FEED: How do you set criteria about who you work with?
JD: It’s developed over time. We have said ‘absolutely not’ to certain brands, but a balanced attitude is important. When approached by a big oil company, we wrote to them and said: ‘If you have plans to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Accords that we don’t know about, then pragmatism would suggest we talk to you at least, and understand what the brief
is’. And they said: ‘We’ll find another agency’. From the beginning, oil, gas and tobacco were
untouchable. It also includes gambling. I used to live in a part of London that had a lot of poverty issues, and the number of high-stakes machines that popped up in betting shops, driving people to bet beyond their means, was significant. But our co-founder Emma now does due diligence. If it’s fast fashion, for example, we’ll talk to a client about what their plans are – because if a big company makes a massive change in direction, that is impactful. Others are successful at either putting these people under pressure, or even suing for past indiscretions. But in my mind, we’ve not got long to sort out the mess we’re making, so let’s act as quickly as possible. We also ask our internal staff. A new brand recently came to us and immediately one of our team was like: ‘Are we sure about this?’ The team is very much on top of it – and will make their voices heard.
FEED: What about working with damaging companies, who may genuinely want to change direction?
FEED: Are there internal conflicts about who you should work with?
JD: If it’s sincere and real, and part of the business plan, that’s obviously very different from: ‘Hey, we’re now using renewable energy for our offices, but still using tonnes of oil and gas and coal for everything else.’ We dig beneath the surface. Some businesses have a clear line they won’t cross. Some play both sides and work with companies that aren’t ethical, but try to paint themselves as such. A lot of our team came from bigger agency networks, and have been on accounts that cut across their own values. That doesn’t happen at Media Bounty.
JD: Yeah, but I think that’s good. Emma and I are pretty aligned most of the time. But sometimes what defines pragmatism gets kind of knotty. Emma might say, ‘I’m not touching them with a bargepole’, although they could be starting to do some genuinely good things. Those are the most interesting conversations. You have companies driving us to beyond the 2°C limit of the Paris Climate Accords, now making an effort to push back to the aspiration of 1.5°C, but they’ve already done a lot of damage. Even if they’re trying to do the right thing, are you just reputation managing? We need accountability, and the advertising and comms industry has done a good job of delaying action or – as Amy Williams at Good-Loop said – ‘rolling a turd in glitter’.
“SOME BUSINESSES HAVE A LINE THEY WON’T CROSS”
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