Theme: brainprint  
Published: 11 November 2014
Text: Samuli Kotilainen
Photos: Casper Helmer

Advertising bad, goodvertising good?

The era of talking nonsense is over, begins Thomas Kolster who’s coming to visit in Helsinki next week. He promotes a new way of thinking in the advertising industry, known as 'goodvertising' . Doing good deeds for genuine reasons can be a strong competitive advantage which takes advertising to a whole new level – but only as long as it is done correctly.

"We’ve been part of the problem. We want to be part of the solution."

These are the words that Thomas Kolster made the audience repeat at the Sustainable Brands conference in Istanbul in May. Most likely, the core of his message will be the same on Tuesday, when he takes the stage as one of the keynote speakers in Creation2015, an event organized by Alma Media in conjunction with Slush, the largest startup and technology event in Europe.

Kolster's goal is far from modest – he aims to change the way the advertising industry and business world both operate. He says that advertising has been used to promote countless agendas which have had negative impacts; and this has not gone unnoticed by the masses. Kolster's solution to the issue is 'goodvertising' which means using advertising for the good. 

In goodvertising, brands are developed by doing genuine, positive and valuable deeds, usually in cooperation with the client.

"When I worked in the advertising industry, I noticed that many advertisers had lost the touch with the rest of the world," says Denmark resident Thomas Kolster.

Advertisers have been slow to notice that the way people think has changed. Shopping and consuming are no longer held in high regard and more attention is paid to topics such as environmental issues.

This often results in deep distrust in the companies that the consumers perceive as selfish.

Kolster says he once heard a French student proclaim: "I don't want corporations to mess with my life in any way."

This kind of atmosphere is not fertile ground for successful advertising but Kolster believes that goodvertising could change the situation.

Volvo and Dove have already embraced goodvertising. How could other companies utilise it?

"At least do something," encourages the idea's founder Thomas Kolster. "It doesn’t even have to be anything major. I recommend that companies consider what they and their customers value, and how to engage people. The key is to be genuine – one of the biggest mistakes companies can make is to do something without genuinely believing in it, or to lie in order to gain short-term marketing benefits," Kolster stresses, and continues by stating that dishonesty has no future in the social media era.

What if the company has made a mistake?

"Admitting your mistakes is not a problem. Companies should be more transparent about the impact of their operations," Kolster says.

What goodvertising?

  • Exposing the naked truth. Be honest about the consequences of the company operations.
  • Replace the company's social responsibility with social opportunities.Don't limit your thinking to just laws and regulations. Try to think broadly about what your company could do for the greater good.
  • Who can participate? Engage everyone who is crucial to your agenda, but others as well.

Genuine goodvertising

A supermarket chain wanted to campaign against wasting food. The company realised that one reason for the waste is the consumers' distorted idea of what food should look like.

In the spirit of goodvertising, the supermarket chain launched an advertising campaign to sell the odd-looking vegetables, such as two-legged carrots and oddly-coloured tomatoes.

The campaign was a success as customers joined the supermarket chain in the effort to reduce wasting food and natural resources. The company benefitted as well as it managed to reduce their losses due to spoilage.

Another goodvertising success story is the personal care brand Dove. Their advertising campaign for healthier definitions of beauty has received positive reactions on social media.

Kolster also mentions Volvo, with their goal that, starting with their 2020 models, not a single person will die or get seriously injured in a car manufactured by Volvo.