Most creative work is do-good fata morganas


When you look at most creative work in the sustainability, do-good, #goodvertising-space it does look worthy at first sight. But when you take a closer look, it’s a fata morgana. As a creative industry, we still have a long way to go to truly solve social and environmental challenges. And it’s on you and me to fix those as the sand in the hour glass is running out quickly, on everything from tropical forest loss, marine life, CO2-levels, ocean acidification, to biodiversity. I haven’t even touched on social issues like a lack of basic sanitation, escalating poverty, poor access to empowering education for some, and a variety of human rights violations being faced by others. This is not something another campaign or case video can solve. For the last four years, I’ve been judging the D&AD Impact Awards, which is part of the so-called “Impact Council”. The Impact Council advises and assists winners of the Future Impact Awards. I’ve also judged Cannes Lions’ Sustainable Development Goal Lions – another batch of impactful work. Above this, I judge a fair share of other do-good awards globally. So ultimately, I’ve been wearing a “do-good hat” for a long time now. Let me share a few tips with you on how to get it right.



Leave the office and wear your heart on your sleeves  

Get the hell out of the office! White walls and perfectly-lined pieces of paper don’t solve real world problems. Go out there onto the streets, into the favelas, into the indigenous sand forests and be as curious as a documentary filmmaker looking to scoop up his or her next story. Bring your heart – because love and hate can be powerful agents of change. Either because you love something so much you want to protect it – or hate something so much that you want to change it. Take Wunderman Thompson Paris for example. They absolutely wanted to do something about the bad congestion in Paris; because it actually results in lives lost when a doctor gets stuck in traffic. Voila! Out comes doctors on custom-made emergency bicycles. Secondly, if you really love or hate something, there’s a chance others might as well. Love and hate are contagious. McCann Tel Aviv created a collection of 3D printable add-ons to IKEA furniture, “ThisAbles”, to make them more accessible for disabled – and more accessible for the world.

Billboard We_ve made you buy shit

Measure impact and learn how to count hectoliters

Always think about how you can quantify the impact. It could be by measuring liters of water saved, kilos of carbon emissions, lowered infant mortality rates and so on. A clever initiative, “Inherit his name, Inherit his way” is a measurement vessel that has been designed to get practicing Muslim Sri Lankans to save water used when cleansing themselves before prayers five times a day. By changing religious washing habits this initiative can potentially save up to 30-35 liters of water per person. That’s an impact worth counting. Usually briefs contain business goals, but why not add impact metrics as well?


Change behaviours and make New Year pledges happen

I don’t care about “gaining more eye-balls”, you’re supposed to solve shit! Think about how often you’ve seen a campaign with a malnourished polar bear on an ice flake – but you’re still tramping along with a heavy carbon footprint. Changing people’s behavior for the better is awesome – but difficult. That’s exactly what Prime Weber Shandwick was trying to achieve by opening a supermarket where the price was labelled as tons of carbon – and the more carbon, the higher the price. Unfortunately, it was only a stunt for two days – so the impact could have been greater. But at least, people’s habits were changed for a day. Doconomy set-out to showcase people’s carbon footprint to them, because if consumers don’t know their carbon footprint, how are they going to change? The agency turned into a start-up connecting credit card spending with an estimated carbon footprint and in that way, you can shop more climate friendly. I want to see more ideas like that!


Avoid fata morganas, create lighthouses for good

These are just a few hacks to improve your creative skills for good. You can watch Thomas talk more about what’s needed to build lasting impact and avoid fata morganas. D&AD is hosting a live session Friday 21 May at 14:00 CET “Insights: Impact – Using creativity to benefit society: explore the work that is driving change”. Or why not improve your creative skills and join Thomas’ live webinar on April 21st “Creativity for good” at 15:00 CET at


Emergency bikes


Inherit his name, inherit his way

The Climate Store


Seeking to build and grow your brand using the force of consumer insight, strategic foresight, creative disruption and technology prowess? Talk to us at +971 50 6254340 or mail: or visit

About Author

Thomas Kolster

Thomas Kolster is a marketing activist on a mission to make business put people and planet first. As a seasoned branding and sustainability professional of more than 18 years’ standing, he’s advised Fortune 500 companies, small start-ups, governments, agencies, and non-profits. He’s the founder of the global Goodvertising movement that’s inspired a shift for the better in advertising.

Comments are closed.