The Look & the Talk:
Socially Conscious Campaigns Done Right

Social Impact Marketing

Consumer expectations are changing, and it’s vital that brands keep up. Ethical behavior is now a major consideration for brand purchases. In fact, nearly two in three people say they choose, switch, avoid, or boycott a brand based on its stand on social issues.* 

With this in mind, we at Zebra Strategies are always on the lookout for campaigns that get it right. P&G’s “The Talk” and “The Look” are two examples of socially conscious campaigns that hit the mark.

Taking on Bias: "The Talk"

In 2017, P&G released “The Talk,” an effective campaign that puts empathy and bias at center stage. The campaign, which celebrates cultural identity and starts a conversation about racial bias, was created in partnership with minority-certified and woman-owned Egami Consulting Group.

But even a great campaign can leave a gap. Geoff Edwards, co-founder of Saturday Morning, noticed that Black men were visibly absent from the ad. By failing to properly acknowledge the role of Black men in family life, Edwards felt that the ad passively perpetuates negative stereotypes about African American males. 

After Edwards brought up this issue, P&G teamed up with Saturday Morning to address this oversight and further open up the conversation about the Black experience. Released this year, the result is the follow-up campaign, “The Look.”

Improving and Expanding: “The Look”

“The Look” echoes the research Zebra Strategies has done on these everyday instances of racial discrimination, which have informed campaigns such as “While Black”

“The Look” follows a Black man as he moves through everyday life, confronting a variety of “looks” that symbolize a barrier to acceptance. He encounters barriers both explicit (car windows raising, elevator doors shutting), and implicit (security guards eyeing him with suspicion, a trip to the pool garnering stares).

As the man enters a courtroom, we are initially led to presume that he is in trouble with the law, before it is revealed that he is the judge. With this, “The Look” turns the tables on the viewer: it provocatively highlights how stereotyping affects the way we all look at the world. 

The key to the success of these campaigns is their considerate tone: there are no notes of blame and the ads refuse to see the characters as victims. While we all have biases, when we see these biases brought to light, it’s not always easy to accept. When we feel attacked or accused, the instinct is often to ignore it or get angry. These campaigns have found a way to call attention to these biases, without alienating viewers.

Combining Effective Campaigns With Real Action

Both campaigns are the result of the essential contributions and guidance of filmmakers, creatives, and producers of color. The thoughtful nature of these ads shows the importance of involving people behind the scenes that can represent and advocate for the groups depicted on camera. 

P&G has walked the walk by combining these campaigns with concrete actions. The campaign website for “The Talk” provides corresponding historical records and contemporary stories for each scene in the ad. This resource sparks further discussion and understanding of the impact of these small “looks.”

P&G has also partnered with BET Networks to create “Black Men Revealed,” a study that aims to enable more accurate, positive portrayals of Black men in film, television, and news.

Belief-driven buying is now a mainstream mindset across all ages and incomes. P&G’s recent work is a great example of how a brand can grow and adapt to the times while incorporating thoughtful criticism and putting their money where their mouth is. 

*According to a 2018 Edelman Earned Brand report.

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