Towards brands that are more aware of their responsibilities…

For any profession, knowing about the changes that have marked its history is essential. Whether technological or “philosophical”, these changes not only shape the future of a profession, but also its practice. From simple advertising to brand activism, our field has constantly reinvented itself to meet both the expectations of its clients and the demands of an ever-changing era. Let’s look back at a few milestones…

Bernbach and Ogilvy: Creatives in power

The 1950s and 1970s were marked by the rise of the consumer society; consumption became a way of life. With the development of supermarkets and the multiplication of offers, competition became even fiercer. These two American advertisers made creativity the strong point and leitmotif of their work. Translating the famous USP (Unique Selling Proposition) into a strong creative idea guided all advertising for several decades. The famous “Think small”, which emphasised the presence of a tiny VW Beetle on a blank newspaper page, remains a model that has inspired several generations of advertisers.

The Séguéla years: The star brand

In the 1970s, Jacques Séguéla was one of the first advertisers to realise the importance of brand discourse. Inspired by the “star system”, he initiated a movement that seeks to seduce through the brand. Although his vision was primarily aesthetic, which limited his approach, he highlighted the link between the logic of marketing and the logic of “speculation”. The product becomes the affirmation of a social status. Brand positioning is no longer solely linked to technical or sectoral specificities, but also to an image that participates in the expression of the individual.

Toscani: Brands at the heart of the debate

The 80s were marked by the work of photographer Toscani for Benetton. Shocking images that demonstrated that brands could be actors in social debate and have a direct impact on it. This breakthrough will shape the future of communication, which was to move beyond the world of consumption alone and extend to other sectors of social language.

From appearances to being

The rise of Internet and the intensification of exchanges and mobility, which expose them to more criticism, lead brands to develop their image. In the 90s, brands invested massively in media that were open to commercial messages (multiplication and privatisation of television channels), just as they invaded the fields of sport, entertainment and culture. But many of them still confuse being with seeming. The brand image is not the brand. And this confusion sometimes leads them to brand wasching, to give a surface image that does not correspond to their behaviour. The successive crises and scandals will generate a crisis of confidence in large companies, institutions and the economic sector in general. Brands then understand that their audiences are no longer satisfied with appearances but demand that they take into account their social and cultural responsibility.

A brand new world

Today, brands are growing and extending their influence over wider and wider territories. But they are increasingly subject to criticism and their image is no longer part of a cultural and economic consensus that is favourable to their unlimited expansion. They need to think of themselves as true social partners (to their employees, customers and the general public) and contribute to the improvement of our living conditions or at least nurture a relationship that benefits all parties.

And if some brands, drunk with power, seem to be exempt from these expectations and can behave as they please, the future will probably show that they are far more fragile than we think. Perhaps the time will come for a new evolution: that of a certain modesty that characterises brands that are aware of themselves and their social responsibility…


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