I’m curious….

Are you one of those people who loves what you do, but sometimes feels a niggle in the pit of your stomach that you’re not doing enough to change the world and make a difference?

If so, you’re not alone. This feeling is a common issue for ambitious people like you: especially if you’re one of the lucky ones to work in the communications world.

Our industry is a pretty incredible one.

Intelligent, creative, and ambitious people surround us on a daily basis. The work is challenging, gets you thinking in different ways, is always evolving, and gives you exposure to so many new things on a regular basis.

But many of us need more.

Is there a way to keep doing what we love and still use our skills in a positive way? What are other companies doing for this to be possible, and how can we learn from them?

That’s exactly what we’re diving into in this edition of our TIE newsletter.

We have the amazing Melissa Parsey, Group Planning Director from JWT New York, and TIE Alumnus, giving us the inside scoop on JWT’s global practice Ethos – The way that JWT globally realizes its commitment to communications with purpose.

Keep reading if you’re looking for inspiration as to how you too can change the world and still do what you love.

 

Melissa Parsey2

In 1947, the Chairman of JWT, Stanley Resor wrote: ‘The problems of war and peace, religion and morality, and the new humanity of man towards man are all susceptible to the power of advertising.’ It was his belief that as an industry we had a responsibility to do good through what we do best. It’s no surprise then that throughout the Agency’s 150 year history it has tackled issues related to poverty, the environment, education, human rights and even democracy. From launching the Marshall plan, NATO and more recently: creating a social movement with the Times of India, fighting unemployment with the largest bank in Puerto Rico, promoting human rights in Burma and supporting the arts at schools across America… JWT has been at its best when its created value for its clients and the community at large.

This commitment to communications with purpose was formalized over ten years ago through the creation of a new practice at JWT Toronto, called Ethos. The practice was built on the premise that JWT could harness the power of brands to drive positive change in the world; and proved true over the past decade through long-lasting, fruitful partnerships with Tim Horton’s, Walmart and the largest children’s hospital in Canada. Ethos is a new business model and philosophy that has been exported across the network.

Over the past few years at JWT New York we’ve built the Ethos practice: partnering with business leads and key clients to provide thought leadership as well as attracting new business from the NGO community. Rather than exist as a stand-alone entity we have staffed Ethos clients with inter-disciplinary teams, as we would do on any other business.  Its our ambition to provide long-term strategic and creative leadership that meets the needs of the community first and foremost vs offer charity.

One key client that we brought to the Agency through Ethos is NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) NYC Metro, the largest chapter of the biggest national advocacy and support organization for people suffering from mental illness and their families. In America, one in four people are affected in some way by mental illness but too many go without diagnosis for fear of stigmatization. We realized that for a new conversation to take place in America, first we needed to create a culture of listening: #IWillListen.

Rolling out the campaign: we turned the largest social network, Facebook, into the largest support network; the city of Philadelphia held the first #IWillListen day in its iconic Love Park; large corporations such as PwC, Deutsche Bank and AMEX rolled-out internal #IWillListen programs; and a group of recording artists have come together to record the first #IWillListen album. A recent article in Scientific America even called out that though our campaign “social media was fighting stigma” around mental illness. See here for an article that just came out in the NY Times.

For us, it is case in point that communications can be a powerful tool in tackling social ills, by driving positive behavior and cultural change. We may not be doctors, or aid workers but we still have a choice in the type of work we do and the legacy that we hope to build. At JWT, Ethos is a philosophy as much as it is a practice. It’s something that has imbued our work from the start, and I hope will continue to guide us. Now more than ever brands are judged not only by what they say, but what they do; just as advertisers we will be held to account for the tangible value we add to our clients and their communities.