How the war in Ukraine is changing advertising communications

Social responsibility

The global trend of shifting emphasis in advertising communications to socially significant topics was developing in Ukraine even before the full-scale war. But the brutal invasion of the country’s territory stimulated the active transition of brands to social responsibility and relevant communications.

In Ukraine, it is not enough to simply advertise your products, brands must be socially responsible. It is now important for consumers that brands have an active civic position, support Ukraine and help in solving socially significant issues, in particular in the fight against the aggressor country.

Therefore, the largest international festival in Ukraine – Kyiv International Advertising Festival – has been focusing the attention of the advertising community on socially significant communications for the second year in a row.

”The war showed what is really important for people and businesses in critical moments,” Maksym Lazebnyk, General Director at the All-Ukrainian Advertising Coalition, says. ”We, as KIAF organizers, should remind the advertising community how advertising can be a powerful force for change, as well as support and reward those who are already making the world a better place through socially oriented communications.”

In order for advertising to be a powerful voice that pushes the world to change, all sides of the advertising market – advertisers, agencies and consumers – have to support socially significant topics.

Our creativity won’t change the world on its own, but it can be a major asset to achieve the goals for good.

Consumers are increasingly voting with money for brands that act responsibly by buying their products, even if they cost more. This was shown by the recent study Global Trends 2023 by Ipsos. According to research data, most consumers believe that business can be a force for good. 80% participants agree that brands can make money and support good causes at the same time.

Brands are also increasingly aware of their social responsibility. ”I think that companies have rights. But have some duties too,” Gaetan du Peloux, KIAF  Jury Chairman of PEACE contest, Chief Creative Officer at Marcel from France, comments. ”Participating in the collective effort of giving a better planet to the generation to come is part of their duties. Consumers accept that brands make some money, it’s their right, but they want them to use a part of the money they market, for the benefit of all. That’s the implicit deal between consumers and brands. Creativity is a powerful tool for business, and an even more powerful tool to change behaviors for good! Our creativity won’t change the world on its own, but it can be a major asset to achieve the goals for good.”

A powerful example of a brand with an active position and socially significant communications in Ukraine is Nova Poshta logistics company  which is the leader and trendsetter of the Ukrainian express delivery market.

”Since the beginning of the war, we have not paused for a moment,” Olena Plakhova, Director of Reputation Management and Marketing, Member of the Directors Board at the Nova Poshta group of companies, says. ”We had no other options. At the beginning of the war, when people fled with only backpacks, only Nova Poshta carried things. And we understood at that time and understand now all our responsibility for transportation for people, for the military and for businesses. Now we deliver faster than before the war.”

Nova Poshta supports Ukrainians inside the country and abroad. So that Ukrainians who were forced to leave their homes because of the war could receive parcels from their loved ones in Ukraine, Nova Poshta opened branches in Poland and Lithuania, and will soon open branches in Romania, Germany and the Czech Republic. The company has already launched its own SuperNova airline, which will make its first flights in May.

Nova Poshta not only supports the country’s economy, provides work for a large number of workers, transports humanitarian goods to the front-line areas and liberated settlements, and helps the Armed Forces, but also creates advertising communications designed to support and inspire Ukrainians.

”Since the beginning of the war, several aspects of our marketing approach have changed,” Olena Plakhova says. ”We switched to point-to-point individual communication with the clients, that is, we do not send one message to all clients, but we select the target audience for each message very carefully, taking into account the life context and people’s emotions of certain audiences. We develop services and products that customers need right now.

In communications, we focused firstly on the message ”we work”, later ”we provide work and pay salaries”, later ”we engage contractors & suppliers and motivate businesses to work”, and now we are already broadcasting the message: ”the future is here, it must be built today ”. In every communication, you definitely need to give people support, offer a planning horizon. Each message should shine a little forward like a lantern.”

Recently, inspiring messages for Ukrainians from the company were appeared in the subways of Kyiv and Kharkiv, and the winter campaign ”Tomorrow will be” was reminded Ukrainians that ”in this unstable time, there are things you can be sure of – the sun will rise tomorrow, there will be new victories , there will be your package… There will be tomorrow.”

