13 Times the Ad Industry Made the World a Little Bit Better in 2019

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This year the industry produced an array of innovative projects that have the potential to make a real difference, writes Laura Swinton
13 Times the Ad Industry Made the World a Little Bit Better in 2019
It's easy to sneer from the sidelines and far harder to get off one's backside to actually make a difference. This year the advertising industry released an array of projects and products designed to make the world a little bit better. Some were self-generated, some for charities and some for brands. We've compiled a few of our highlights - inclusion and accessibility was one of the biggest themes to emerge over the past twelve months, while we also saw a few projects around the globe that hacked traditional platforms to find missing children.

Volvo – the E.V.A. Initiative


Shockingly, women are 17% more likely to die in a car accident than men. Over the decades, cars have been designed to suit male biology with little attention paid to females. Crash test dummies are based on the average man, and even scaled down versions ignore sex differences in tendon elasticity and weight distribution. Volvo Cars’ Accident Research Team compiled real crash data from the 1970s onward in order to build cars that are as safe for women as men. The E.V.A. Initiative, created by Forsman & Bodenfors, makes that data available for the whole auto industry. Sharing safety insight with competitors is part of Volvo’s DNA – 60 years ago they gave away the design for the three-point seat belt.


Berger Paints – Truck Art Childfinder


BBDO Pakistan/ImpactBBDO, in collaboration with Samar Minallah Khan, found a clever use for a unique local artform. It’s the custom in the country to paint trucks with vivid designs and patterns, and often portraits of famous personalities. This time, though, artists painted portraits of missing children alongside a helpline number. In the first week alone 313 calls were received, and in total over 3,000 cals were made to the number – resulting in 500 leads and the recovery of seven missing children.

Dagoma – Harmless Guns

3D printing has the potential to democratise all sorts of industries, and when it comes to areas like medicine that’s got to be a good thing. But it can also be exploited for evil ends – blueprints for functioning firearms are already circulating online, allowing people to print their own guns. One 3D printer manufacturer wanted to stop that, for good reason – it didn’t want its product associated with violence and murder. To that end, TBWA/Paris tweaked existing blueprints, rendering them useless, and re-uploaded them to the internet. They’ve been downloaded thousands of times by those wishing to circumvent the law and create their own guns, putting duds in their hands instead of deadly weapons.

Reclame Acquie – Miles for the People


Grey Brazil pulled off a blinder, shaming politicians into giving back their airmiles to the people of Brazil. Pressure group Reclame Acquie had clocked something of a loophole – politicians were storing up airmiles from flights paid for by the public purse to get free personal flights and holidays. Working with their agency partners, they whipped up enough public pressure to convince them to return the airmiles to the people – and they’ve been used to transport young athletes to career-defining tournaments and sick people to specialist hospitals. https://lbbonline.com/news/how-grey-brazil-pressured-cheeky-politicians-to-give-back-their-air-miles/

Wavio – See Sound

This smart microphone and app uses AI to make life better and safer for the hearing impaired. One huge issue that deaf people have is that they can’t hear sounds around the house that might alert them to what’s going on – for example, fire alarms, door bells, smashed glasses and more. See Sound can identify these sounds and let users know what’s going on in other rooms. The device was developed by FCB Health’s Area 23.

Hyundai – The Quiet Taxi

South Korean car brand Hyundai and their creative agency Innocean worked to create a car that would make life easier for Seoul’s first hearing-impaired taxi driver. They built a special steering wheel display that would alert the driver to external sounds and use vibration instead of the usual ‘beeps’ to indicate distance when reverse parking. 

ITV – Get Britain Talking


Uncommon Creative Studio used the power of silence to get Brits to talk to one another. Motivated by the fact that anxiety and depression has risen among children by 48% since 2004, the project was about encouraging families to take time to connect. One Saturday, during the prime time show Britain’s Got Talent, the silent ad break was introduced by hosts Ant and Dec. Brands including Seat, Dunelm and Gillette took part and the project made a cultural splash.


Alzheimer Society – My Carer


By 2025, a million people in the UK will have dementia. The chances of finding a cure by then is incredibly tiny, but what can be done is to make life a bit easier to navigate for those in the earlier stages of the disease. McCann Europe, MRM// McCann Frankfurt and McCann London collaborated to create an Alexa skill that could be programmed by carers to prompt dementia sufferers and help them with their daily routine. 

Campaign Against Homophobia – Vote For Love 

In 2015, the right-wing ‘Law + Justice’ party emerged victorious in the Polish parliamentary elections. Over the following years, life for LGBTQ+ people in Poland became harder and harder with a slew of homophobic rhetoric and legislation issued by the government. For the NGO Campaign Against Homophobia (CAH), enough is enough. With the help of VMLY&R Poland, the CAH has created a mock election campaign of its own, entitled Vote For Love. Perfectly timed for the parliamentary elections next week, CAH held rallies, hosted debates and even put up its own mock election candidates.

IKEA – Thisables

Led by copywriter Eldar Yusupov, McCann Tel Aviv created tiny hacks to make IKEA’s products more accessible to the 10% of Israel’s population that suffers from severe disabilities. The team worked with IKEA designers and engineers to figure out add-ons and modifications that could be 3D-printed anywhere in the world.

HomePro – The 7:1 Collection 

Another accessibility-led homeware project, this time from Thailand. It’s a furniture collection designed for those with visual impairments, using a 7:1 colour contrast in order to make them easier to see and navigate.


Canadian Down Syndrome Society – Project Understood


Voice assistants have the potential to help people living with Down syndrome towards greater independence. Unfortunately, when people with Down syndrome try to use them, the speech recognition error rate is a mistake every third word. That’s why FCB Canada created Project Understood with the CDSS and Google, to collect more data in order to make voice tech better for people with Down Syndrome and other conditions.

Jamie N Commons, Skylar Grey - Runaway Train

25 years ago, the music video for Soul Asylum's Runaway train featured photos of real missing children. On the anniversary of the release, an updated remake of the video was created. Using geotagging to identify the viewer's location, the video serves up photos of missing children specific to the area. This means that it has a greater chance of turning up leads and gives more young people the chance of being found. THe project was created by M/H VCCP.
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