Getty Images Global CMO Susan Smith Ellis chats to B&T about the “audacious” project being run by legendary film-maker Richard Curtis to make the United Nations’ Global Goals sexy, the rise of ‘Vanguardism’ and on the importance of keeping it real.
Also quick to sign up was Getty Images, which has donated use of its massive image library to tell the story of the global goals.
The campaign has at its heart the ambitious goal of making seven billion people aware in seven days of the new United Nations goals.
Getty Images Susan Smith Ellis describes the goal as “pretty audacious” and that it “may be hard to pull off”. However she also noted that “just setting an audacious goal like that and trying to build that level of awareness is the first salvo if you will. I mean, the campaign on the sustainable development goals will launch and then go on for 15 years. It’s not won and done, but it’s a way of trying to generate a great deal of attention in a short period of time.”
Globally, some 93,000 digital billboards have been donated to what is being dubbed the world’s biggest advertising campaign.
“We see our mission as moving the world with images. This was an opportunity to take the incredible Getty Imagery that we have, both creative and editorial and put it forward,” she said.
The campaign gets under way 25 September once the 17 goals have been ‘gavelled’ in front of 193 world leaders.
Smith Ellis said there’s actually some interesting theories being posited that sustainability or CSR, which were nice add-ons to companies are now moving from a little department somewhere to really becoming much more the heart of the company.
“Sadly I think there is a little bit of disappointment on the part of a lot of people that governments are not doing what they would like them to do, so they are looking to the private sector, to say what are you going to do?”
She said that the private sector has the resources financially and in terms of mobilising people, but that it was the nimbleness of companies to get on and do things that really made a difference.
“It’s a little bit of enlightened self-interest I suppose in that if you’re a good corporate citizen then your customers will think better of you. I do think that is not a passing fancy. I have really seen the momentum of that grow in the past 10 years quite dramatically,” she said.
Smith Ellis added that there’s no more “it’s just about your village” and that the sense of inter-connectedness the world now felt now meant that there was a genuine growing trend for people to expect brand to be good corporate citizens.
She has based that opinion not just on hearsay, but on Getty’s own research and analysis. Getty employs ‘image anthropologists’ who study what images are being searched for and consumed by, not only by Getty’s customers, but also for the vast amount of people who come to the site and never purchase an image.
Getty has discovered one the key search trends is for what it describes as “The Vanguardian”, which it describes as the people who are fostering positive global change.
“The search terms for social responsibility and volunteerism have grown 91 per cent in the past five years and in Australia and New Zealand they have gone up as much as 75 per cent,” said Smith Ellis.
However in explaining why Getty had chosen to partner with this initiative, Smith Ellis warned of the importance of keeping it real.
“It has to be authentic otherwise it just feels like you’re jumping on to a bandwagon. For us this is such a perfect fit.
“Getty Images cures breast cancer doesn’t make sense. There’s no natural fit there. But the fact is that this story telling, our imagery is so powerful in so many different ways … so it makes complete sense for us to align with something like this when it’s a perfect fit, versus maybe we should try and cure guinea worm.”
A picture has always told 1000 words, but Smith Ellis argued that now more than ever the ability for imagery to transcend language was of crucial importance.
“If you’re not compelling, you’re dismissed. Because of the speed of the Internet and the fact that we’re so unforgiving, if we’re not engaged we just move on quickly. If you don’t own us quickly, it’s over.
“I do think that one of the things that intrigued us about this partnership was the fact that imagery played such a strong part of it. There will not be a lot of words written about it, it’s going to be a lot more about here’s a photo, here’s a picture, here’s a video that tells you the story.
“I think the thing that’s really fascinating about that being interconnected, is that part of the reason that imagery has become so important is that it transcends language. We all look at a picture and have the same response. We don’t have to look at a picture and worry about translation.”
Smith Ellis also said that given the rise of technology to drive imagery, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram for example, we’re all looking at a lot more images all the time and getting the story very quickly from that image versus say the long narrative of a newspaper.
“So whether that’s good or bad I don’t know, for us, it was a chance to put imagery out there that really could translate the story without having to tell a long narrative… you look at the picture, you get it. Here’s what it could be, here’s what it is.
“I don’t think you need to apologetic about the fact that it’s both a good news story and a good business opportunity for us.
“The fact is our imagery can tell that story and by partnering we can actually make a difference number one, but number two it’s a way of demonstrating another way to use our content.”