TBWA’s Tim Huse talks corporate social responsibility and advertising’s role in doing good

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Bowel Cancer New Zealand ran its high profile Art Chairs campaign through Whybin\TBWA to raise money and awareness for the disease in New Zealand, which has one of the highest incidences of the cancer in the developed world. We caught up with Whybin creative director Tim Huse to find out his thoughts on working with not-for-profits and whether advertising has a responsibility to help in whatever way it can.

The Art Chairs campaign was based around the auctioning of chairs painted and arranged by different New Zealand artists including Dick Frizzell, Flox, Shane Hanse, Reuben Paterson and Boh Runga.

Each chair was auctioned off on Trade Me between the 2 – 12 June and could be viewed at artchairs.co.nz. According to a release, $15,129 was raised for the charity this awareness month and the campaign received a lot of online traction with 57,430 page views on Trade Me and 147,240 people were reached on Facebook.

Whybin\TBWA creative director Tim Huse says advertising can make a huge difference for not-for-profits.

“I guess it boils down to that we have skills and expertise that many not-for-profits don’t have internally and the reality is that these not-for-profits are facing many of the same challenges at engaging with their audiences as traditional brands,” he says. “It’s a complicated media landscape out there and they benefit from the same skills and expertise.”

He says in the world of charities, much like brands, there is also a lot of competition. “So certainly figuring out a creative solution to them is something we are good at and what we enjoy doing.”

There is a perception that advertising only serves corporates, but Huse says this isn’t true for Whybin. “We’re committed to being apart of our community, both here and in Auckland and globally. And globally TBWA have a programme called ‘TBWA For Good’ so we take it really seriously … [it’s] really focussed on bringing our skills to organisations beyond quote unquote corporate clients and we are aware we are part of a community and we want to live up to that and do good in that community.”

When working for an agency, it’s no secret your work is going to be used to sell products and serve the needs of a corporate, so are campaigns such as these good for workers’ morale?

“Yes. It’s really not about morale, what it’s about is creative people across companies who have the opportunity to help make the world around them better. It’s not as cynical as boosting staff morale, it’s just creative people seem to naturally want to make the world around them better and this is one way to do it. So if you ask anyone about morale they would say no.”

He says the advertising industry has a responsibility to help not-for-profits and do good.

“But I suggest that responsibility goes beyond just the advertising industry. We are apart of a community and I think everyone from large companies to individuals, we all have a responsibility to help people who are trying to make this a better place. So it’s a shared responsibility I guess.”

Whybin initially chose to work with Bowel Cancer New Zealand because there was a personal connection through the agency, but the team soon realised how big the issue was, he says.

“It’s such a huge issue from grass roots up into a government level, one with staggering stats that somehow no one was aware of so as we scratched the surface and three New Zealanders die [from bowel cancer] everyday. It was mind blowing to us that we didn’t know about it.”

The agency also works with Auckland City Mission, he says, along with a few other agencies. “And the reason we are doing that, is that they are a neighbour and are just next door but [also], homelessness is literally on our door step and we see it and we want to help change it,” he says.

He says with Bowel Cancer New Zealand the agency wanted to create a conversation around a cancer that no one really wants to talk about. “It’s not the first time and nor will it be the last time that artists will be called upon to help with something like this but what was really interesting is the quality of the art involved.”

Some of the artists themselves had a personal connection with bowel cancer, he says.

He says the chairs were decided on because they’re something you sit on, but they also reflected a wide range of New Zealanders.

“[Of] different shapes, different sizes. We were so fortunate to have a response form the artistic and design community and as a result of that by having something to go to media with we were able to spread the word and on quite a modest budget we were able to secure PR and interviews that would normally not be possible.”

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