In recent years, the dominance of Millennials, coupled with the rapid growth of Gen Z and our multicultural population, have fueled a value shift towards compassion, collaboration, connection, diversity, inclusion and respect.  Today, companies are increasingly embracing the reality that their tentpole business policies, communications and practices must authentically align to ensure brand credibility and value.

Last month, diversity and inclusion dominated conversations around the rosé-filled water coolers at Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.  There was widespread recognition that brands which engaged in purpose-driven marketing could “do good and do well” at the same time.  Procter & Gamble’s video The Talk was a co-winner of the Cannes Lions Film Grand Prix Award and is an excellent illustration of how courageous brands have power.  This short film illustrates how real-life vignettes can ignite important conversations (in this case, some of the ways that black parents have discussed racism with their children).

At the same time and in a similar vein, the Special Olympics 50th anniversary celebration was held in Chicago where corporate partners highlighted diversity and inclusion in their advertising.  The motto of Special Olympics athletes: “Let me win, but if I do not win let me be brave in the attempt” is apropos for marketers as well.  This rang true as most of these companies were already publicly committed to inclusion in the workplace, products and services.  Corporate marketing campaigns in support of this special event were truly outstanding as evidenced by a social media initiative from Bank of America.

“For over 30 years, we have worked together to help create a diverse and inclusive world, especially as it pertains to the workplace,” said Matt Black, Senior Vice President Advertising Center of Excellence, Bank of America.  “In addition to advocating for respect, Special Olympics has been a strong partner in helping create opportunities for economic mobility and advancement both within Bank of America and around the world.  We believe that everyone is stronger when we’re working together.”

To commemorate Special Olympics’ 50th anniversary, Bank of America worked with its digital agency GroupeConnect, A Publicis Groupe Solution to advance the message of acceptance, inclusion and respect of people of all intellectual abilities off the field by catapulting it into the homes and hands of social media users.  The spot was inspired by Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s words and was voiced over by five Special Olympics Athlete Leaders.  It embodied the spirit of the games and supported its campaign tag line #PickUpHope.

When asked about the creative process, Mark Philip, Vice President/Group Director, Creative, GroupeConnect said, “To celebrate Bank of America’s relationship with Special Olympics and its 50th anniversary, we knew we had to create something special.  Our idea was to show that when you ‘#PickUpHope’ to build a more inclusive world, you light the way forward.  That’s when we decided to use the light painting technique of Pixelstick.  While it’s a time-consuming process (we shot over three nights), we loved the craft of it and how it brought the idea to life symbolically in a new and innovative way that felt fresh for both brands.”

The video (watch above) from the  campaign illustrates how the elements of the time-lapse photo shoot and Pixelstick technology merged to light pathway of hope (the pathway forward) over Chicago.  Bank of America’s #PickUpHope social media campaign reinforced the company’s commitment to inclusion.  In a world where Millennials prefer brands with purpose they don’t hesitate to call out when messaging doesn’t ring true.  The broadcast-level campaign ran across all social media channels — it was designed to engage Millennials but resonated with Gen X and Boomers as well.  Philip noted that early engagement metrics show that the campaign is performing strong.  It is resonating on and benefitting from amplification as consumers are retweeting and reposting creative.

What these campaigns illustrate is that real solutions for change require bravery to make and break rules.  This is a mindset shift that doesn’t happen overnight.  Inclusion is a cornerstone of Bank of America.  Like P&G, which is also a corporate partner of Special Olympics, these marketing leaders are driving real change as authentic, purpose-driven campaigns move the industry from awareness to accountability.

This post originally appeared in MediaVillage.

Author: Mary Ellen Holden, Founder and CEO of MEH Solutions, LLC