messages, including messages that matter,” he says. “I like to think that I can make a difference through my work, using my creativity for causes I believe in.”
“To do cause marketing you mean?” I ask. “Can you give an example?”
“I can even give you two!” he says. “The first one is ‘Reality Drop’, a campaign to support the fight against Climate Change. Former US Vice-President Al Gore is trying to educate the public about the severity of the climate crisis. And we help him by using our powers of persuasion.”
“And number two?” I ask.
“Number two is ‘Truth’, a project to discourage smoking among children and teenagers. Underage smoking is still a very serious issue. Tobacco companies have always portrayed people smoking cigarettes as rebellious and ‘cool’. This image has gone from men to women and now, shockingly, to young children and teens. Tobacco companies have been able to increase sales by targeting and reaching ever-younger audiences, despite efforts to educate them about the potential dangers of smoking.”
“So you created a counter-marketing campaign?” I ask.
“In a way,” he says. “Counter-marketing aims to reduce demand for products that are unhealthy or harmful to society by discouraging their use. ‘Truth’ is more about educating young adults by presenting them with the truth about cigarettes. And telling tobacco companies to stop lying. No profit can justify endangering the health of millions of young people.” Pete pauses a few seconds to let his words sink in.
“So this is where you get your drive from?” I ask, “Using your power of persuasion for a good cause?”
“Right,” says Pete. “That’s what gives purpose to my work! Of course I do for-profit campaigns, and I’m passionate about them too, but cause marketing gives an extra dimension.”
“Let’s order another drink so I can tell you more,” he says as he waves to the waiter. “Drinks are on Havas,” he adds with a smile.
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