Nicky Bullard



Nicky Bullard: The Creative Responsibility: From Hype to Hope

If I had to choose one thing that I took from this report, it’s the breakdown of relationships.  With parents in early years. With educators. With communities.  With social workers.  With the police.  With each other.

And you could call the report a depressing read.  However, this three-year deep dive has given us an understanding of the scope and nature of the problem, and now, if the Violence Reduction Units get the long-term funding and empowerment they need, we will have the hope.

The opportunity ‘to do good work, that does good’.  That’s why I joined the advertising industry.

And of course, we all want to do explosive campaigns for big brands, win awards, be famous.  But doing meaningful work for those household names, that is really why we are here.

So, are we doing good work when it comes to our portrayal of UK Youth? Or could it be doing more harm than good?

I’ve taken a look at some relevant data my agency network has drawn from the last 4 years, which provides a glimpse at UK youth attitudes, values and beliefs.  And I’ve had a think about what we, the marketing industry, can do about it.

The loss of belonging Community.
It’s a big word.  Where are our youth finding it?  Well it’s not in the places they live.  It’s in social media. Why? It’s a sad fact that 55% of UK 18-24 year olds consider themselves to be in a minority group. And 17% of 18-24 year olds believe it’s more important to live by your own rules rather than those set out by others.

Yet to be part of a community, and not ostracised from it, you need to follow that community’s accepted norms and guidelines. So, smaller communities are formed online, centred around a passion point or shared belief that all of the community’s members buy into (a marketer’s dream right?). And then of course, if you no longer buy into that shared belief, you can leave that online community easily and without pain.  And be instantly accepted into another. Unlike in the real world.

Marketing Industry challenge:  How do we leverage the power of these online communities to bring that sense of belonging to our real-life communities?

The loss of hope
70% of UK 18-24 year olds don’t think they can plan for their future due to uncertainty in the world today. 81% say it’s harder to trust people in their area than it was in the past. And 20% would be willing to join a counter-crime/terrorism advocacy organisation.  That’s 1/5 of our youth finding belonging here, rather than the communities they live in.

Industry challenge:  Let’s not hype ‘gangsta’ life to the 20%.  Why not help brands be part of a ‘future plan’ for the 70%?

Brands can bring hope.

And the data shows it’s also good for business. 58% of Gen Z say that they have bought a product solely because the brand took a stand on an issue they care about.  And 70% said they’d be prepared to pay more for it. Advertising can help counter feelings of isolation, with 62% of UK young people saying that advertising has really helped broaden their exposure to other cultures and communities.

And here comes the responsibility for brands and their agencies.

80% of UK 18-24 year olds say that brands should DO MORE to improve everyday life. 79% think global brands have a greater ability to create positive change than the government does. 83% of UK 18-24 year olds think that global brands have the power to make the world a better place.

Conclusion: Hype or hope?

As an industry, it’s not enough to simply reflect our youth in our work, show that we ‘get them’, be edgy for the sake of cool.  We have to stop the hype of the stereotype. Be a community catalyst. Show the positivity that young Londoner’s are bringing.

It’s time to hype the hope.

Sources: Truth about New Europe 2018, Truth about Youth 2019, Truth About Global Brands 2017, Meta Q 2019

Nicky Bullard is Chairwoman and CCO of MRM/McCann (Relationship Marketing Company)