Thursday, May 14, 2009

Taking our message to the street

As a Social Issues Marketing guy, I spend a lot of time pondering why people do what they do, how it affects others, and how I can help them make better choices for themselves and their communities.

I also want to "walk the walk". We all do at Acart. Which is why we take a little time out of our insane ad-biz schedules to try and set an example for our clients, industry, and neighbours. Sometimes we raise money, sometimes we provide publicity for worthy causes, and sometimes we just get our hands dirty.

And so we ended up out on the street this Tuesday, with gloves, brooms and bags, to clean up the block in front of our office.

It was pretty gross, since we're in the middle of downtown Ottawa, but we didn't find much worse than broken hooch bottles, millions of cigarette butts, and endless Tim Horton's cups. (I had to keep a keen eye out, too, since my 4-year-old son was helping pick up the trash: "Look daddy! I found a white balloon!")

Did we have any impact on our City? Probably not. But for us it was a way to make ourselves aware of where our agency fits into the core community. As we sit up in the Acart Building, creating campaigns to try to help people, there are folks outside scavenging butts for charred tobacco, panhandling, and generally having nothing to do but hang out on the corner. (They watched us clean with a mixture of confusion and amusement.)

Creating effective social marketing requires an emotional commitment on the part of its practitioners. You have to understand your audience, and empathize with them, or you'll end up creating ads that are ineffective, or even worse, that totally backfire.

Our various outreach initiatives may not be changing the world in any measurable way, but for us they're helping provide a more realistic insight into the world of issues around our daily lives, whether its raising bit of cash to help war victims get wheelchairs, or just reminding ourselves that we're all responsible for the state of our community.

Plus, it's nice to get out of the agency now and then.


  1. May I disagree regarding impact? We had so many people stop and ask about what we were doing and why and where we worked and thanking us. Including a thanks from a lady sitting outside the shelter on the corner, as she sat smoking her cigarette. Impact. It maybe small but no less important. And that’s where it all starts... in your own backyard... or front street.

  2. Fracking awesome cause/activity guys! If one person (even if it's within the agency) figures out how not to throw garbage on the street, I'd consider it a win.

  3. I agree with you Kerry, and offer you an honorary position as a Gen Y/Millennial for your optimism! Those jadded Gen Xers always want to take the piss out of everything... :)~

  4. Did you rrrroll up the rrrrrim to win on any of Timmies cups?