Creatives are also more and more actively involved in the creation of socially significant communications.

An example of such a project can be the Backup Ukraine campaign by Virtue Worldwide from Denmark. According to BLUE SHIELD (the “red cross for culture”), destroying a country’s cultural heritage is the fastest way to erase its national identity. And no matter how many sandbags and protective covers we wrap them in, Ukraine’s cultural heritage is at high risk of destruction. So, the Backup Ukraine project allowed us to preserve Ukraine’s cultural heritage by making a digital backup in the cloud — where no bombs can reach.

For the first time in history, UNESCO gave every Ukrainian citizen the power to create high-definition 3D models — and all they needed was their phones. As a result, Ukrainian citizens have backed up considerably more sculptures than even the world’s biggest museums and art collections. 6 NGOs pledged their support. 7 international firms donated equipment, funding and assistance to volunteers on the ground — even 3D printing replicas of threatened statues to prepare for the worst. And UNESCO’s National Commissioner even went on public broadcast urging neighboring countries to start scanning their heritage — before it’s too late.

As KIAF organizer reported, works from 22 countries have already been submitted to the contest program of socially significant communications. The largest number of works was submitted to the PEACE contest, which is aimed to fight against war, aggression, genocide, crimes against humanity. The festival has already received works from Australia, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, UK, Ukraine, USA and Venezuela. Entries submission is still ongoing until April 27, 2023.

The leading international agencies welcome the initiative to focus on socially significant topics in advertising, join the festival and the global trend as a whole. ”We at FCB Lisbon are very happy and excited about the changes made by KIAF,” Edson Athayde, KIAF Jury Chairman, CEO and Creative Director at FCB Lisbon from Portugal, says. ”Socially responsible communication is in the DNA of FCB Lisbon. We share the belief that advertising can (and must) help build a better world. So much that we have already been among the Top 3 Agencies in the world on The Good Report list from Act Responsible.”

”We receive a lot of feedback from agencies, professional associations and businesses about how important it is now to create socially significant communications,” Maksym Lazebnyk informs. ”We hope that this year, KIAF will collect powerful and bright examples of advertising campaigns from different countries and continents, which are changing the world for the better today.”

”Unfortunately, PEACE communication is all around us… and it’s increasing!” Gaetan du Peloux says. ”After world war 2, the world started to be more open to differences, to mix culture, to stand for peace, to believe in the collective and to think that world war 2 had been the last big war the humanity had to live. The world had never been more open than in the 70s – beginning of the 80´s. But since that time, the world is going in the other direction. Countries are less and less open to the others, extreme politic ideas win more day after day. And war is here. In Europe. What was impossible to conceive years ago, is now a reality. So, having peace communications is a necessity. And that’s not a pleasure to write that…”

Creativity has the power to spark innovation, inspire action, and bring people together in a way that nothing else can.

”Creativity is not just a ’nice to have’, it’s an absolute necessity for progress in today’s world,” Morten Grubak, KIAF Jury Chairman, Executive Creative Director at Virtue Worldwide from Denmark, says. ”Without it, we risk falling behind and failing to address the complex challenges that face us. Creativity has the power to spark innovation, inspire action, and bring people together in a way that nothing else can.

Communications, likewise, are a critical tool for driving change. They have the ability to shape people’s perceptions and opinions, and can be used to motivate action on a global scale. But with this power comes a responsibility to use communications effectively and ethically, and to guard against misinformation and propaganda that can do more harm than good.

The bottom line is this: if we want to change the world for the better, we need creativity and communications working together in a responsible and effective way. Anything less is simply not impactful enough.”

The war in Ukraine changed almost every sphere of life and business in the country, the advertising industry was no exception. Despite everything, Ukraine is moving forward, working and calling on the civilized world to support its struggle and its desire to make the world a better place.

The All-Ukrainian Advertising Coalition, the largest public association of the advertising industry of Ukraine, calls on creators around the world to join the slogan of KIAF 2023 ”Make the world a better place!” and create communications that will become a powerful incentive for changes for the better.

All-Ukrainian Advertising Coalition


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