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March 07, 2012



However admirable, this is not a new or unique idea.

As Bill Bernbach, founder of DDB, said: "All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level."

Good communication is derived from a human need - and helps match the brand promise with that human need. The very best communications don't seem like advertising at all - they achieve noble outcomes.

"Fluff" Flanagan

There seem to be way too many irrelevant comments on this article: in this case, the less is definitely more!


There is a similar campaign going on the USA. When I first saw one of the Virtues Project signs, I reacted cynically. I was convinced that the Mona Lisa's image and exhortation to "SMILE" were motivated by the religious right or political conservatives. Then I found out that the Virtues Project is an organisation which hopes to take back the co-opted notion of "virtue". Regardless of who sponsors such signs, there is something orwellian about huge messages one can't ignore, telling one what to think or do.


There is clearly a group that has a vested interest in the well being of citizens, they're called government and we could easily set aside advertising budgets for what alain is proposing. Government spend a lot of money on advertising, the dept of culture could do this. Tanaaaa....vested interest.

Drew Byrne

The best advert for living the good life is the one you don't notice working on you in front of your nose.



So, the advertisers for the snack food have a vested interest in their success, because it affects their client's revenue and profit, which affects its ability to pay for future advertising.

How do the advertisers for the virtue have a vested interest in their success?

When there's a good answer to that question, who else has that vested interest, and might work for the virtue if they understood their situation?


Jon Alexander

Very interesting thinking. I am on something of a similar mission myself, as someone who has worked in the industry for nearly 10 years and recently co-authored a report called 'Think of me as evil? Opening the ethical debates in advertising', link below. I've been doing the rounds of agencies off the back of this and debating at the RSA and IPA - there is a genuine moment afoot. Alain, if you want to get in touch, please do so - your help would be powerful, and much appreciated.

Piet Wulleman

read The Happy Soul Industry (http://www.amazon.com/Happy-Soul-Industry-Steffan-Postaer/dp/1592993524).
It's about exactly this idea


This already exists. It's called street art.


I love this idea, just like Diogenes of Oenoanda efforts nearly 2000 years ago that Alain covered in his Guide to Happiness series. A very very worthy initiative but it'll have to be multi-generational! (sure, we've blissfully forgotten his teaching and wisdom 2000 years since Diogenes!), it's a fact that most of us are inherently weak & myopic by nature so every generation will have to be reminded and kneaded!
keep at it Alain!


Fantastic idea - am writing as head of market insight for a major charity and exactly reflects many conversations we have been having internally. The challenge is to get advertising as a whole to change it's framing back to tapping into more internal and 'virtuous' values (rather than status and power). One step on that journey would be a great achievement.

Michelle Tobin

Love this idea. Can't wait to stumble upon a billboard.


Prizing or prising?


Need to observe the fine line between advertising and propaganda (is there one?). While reading this I thought of a visit to Havana in 1999 where there were NO billboards advertising brand names, but lots saying "Vive la revolution!"


Mm, cracked black pepper crisps


@GJG And Invisible Children Inc will earn a ton of money on it, selling "stop the war" merchandise. All honor to them for raising attention for an important cause, but they are lining their pockets whether Kony is captured or not. Now that the topic is trending on social media, and news stations are picking it up too, it is only a matter of time before politicians will make it "their" cause in their real quest for more votes. In the end we are spending tons of money on capturing one evil man, instead of helping thousands of innocent people in need. It makes me sick.

(Sorry for sort of going off post topic)


This is interesting and dovetails nicely with something else I just heard about today: the KONY 2012 campaign to end a war and change the world.

Anyone who doesn't yet know about KONY 2012 should watch their video on YouTube as it is a great example of something very close to ethical advertising and a worthy project for the world in 2012 - http://bit.ly/zWJAsV

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