How creativity can change the world

Matt Wurst

VP, Client Management

As marketers, we know that how you communicate is often just as important as what you communicate.

The United Nations has prioritized 17 Sustainable Development Goals, also known as SDGs, that have become a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for humanity. From poverty and hunger to climate change and quality education for all, these SDGs are managed, prioritized, funded and staffed in complex and complicated ways. The biggest challenge, however, is often how to articulate the problem. The science and the actionable solutions must be presented to the general public in a cogent, clear way. This way, we can all understand why it matters and what to do about it.

A Convergence of Brilliance

Last week, dozens of creative and media leaders from around the world joined forces with scientists, policy experts and ambassadors from key nations on the floor of the United Nations Secretariat Building at the 2019 SDG Media Summit. The initiative is led by the United Nations Office of Partnerships and the Pvblic Foundation, deliberately planned for the week prior to Global Climate Week, UN Week (gridlock!) and the annual convention of the General Assembly (political gridlock!).

And with an urgent need for greater awareness, reach, engagement and resonance around the SDGs, bring in the marketing industry! Who better than some of the smartest and most experienced leaders from creative and strategy shops, media agencies and brands to join forces and make a difference?

Our agenda: to learn, share, think, plan and discuss how we can use creativity and technology to mitigate the biggest challenges of our time (and of all-time).

Our goal: to lay the foundation and create a framework that drives a decade of action, mainstreaming awareness into advocacy, advocacy into activism. Let’s just say that this was not your standard brand creative brief…

Shared Learnings

Among the many incredible, inspiring and often frustrating topics and themes shared, here are a few highlights:

  • Ursula Wynhoven, ITU Representative to the United Nations, and Charles Brigham, UN SDG Lead at ESRI talked about the impact of mobile, and SMS/text messaging as an easy, immediate means of improving health in rural, impoverished areas. Nearly half the world is still not connected to internet, and of that group, they are more likely to be women, older and in rural regions.
  • Per Pederson, Grey’s global CCO, introduced a Google-based Morse code application to communicate with individuals with severe disabilities. “It’s not always about how many people you help, but helping people who need it most,” the program says.
  • Sam Kass, the former White House Senior Advisor for Nutrition and exec director of Let’s Move, stressed a reduction of meat consumption. But while acknowledging that this may not be popular, he put things in a more relevant, relatable context. “The risk to our planet is so severe that now wine, coffee, chocolate are also under threat. It’s all connected.”
  • Valorie Aquino, Executive Director of March For Science and Lippincott chairman John Marshall implored us to not only accept that the rate of global warming is alarming, but to address those who do not agree on the science of the issue by dedicating our talent and resources to fixing the communication problem.
  • Chuck Stetson, creator of globalbetterhealth.org, introduced the concept of “risk reduction” for personal health. “We are killing ourselves too early because of unhealthy choices, he said. “The dramatic rise in chronic diseases in the past 100 years – mental health issues, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, dementia – can be mitigated through exercise and healthier diets.”

“The World Is Not Listening”

Ali’ioaiga Feturi Elisaia: Samoa’s Representative to the United Nations.

But perhaps the most compelling, emotional and astounding call-to-action of the conference came from the island nation of Samoa’s ambassador to the U.N., Aliioaiga Feturi Elisaia. With rising sea levels, the climate crisis poses an existential threat to Samoa. Which is why a heavily-researched IPCC report on the impact of what an increase in just 1.5 degree Celsius means to the planet was going to be a focal point of conversation at next week’s General Assembly meetings.

However, in a real-time update provided to our group straight from preparatory meetings for in the adjacent room between representative members of the UN Security Council, Ambassador Feturi reported how the representatives of Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States voted to strike all scientific mentions from the report.

“The world is not listening to the science,” he said. “So I challenge you, the leaders in your fields, to educate the public and mobilize around the science. And please, make people hopeful that change is possible.”

What We’re Doing About It

At revelation, we have the power to create stories that influence audiences. Along with our partners, client and the marketing industry as a whole, we take seriously our obligation to the community. As Kindred’s Ian Schafer has said, “Brand purpose is the new digital.” Everyone knows it’s important, that they need it, but don’t know who owns it or how to organize around it. It can start with a project, a product or even just an idea. But we want to help you go from advocate to activist, from activity to achievement.

We are a company rooted in culture, and there is nothing more relevant today than operating with purpose. It’s why we’ve eliminated all single-use plastics from our office and installed water filters for refillable drinking and reduced lighting in all common and meeting rooms. But there is so much more we can do through our work with brands. We are committed to using our platforms and partnerships to create and make alliances with people who care.