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David Eastman

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Why Doing Good Is Good Business

Posted: 06/27/2012 2:16 pm

Welcome to fifth and final blog in the The Stream Series, a selection of observations from the WPP Digital un-conference, Stream. Attended by Arianna Huffington and Roy Sekoff, the event -- Stream@Cannes -- brought together some of the best minds behind global brands, technology and media companies as well as start-ups to explore the ever expanding potential of digital creativity.

You can read the first four articles including David Sable, CEO Y&R on "Stories From the Blue" here; Thomas Gensemer Managing Partner, Blue State Digital on "Engagement, Advocacy, and Other Buzzwords" here; Jonathan Mildenhall, Coca-Cola on "The Golden Triangle of Good" here; and Paul Adams, Facebook on "A World of Exponentially Increasing Information" here.

Today we hear from JWT's David Eastman as he reflects on the day. To share your reactions and further ideas get in touch with the Stream Team or go to the Stream website.

Why Doing Good Is Good Business

We hear it all the time, and it's becoming more apparent with each passing day. Technology and geography are relentlessly reshaping the business of communication, whose best and brightest gathered last week for the annual Festival of Creativity in Cannes. The thrust of our clients, here too in Cannes, is directed towards predicting and leveraging these forces to forge deeper, reciprocal and more meaningful relationships with their consumers.

It was against this backdrop that I joined an eclectic group of WPP agency leaders, clients, media owners (old and new) and Internet entrepreneurs on Ile Sainte-Marguerite for the inaugural WPP Stream Conference in Cannes.

Such was the diversity of inspirational ideas shared, I couldn't possibly get into what each and every speaker said in this blog post. Instead I want to talk about a word that I saw emerge as a theme at Cannes last week -- it's a word that flowed like a torrent through Stream. This word is not new to marketing; in fact, some would probably argue that it's already overused. But I disagree, because as emerging technology surges through the fast-emerging economies of the world, a power shift unprecedented in scope is inevitable. As marketers, we need to be prepared for it, and we need to be able to harness it. So what is this word?

Cause.

Doing things, pursuing things and choosing things that we care about. Giving people information, platforms and tools to fuel and enable them. Or, as Arianna Huffington put it, "empowering people to lead the life they want to lead, not the life they settle for," because "we all know the place inside us that we want to be, but most of the time we aren't there."

Cause manifests itself in many different ways, both predictable and surprising. Pleasingly for me though, the pursuit of cause is becoming less about pure ideology and increasingly realist. The success of BuzzFeed, said Jon Steinberg, is that its blend of robust world news and light entertainment is a reflection of his company's cause: to "stop denying that the world is the way it is." People want both. Both stimulate people. So he gives them both.

That world, Shane Smith, founder of Vice told us, is more fearful than it has ever been. Hence the riots and uprisings we have witnessed this past year. In fact, fear is a "thief robbing us of our today," added Ross Levinsohn, interim CEO of Yahoo!. This isn't just true of individuals -- entire industries are living in fear, communities and brands too. We all need an antidote, and that comes from our gravitation around causes.

"Choose only the things you care about," proclaimed Yoni Bloch. "Have people create their own stories" with your content if you're a brand. Get them to "do fewer, more important things" for them and you, said Ze Frank, and you will begin to reap the rewards. More than mere interactions and haloing will result, because in the value exchange of the web, argued Paul Adams of Facebook, the more you share with your audience, the more they'll be willing to share with you.

This unyielding shift in marketing norms is what keeps me awake at night. Not because of the "what I'm most scared of" undertone that often accompanies that phrase, but because it's exhilarating to see these forces change the world and reshape our business. It's changing the way we work at JWT too, leading us to win awards for our innovation with Puerto Rico's first ever Cannes Grand Prix this week, and our Gold Award in New York for Augmented Reality applied to Band-Aids.

With the pace of these changes only getting faster, it is both the most challenging and opportunistic time to be part of this industry. I'm excited to work with our clients to drive the change we want to see in the world.

 
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