Many industries are experiencing a shift in the way corporate success is measured, as brands and agencies are increasingly adopting in-house green initiatives and practices. We spoke with ELVIS Executive Creative Director, Neale Horrigan, on measuring a campaign's 'ecoffectiveness' and taking a holistic approach to sustainable communications.
Can you tell us about what green initiatives your agency currently has in place?
We’re on a journey to becoming a B Corp, which means that we believe business growth doesn’t have to come at the expense of making a positive impact on the planet – this is a massive, all-encompassing initiative that affects every part of how we do business, from the way we use our office environment to the work we do for our clients.
Our mission statement (to use unexpected and unforgettable creativity to help people and brands grow in a better way) has sustainability baked into it.
Our creative brief template ensures that we always start a project by considering how it could help people or the planet, regardless of whether we are working on a ‘green’ brief. This means that all our creative output is looked at through the lens of sustainability, right from the outset.
How does your approach to each campaign keep sustainability in mind?
Our creative brief template is key to keeping sustainability in mind for every project. We see it as ‘the single most important document in the agency.’ Therefore, it forms an essential part of our approach, and it is pivotal in helping us to ensure that our creative output helps to create a better world.
Is there a framework you follow when tasked with improving a brand’s green messaging and positioning?
We leverage a number of different frameworks, depending on the specific brief and the problem we’re tackling. However, we have found that an adaptation of Defra’s 2011 4E policy framework, and Sitra’s 2018 framework for encouraging ecologically sustainable consumer behaviour, are particularly useful for green messaging and positioning.
In what ways are you helping your clients navigate sustainability communications?
We run a proprietary piece of research known as ‘The Better World Impact Index’ which helps our clients better understand consumer attitudes to sustainability issues and sustainability-focused brand perceptions. We believe that a better world is a holistic concept which encompasses making a positive impact on people and the planet, so this research piece also looks at attitudes to societal issues such as diversity, equity and inclusion.
We have also spearheaded a new measure of effectiveness known as ‘ecoffectiveness’, which looks at the return on carbon of marketing campaigns (similar to the way in which return on investment is measured) in order to help our clients and the broader industry better understand the effectiveness of this type of communication.
Transparency regarding a brand’s eco footprint is important, how can you avoid being perceived as purely greenwashing?
Authenticity, transparency, and trustworthiness are fundamental elements of sustainability marketing (just as they are with classic marketing). We work with our clients to ensure that the messaging consumers see in comms is reflective of the way our clients are actually doing business, and we always ensure that a sustainability message is embedded in the core of a way a business operates, before we communicate that message to any audience.
How do you see the advertising industry improving communications around sustainability in the future to develop a more streamlined green approach to campaigns?
We hope to see the return on carbon measure of ‘ecoffectiveness’ becoming an industry standard, used to measure campaign performance as frequently as ROI is used currently. This will enable a more standardized way to assess the effectiveness of sustainability marketing, allowing for more comparison and benchmarking across the industry, and more optimization off the back of that. Sustainability is a complex issue, which requires us all to work together in order to reframe what success looks like, today and tomorrow.