From Impact Advertising to Advertising Impact

November 6, 2017


Some have dubbed impact advertising the next great evolution in communications. According to Margaret Rouse, impact advertising is “…a form of advertising designed to have a lasting psychological effect on viewers so they will remember the product or vendor. This approach can help advertising produce the greatest results for a given expenditure.” Still, advertising and marketing departments primarily focus on impressions – the number of times people see a particular campaign. This is one of the few, although not-at-all scientific, ways we can measure return on investment for marketing. Moving to impact-based advertising means turning everything on its head.


This is mostly because impact advertising requires a long-term, strategic view of communications. The lasting psychological impact may not generate an immediate return. Perhaps a consumer won’t interact with your product until a year after they’ve seen an ad. By then, financial results are in and the VP of marketing has probably missed their target.


As advertising evolves, we at Fulcrum are calling for less a step change and more a quantum leap. Instead of impact advertising, we want to see companies advertising their impact. We strongly believe this approach will have a more lasting effect on the psychology of stakeholders for three key reasons.


  • First, advertising impact stands out in a crowd. As Fulcrum noted last week, advertising has gone off the rails. What’s more, there is way too much information floating out there to sort through. Surprisingly, campaigns seem to be cookie-cutter versions of one another with few truly breaking away from the status quo. In advertising impact, versus going after virality (which is all impact advertising truly is), firms will compete in a much less crowded space. Like a fleck of light in a dark room, advertising impact will catch your stakeholder’s eye.

  • Second, advertising impact taps our primal needs. Humans are competitive social animals. We want to not only fit in but also outdo our peers. When a company advertises the positive impact it has on society, a consumer automatically has a way to show off. “My product is not only made from 100% recyclables but the company gives 50% of all profits to charity.” In other words, I care more about the world than you do you filthy animal. Advertising impact gives the consumer a story that’s easy to share, driving further impressions and conversions.

  • Finally, advertising impact creates a virtuous cycle. For too long, sustainability professionals have been handcuffed by our altruistic nature. We’re humble people that would rather sit backstage than take credit where credit is due. To generate impact and change at scale, though, companies doing good things must show others what is possible. This is especially important in Asia where a strong localized business case for sustainability is still largely elusive. Advertising impact will raise the bar against industry peers, forcing an evolution in performance from companies and expectations from stakeholders.


It’s no secret consumers want to purchase products with sustainability at their core. Nielsen’s been tracking this for a number of years. Most recently, the market research firm found millennials driving this shift in consumer behavior. In fact, 31% are willing to pay a price premium for socially responsible goods. Now, consider going about advertising in the same old way. If you’re a company trying to hide your lack of social awareness, keep on keeping on. If, however, you’re a company doing your part for society but still not telling anyone, you’re basically giving up guaranteed revenue and a loyal consumer demographic. There’s no sense assuming stakeholders know the good things you’re doing. Now’s the time to shout it from the rooftops and truly advertise your impact!

Fulcrum’s Exploration series discusses critical issues facing today’s sustainability professionals. The goal of the series is to educate, inform, and generate discussion. If you liked some of these ideas, Fulcrum has plenty more. Set up a complimentary strategy session to dive deep into issues specific to your organization.

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