‘Our industry is not really aware of the many pitfalls of stereotyping’

Epica's Creative Circle will be about brands and political correctness. What will opinion makers, like Antoinette Hoes bring to the table?

Antoinette Hoes, Transformation & Integration Director

The Epica Awards, which take place November 15th in Amsterdam, are the only international industry prize that’s awarded by journalists. Its conference – with the theme ‘Will Responsibility Kill Creativity?’ – will be about brands’ role in society. To what extent are they responsible for a better world? How does it influence their communication? What does ‘purpose-driven marketing’ really mean?

Twenty tables occupied by CMOs, creatives, journalists, agency directors, opinion leaders, creators and scientists, all discussing the nature of our industry’s shared responsibility. The findings of these sessions will be collected and shared with the worldwide (industry)press.

Antoinette Hoes, Transformation & Integration Director DDB Berlin, shares her view on the subject in advance.

NA: What will you bring to the table during the Creative Circles and its theme ‘Will responsibility kill creativity’? What would you like to bring across?

I will bring critical introspection to the table. I believe we have a great responsibility and with it comes the obligation to look closely at what we craft and what effects that might have. Wanted and unwanted.

Our industry is not really hyper-aware of the many traps and pitfalls of stereotyping. To my mind, we are miles away from risking a bland body of work due to creative professionals restraining themselves. Even if we have been seeing some far-out examples of what amounts to ‘censorship’ to avoid stereotyping. It will be very interesting to see how this evolves on a global level. Sensitivities vary massively in regions around the world.   

At DDB we have made global and local commitments to diversity and creativity. They range as far as pushing for diversity in suppliers to, for example, increasing the number of female creative leaders via a special programme; the #phyllisproject. 

I myself am very aware that I - as a white, middle-class, European woman (more specifically, from the Netherlands) with working-class roots - might consider some things normal that other cultures would deem unacceptable. And things that offend me to the core can be totally acceptable elsewhere. So maybe the question is more about global brands and global agencies and the values they hold and the values they dare to express.

Maybe in the future some ads should come with trigger warnings like they are suggesting for books nowadays (said with buckets of irony). Think of something like this: Jip & Janneke (a Dutch children's book series, NA) show gender-normative behaviours and have casual sexism throughout. 

NA: Shouldn’t we talk more about the game of advertising itself, instead of trying to save the world?

Most brands are in the growth business, and when it is possible to grow and save the world at the same time, I would heartily recommend that. It just feels a tad incongruous for some brands. If we all let go of capitalism and the growth ideal, then we’ve arrived at a new situation.

As agency people we should all at least try not to look like we actually detest advertising and only live for our not-for-profit, do-good or high-purpose clients. “ALFRED houdt van reclame.” (ALFRED loves advertising) was an early adopter of this school of thought ;) .

Another reason many not-for-profit and do-good clients are being loved above all by creatives is also because (as beggars cannot be choosers) there is more creative freedom in that area. Freedom that brings more highly creative work to the table that is oft awarded by our peers. The love that goes into these clients can also be measured by the amount of work that is done during evenings and on weekends.

NA: Or are companies / brands and creativity the main tools (and the main ones responsible?) left for that to happen?

As long as capitalism and shareholder value are the name of the game brands will be operating in a narrow space of opportunity and opportunism. For sure, there are brands that seem to operate outside of the rules of the market, but there are not many (or they’re not that big).

In a dream future all brands would care about the planet and the living creatures that inhabit it. I am a tad cynical about the chances of this happening anytime soon. Until that time, even if brands and agencies support good causes and really live an honourable purpose, even if it’s just out of opportunism, hurray for that. I believe it will eventually benefit the world, we should keep an eye on them though.

NA: What is your favourite, preferably unusual suspect, purposeful campaign?

This girl can’ is my all-time favorite. #IjigglethereforIam

NA: What is our single most important responsibility as an industry, in your humble opinion?

Help brands grow through great experiences and communications, that is mostly what we are getting paid for; whilst understanding that our work is so omnipresent that it can be a force of change and good.

NA: Where do you hope this industry will eventually head to? Could you paint a perfect picture?

Imagine all the people…

NA: Finally, why are you involved in the Epica’s / Why are the Epica Awards important? Please be as frank and direct as possible.

Even though their rep has been hit hard in these times of #fakenews and government leaders are openly questioning them all over the world, I personally have a high regard for real journalism and journalists, and the ethics most of them bring to their work.

Do you want to participate?

If you would like to be part of Creative Circles, please contact kyra@adbusiness.amsterdam, +31-6-11303369. There are only 20 tabels. Tickets for Epica’s Award Show (and afterparty) can be purchased here.

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