Advertising and marketing are all too often seen as part of an industry that simply promotes brands, manipulates people’s desires and pushes people to consume more than they need. But creative industries can be a powerful force for social good. It was with the aim of addressing this misconception that we started a conversation at the Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Media two years ago. The discussion quickly shifted to find answers to a central question: how can society harness its creative power to positively influence human behaviour?

Today’s launch of “Creative for Good” at the Cannes Lions is the result of these discussions. The online resource will give the public access to a repository of best practice campaigns using creativity for social causes. Not only does the resource bring together the creative industry from around the world to showcase best practice campaigns targeted at social issues, but the process of building this resource itself was testament to how the industry can come together, in an altruistic, non-commercial way.

With the World Economic Forum acting as a convening platform and under the leadership of the Ad Council and Ketchum, the Global Agenda Council members and other industry players contributed time, resources and creativity to build this platform. There were two goals. The first was to help NGOs and other organizations wishing to promote a social issue and change behaviour around it, but who do not necessarily have all the tools, expertise or budget to do so on their own. Creative for Good could be the first resource they use as a how-to guide, a best practice platform, and a database of like-minded agencies to help them with their project. The second goal was to provide a platform to showcase the power of the communications industry for social good.

The US Ad Council has been creating public service campaigns since 1942, and is well known for campaigns such as “I am an American” (to promote diversity) and “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk” (to promote safe driving). It was therefore well-placed to bring leadership to this tool, which targets a global audience.

The result was an overwhelming example of creativity for the public good. Submissions poured in from all over the world and it was challenging for the advisory and judging committee to choose a few to share on the “Creative for Good” platform.  The messages were all powerful regardless of where they came from and which issue they were addressing.

Whether it was a campaign urging people to ring the doorbell when they suspect domestic violence (Bell Bajao) or one asking Colombians to send Christmas letters to their loved ones asking them to demobilize from the FARC (At Christmas Everything is Possible), the campaigns were as creative as they were effective.

If each individual, organization or industry could use its core strengths, its areas of influence and its power to deliver a public good – regardless of what these strengths are – I am confident that we could each help improve the state of the world.

Author: Diana El-Azar is Director for Media, Entertainment and Information industries at the World Economic Forum.  She is also the Forum Lead on the Global Agenda Council on the Future of Media, and an Advisory Committee member for Creative for Good.

Image: A girl sits in a class in Port-au-Prince REUTERS/Kena Betancur