What are some of the unique differences, advantages, and challenges of social marketing campaigns, compared to commercial campaigns?
Even though the topics and goals seem very different, the approach can be quite similar and the creative process is basically the same. As with a commercial campaign, every brief starts with an issue that the client wants to overcome. Our job is to understand the client’s challenges, craft key messages, find the most relevant target audiences, and create a communication strategy that will make an impact. The main difference is that the impact is measured less by changes on the balance sheet, and more by changes in society, culture, and even law.
Social campaigns also have a positive impact on our team. They keep us motivated, give us purpose, and make people want to work hard and stay with us. Our team are young – 20 to 30 years old. Most live with their families, and I commonly hear from them about generational culture gaps. I understand that many of these issues are very important to the team, and social campaigns give them a chance to affect the national discourse. Plus, in some cases our team members became aware of – and even passionate about – these issues while working on the campaigns. It’s become something we discuss with prospective team members in interviews, as it generally makes people more excited to join us and signifies that we have a tolerant, open-minded, and accepting agency culture.
For Investing in Women, an initiative of the Australian government, we had a month dedicated to Paternity Leave. The national law says that men get 15 days leave due to the birth of a child, but many are unaware of this and don’t take it. It’s my hope that, if one of the men on our team has a child, he will not think twice about taking the time that he needs to be there for his family.
The biggest challenge is that many issues that affect peoples’ lives are not commonly discussed. In some cases that’s due to lack of available information, like with the data that Air Quality Yangon sought to make public. Other times it’s due to social norms and taboos, and we have to find novel ways to raise the issues without going too far. We don’t want to simply offend people, but rather to spark conversations.
For instance, we worked with Pan ka lay on their SoWhat?! campaign to change the stigma around menstruation. I’m from France, and if we have a group talking about menstruation it’s often in an activism context in which people are very straightforward. But in Myanmar, it has to be more educational, with social media posts based on the science behind menstruation showing that blood is a natural and necessary part of the process. We try to focus on positivity and providing facts, not simply criticizing existing beliefs.
That said, there are a lot of superstitions, like that a girl isn’t supposed to wash her hair during menstruation, and some girls don’t go to school at that time due to teasing. With those in mind, for this campaign we focused on targeting and changing the mindsets of young people who are going through these changes, for whom the discussion is both more urgent and less taboo.