Social Responsibility, Culture, and Advertising: A Mistress Perspective

Times have changed for brands. Shoe companies who once talked about cushioning and fit, now promote civil rights causes. A hamburger chain is as likely to talk about tolerance and acceptance, as flame-grilled patties. Have advertisers changed or have consumers?


As a creative agency that applies traditional brand building to the pace and demands of modern media culture, Mistress has come to live at the intersection of brand, social, and media. And that intersection exists within the framework of cultural relevancy.


As consumers increasingly ask brands to take positions on causes they care about, we’ve seen the growth of cause marketing and socially-conscious advertising as an opportunity to connect clients with their audiences, domestically and worldwide, in an authentic and progressive way.


In today’s interconnected media environment, a brand can’t afford to ignore the things that are important to its community. Study after study shows that Millenials and Gen Z are making financial decisions based on an organization’s position on political, cultural and environmental topics. Simply put, these are the conversations that are happening one way or another—as advertisers, we’re presented with both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is the potential to alienate those who don’t agree with us. The opportunity is to engage in dialogues that benefit both society and brand.


But there’s another factor, a hidden cost of playing it safe and not taking sides. By opting to not join the conversations of our era, a brand can be viewed as culturally-irrelevant at best. At worst, especially when competitors are taking ownership of progress, silence can invoke a negative public response. Or even worse, it can elicit zero response; apathy.


While we always have a choice in which conversations and which causes are meaningful to us, electing to not stand up and not engage our stakeholders is no longer an option. These conversations may be hard, but as brands living at the forefront of modern media culture, they’re a requirement to transcend from players in a business category to emotionally-relevant leaders for consumers.


When Discover Los Angeles engaged Mistress to help maintain LA tourism during turbulent political times after President Trump’s proposed travel bans, there was no question about it—we had to tackle Washington’s misrepresentations and assure the world that Los Angeles was still the welcoming place it had always been. Leveraging insight and creativity, and the help of hundreds of Angeleno volunteers, Mistress created a human-powered billboard, in four different languages, visible to incoming international flights touching down at LAX letting all travelers know that in LA, "Everyone is Welcome."


When açaí-leader Sambazon, a brand that was founded on a commitment to social and environmental consciousness, came to Mistress looking to promote further company growth, it was obvious that we should continue to communicate its active role at the forefront of environmental protectionism in the Amazon. By harnessing the power of social media, and over six thousand purple heads, #PurpleForThePlanet was born—a campaign that ended up saving 126,270 acres of Amazon rainforest and 216 endangered species, in just 30 days.



And when we realized that no brand was championing sexual education in the digital age, where the average age of exposure to porn is 11-years-old, we became change agents ourselves. To start a dialogue and better educate parents about today's sex-ed reality, the award-winning Give the Talk not-for-profit PSA campaign was created, using porn stars to raise awareness amongst parents about porn as sex-ed.



Not only were these projects among the most creatively-fulfilling for Mistress they were also some of the most authentic and resonant—they not only championed social good, they also show the cultural importance of our brands, and reflect the values of our agency and staff. While it may be tempting to avoid getting involved in politics and controversy, sometimes the best way to break through the clutter is by taking a stance on issues to develop a deeper bond with your community and audience.


So, have advertisers changed or have consumers? I say both.


Welcome to the evolution of modern media culture.