Sitting around the table with ten senior advertising executives recently, I was struck by the widespread social conscience of all those present. 

While I am not surprised at this, it’s heartening really to see that most great advertising minds have a desire to do the right thing. This makes our role as an industry body hugely fulfilling and ultimately so much easier.

At a time when the industry is facing criticism around its perceived contribution to obesity and alcohol abuse, it may be time to remind critics of what advertising does for good.

There is a widespread commitment from the industry to be socially conscious: commitment to communications that are legal, truthful, accurate and decent, honouring consumer privacy. Our commitment is for all to see through some of the most comprehensive self-regulatory codes that exist on the planet.

Most of us in this industry believe advertising can and does, play a constructive role in economic growth and in the exchange of information and ideas. It is pivotal to informing consumers and plays a large part in ensuring a free, vibrant market exists. Advertising also brings audiences a myriad of free information and media content, much of which would not be viable to produce in its absence.

And then there is also advertising that you might think off as socially conscious: work that fosters behaviour or even solidarity between groups, that attempts to bring a worthy cause to the public’s attention.

Local examples are the TAC campaigns against road deaths by Grey, which has been working with TAC Victoria for 20 years and with great effect: every one of the past 20 years, Victoria has had the lowest rate of road deaths in Australia. Or the Guide Dogs Australia campaign by Clemenger BBDO, encouraging support for the blind by developing a ‘support scent’ which allowed the blind to recognise who was supporting them.

Perhaps the most ambitious example internationally of trying to affect behavioural change for the better is by Taproot, recently highlighted at our annual festival of commercial creativity- Circus. A very well received and praised campaign for the Times of India attempting to influence and empowering Indians to do good, work on education and peaceful thinking toward its neighbour Pakistan. Interestingly, but probably not surprisingly, these are often creatively praised campaigns, highly awarded and, most importantly, a runaway success.

Another example of our contribution is the widespread pro bono work being done quietly and without fanfare. The recent Buy Queensland campaign was a concerted effort by the industry to help flood affected business, while the Outdoor Media Association’s $1.4 Million Out-of-Home donation of billboard space to Big Issue is intended to raise awareness about the cause. These are just two of a number of examples where the marketing communications sector are donating time and effort for a good cause.

As the body representing this industry, we work on a daily basis to help our members educate and steer all involved to eliminate socially harmful aspects of communications, but sometimes it’s good to celebrate the great work we do already.

We have much to be proud of.