Why Gritty Campaigns are Dominating Europe

Across Europe, the glossy ads of old are disappearing. Set against a backdrop of socially challenging, antagonistic and emotive social issues, we’re seeing a rise in authentic brands championing causes close to the hearts of their audience.

Revolutions are nothing new in Europe. It’s a continent that has been defined by change – sometimes enabling society to prosper, but sadly, more often than not leaving it to question the short- and longer-term impact of decisions made. This is especially true when you look at the key themes populating the weekly news agenda today.

Themes like the freedom and equality of women, the divide between rich and poor, freedom of speech and even recently, the right to live in one country or another when fleeing from war ravaged lands.

Today, more than ever before brands understand the need to use an authentic voice when communicating with their audiences. Relationships are forged most fiercely when perspective is shared – or at the very least, openly discussed.

Like the challenges Europe is currently facing, as an industry, we have collectively integrated and reintegrated in multiple forms. Whether it be brand strategy, digital, sales and marketing or PR, the challenges are enough to leave us feeling under pressure when it comes to defining who we are and what we should offer to keep things balanced and people satisfied.

It’s about plotting a journey and delivering. What’s needed in today’s political landscape is no different. We want a constant message but also demand to be challenged and take satisfaction in both.

Some of us polarise for popularity, others assume the voice of the ignored minority, challenging injustice and championing the ideals of freedom and inclusivity. Despite the rising tide of political voices heralding isolation in Europe (Brexit, Alternative for Germany, the National Front in France and The League in Italy to name a few), there are common themes dominating the European Communications landscape.

The Freedom and rights of women

According to data from the World Bank, women make up 51% of the population of Europe which explains a lot when you look at some powerful and recent campaigns. In Italy for example, where one in three women are affected by domestic abuse, IKEA created a campaign called ‘The Room’. The campaign saw IKEA board up one room in the warehouse and play the sounds of domestic abuse (namely the arguments that lead to it) to passers-by. The result was powerful and emotive. Elsewhere in Europe, the #BLOODNORMAL campaign turned heads replacing the traditional blue liquid (historically used to represent blood in sanitary adverts) with bright red. The campaign was true to the purpose of Bodyform and Libresse’s parent company Essity, which is: ‘breaking taboos that hold women back’ and carried the authority and relevance of that truth with it on its crusade to see incredible results. Other notable campaigns like ‘The Equaliser’ by Smirnoff and Spotify highlighted the gap between male and female artists in the mainstream and Coco de Mer took a leading stance on Female Genital Mutilation. These campaigns have been built to provoke thought and challenge our comfort zones, to share where the balance is out of alignment and to ultimately turn what’s uncomfortable into mainstream conversation in a bid to tackle the taboo.

Social purpose and the power of the big brand challenge

By truly listening online, we can discover ways to change the world and what really matters to our audiences. Social media gives us all a public forum to highlight challenges but equally serves brands with an opportunity to harness viral behaviour promoting their message. A good example is Beau Monde, a fashion magazine in Romania that produces 100% Romanian content, who cottoned onto an online conversation highlighting a jacket design resembling one made in Bihor Romania. Working with McCann Romania, they set about declaring war on major fashion houses, appropriating designs that fail to credit (or reward) the originators.

Bihor Couture was born, a fashion brand which produced pure Romanian fashion, that directly benefitted the inhabitants of the region in Romania, for a snip of the price.

Appearing at Paris Fashion Week, producing ads mocked-up to simulate the major fashion houses (such as Dior) and engaging influencers, the campaign met with mass approval both at home in Romania and overseas. Challenging the mainstream has become a key theme within purpose campaigning with Diesel raising awareness of online bullying through ‘Hate Couture’ and ‘Be a Follower’, which challenges influencer behaviour.

The power of data, technology and the audio-visual

Whilst the UK remains in the EU, it seems pertinent to show how a creative fusion of data and technology can be used to bring a once silenced voice to life.

The Times, tasked Rothco with helping to launch the ‘Find your voice campaign’ to its readers (and potential readers) around the world, with the objective of repositioning The Times as a paper that represents many differing voices.

In an act of genius, they spent months collating clips from no less than 800 speeches once delivered by American President John F. Kennedy in order to construct a true-to-life audio of a speech he was supposed to make on the day he was gunned down in Dallas in 1963.

The haunting recording delivers incredible impact.

As Europe holds strong and the UK plans its exit with society questioning what’s right or wrong, mesmerising or not, it’s up to the communications industry to remind the public that we have choices, we have a voice and that we’re happy to set the agenda without boundaries or limitations .

At KWT Global, we work with partners around the world, helping them demonstrate their best-selves. We’ve seen what strong borderless thinking, effective execution and good corporate citizenship can do for a brand.

Have you?

Jeremy Page is an Associate Director with KWT Global UK and can kayak circles around the best of’em.