The first unwritten rule of blogging etiquette for a creative agency is to mention your own work only in passing, or not at all. But on this occasion I’m going to indulge in a post that’s wholly focused on a new campaign that we have had the privilege of contributing to, not to brag about the work itself but to promote the importance of the cause.
Rewind to May 2016 and the Eurovision Connect conference in Prague, at which members of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) were updated on the progress of an extraordinarily bold initiative: a plan to create a multimedia campaign, to run across Europe, that would for the first time champion the virtues of public service media (PSM). (The EBU is the world’s leading alliance of public service media). Quoting a recent EBU publication they said it was becoming increasingly important for PSM to develop “an inspiring and meaningful narrative about the value they deliver for the whole of society.” The EBU’s laudable ambition was to spark a genuine movement of support for PSM.
Excited by the prospect of being involved in this project (and daunted by the competition in equal measure) we arrived at the first round pitch with two big conclusions. Firstly, to give us a chance of creating a movement we needed to steer well clear of a traditional “big brand film” solution and, instead, harness what Heimans and Timms described in Harvard Business Review as “New Power”: power that’s “open, participatory and peer-driven.” Secondly, to stimulate the audience to shape and share the campaign we should focus not on the quality of public service programmes and services but the quality of the impact that content has on each and every one of us, every single day. Our campaign idea was based, quite simply, on moments of impact: authentic personal stories that provide evidence of the genuinely inspiring and enriching role that PSM content plays in the lives of people across Europe.
Having been given the opportunity to work on the project, over the following months our researchers sought out 35 people from 10 European countries, each with their own moment of impact to share. Some were profound, for example Omar from Lyon and Hans from Aachen talking about their different personal responses to documentary footage of the refugee crisis and the voluntary work they were inspired to start in their communities. Some were deeply moving, like the story of Italian soldier Monica, who lost a leg in Afghanistan and, inspired by watching the Paralympics on RAI, got a racing prosthesis and just a year later won bronze in Rio. Others were less heroic but no less inspiring: moments of personal impact that changed people’s responses to environmental issues, health and fitness, creativity or their own life and work. Such a breadth and range of impact across such diverse audience groups, from Ireland to Spain, from Belgium to Slovenia, could only have been achieved by public service media.
To prepare the campaign for this week’s launch we produced a total of 256 films in 7 languages, all with a clear, over-arching message: “every day, millions of people across Europe are inspired by public service media”, and a simple rallying cry: Keep Media Good. You can view all the stories in English on the main campaign hub. Over the months to come there will be many more stories of impact across all media, in particular radio and social.
So, why a blog post and not just our usual case study and news story? Well, because we believe this cause is important and we are unashamedly asking for support. We are living in troubled and confusing times. Trust in established institutions is plummeting and we are surrounded by claims about “fake news”, yet it has never felt more important for us to have public service media we can rely on for their shared values of universality, togetherness, fairness, truthfulness and tolerance across borders.
As we have worked on this project we have become aware of the increasing fragility of PSM in some European countries and, to take the UK as an example, the often inexplicable levels of hostility directed at issues like artists’ pay: important subjects to debate, granted, but first world problems in the context of some European countries in which free, democratic public media could not always be taken for granted under previous regimes.
To quote the EBU’s new DG Noel Curran in this week’s Broadcast, research “shows a strong correlation between countries that have well funded PSM and those with the most important democratic strengths”…including “a freer press, less corruption in public life and general levels of trust in media.”
As he concludes, “good media leads to better societies” so, as this campaign takes its first baby steps this week, we are inviting everyone in our networks to get the message out there to Keep Media Good and to share this link.
Andy Bryant, Managing Director