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Brand transparency in an age of post-truth

Stella McCartney AW09
Stella McCartney AW09

Last week Gisele Bündchen arrived to the annual MET Gala in a silver gown by Stella McCartney. Her dress was made for the Green Carpet. Not a new emerald walkway, but a challenge to fashion’s elite to pair glamour and ethics, with the aim of raising the profile of global sustainability and social welfare.

Like so many industries, the inner workings of fashion, how the clothes are made and where the fabrics come from, are not the story that brands choose to tell. Whilst there are a growing number of ethical and transparent labels emerging, most of the time, we’re kept in the dark.

So, when a company like Stella McCartney not only catapults sustainable style into the spotlight, but publishes its first global environmental profit and loss account for the year dating 2015, a transparency benchmark is set for businesses of all kinds.

In a recent survey of over 10,000 consumers from around the world, 78% of consumers said it is ‘somewhat or very important for a company to be transparent.’ And 70% said that ‘these days I make it a point to know more about the companies I buy from’ (Havas, February 2016).

By using EP&L accounting, a company can quantify its impact on the planet. But what about our individual trace? In Finland, financial institution, Bank of Åland, wanted to reposition themselves as a responsible player. So they developed the Åland Index, a way of using data to calculate the individual carbon footprint of each credit card transaction, thus creating the first bank index for everyday environmental impact.

Our access to information – over half of the population owns a smartphone – makes it easier to learn about the good, and bad, being done in the world. In an age of post-truth, it’s hard to work out who to trust: Volkswagen; the Panama Papers; giving £350m a week to the NHS; Hillary's emails, I could go on. When Donald Trump's senior adviser Kellyanne Conway coined the term "alternative facts" to refer to press secretary Sean Spicer's false claims about attendance at the president's inauguration, we seemed to enter a new Orwellian dimension.

"We inhabit a climate of trust as we inhabit an atmosphere and notice it as we notice air, only when it becomes scarce or polluted," said the late philosopher Annette Baier. We may be in a post-truth age, but that shouldn’t stop brands leading the march towards a more transparent world.

My Oxfam app

My Oxfam shows the real impact of donations

Public disillusionment and apathy towards charitable giving is at an all-time high; trust in charities has been eroded, with many supporters believing that charities misspend their donations, or that their donations will not have a material impact on seemingly insurmountable problems.

Oxfam's new app puts charitable donors in charge. With the ‘giving dial’ users can control their monthly contribution in seconds, see the real impact of their aid, and be the first to know when disaster strikes.

My Oxfam enables supporters to access regular video, articles and updates from beneficiaries and support staff on the ground, all focused on the projects that are made possible by the donations. When an emergency hits, supporters can see regular, authentic updates rather than curated, professionally produced content, helping them stay on top of the news and get support to the people who need it most.

When a supporter puts forward their hard-earned money, they do it because they care about the cause and the outcome. Through an onboarding program, Oxfam is able to identify the topic that motivated the supporter to sign up in the first place and carry that into the first experience with the product.

Agency: Hi Mum Said Dad, London

Oxfam - My Oxfam
Oxfam - My Oxfam

Waitrose transparent and honest farming

‘Access all areas’ is the latest installment in the Waitrose innovative brand campaign to show greater transparency and honesty around their farming and sourcing practices. The latest campaign transports viewers to the Indian Ocean and heroes the responsibly sourced handline-caught method of fishing for fresh Tuna. Viewers can explore the ad in 360° for ‘access all areas’ – an invitation to explore behind the camera lens and engage with an interactive window into Waitrose’s sourcing practices. The work builds upon last year’s ‘LIVE from the farm’ element to the ‘Everything we do, goes into everything you taste’ campaign, further differentiating Waitrose for their commitment to treating people fairly, treading lightly on the environment and supporting responsible sourcing.

Agency: adam&eveDDB, London & Manning Gottlieb OMD, London

Waitrose - Access All Areas

New York Times fights fake news with truth

Research found that people don't always understand what it takes to produce quality, original reporting, but when they do, they are much more likely to support it. This, alongside the rise in the use of the term ‘fake news’, prompted The New York Times to debut it’s first-ever ad during the Academy Awards. A simple, black-and-white typographic spot, ‘the truth is’ holds the message that alternative facts are lies. A soundtrack of voiceovers proclaim their own notions of truth, slowly speeding up until the number of voices becomes too much and the screen goes blank. In bold, accompanied by simple piano notes, appear the words ‘The truth is hard/the truth is hard to know/the truth is more important than ever.’ The ad then closes on the logo of The New York Times.

Agency: Droga5, New York

New York Times - The Truth Is

Dove’s #AlternativeFacts

In January, Dove decided to jump on the new ‘alternative facts’ euphemism with their own brand of truths.  A two page ad in the Guardian and The Times made claims such as ‘New Dove antiperspirant increases your IQ by 40 points’, and ‘New Dove antiperspirant was first used by Cleopatra’. The second page of the ad contains an image of the product with the hashtag #RealFacts, ‘New Dove antiperspirant cares for your skin like never before’. Without mentioning the White House or politics directly, Dove has stated its position on this controversial turn of phrase.

Agency: Ogilvy UK - Advertising, London

Dove - #AlternativeFacts

About the author

Kara Melchers, Managing Editor, BITE

Kara has editorial control over BITE, Creativebrief’s daily insight into global marketing trends and the cultural movements driving them. She runs BITE INSPIRE sessions in the UK and US, for brands including Virgin Atlantic, A.G. BARR, British Gas and Pepsico. She also presents at our BITE LIVE events series and industry festivals in London and New York. Get in touch if you’re working on an interesting project