Anu Niemonen (hasan & partners): Charity organizations are facing a new era while big brands are taking bigger and bigger roles in purpose marketing

Anu Niemonen (hasan & partners): Charity organizations are facing a new era while big brands are taking bigger and bigger roles in purpose marketing

[UPDATE] The "Maternity wear for a 12-year-old" campaign developed for Plan International Finland was discussed during the ADC Focus on Impact event as a case study concerning not only the creative process, but also a set of negative consequences it had beyond its efficiency and numbers. Accordingly, the agency decided to stop promoting the campaign content. Representatives of hasan & partners have declined to comment further on the topic.

 

The original text:

"To be honest, I hate advertising, I always have", says Anu Niemonen, a senior creative with 18 years spent in the industry, 16 of which she's dedicated to hasan & partners. Hating the usual look, feel & format of advertising, Anu was inspired in her teenage years by the work of Timo Everi, "clever, brave, funny and distinguishable" in the bulk of Finnish ads during that time. He later became her CD at hasan & partners.

Anu's take on ads is better illustrated through one of her latest non-profit projects, one she'd been working on for 4 years just to make happen: "Maternity wear for a 12-year-old", developed for Plan International Finland.

Anu and her team had a famous local designer create a shocking product for a "market" that shouldn't exist: the 7 million children who become pregnant every year. The process of developing the project was brought forth to the ADC Focus on Impact audience in December; it was Anu's first time talking about the initiative as a whole.  

On non-profit advertising, Anu points out the current landscape in which big brands lean into purpose marketing isn't without its own existential implications:

What is the position of charity organization in peoples' minds after helping the world by buying milk or sanitary towels? Why should they still donate afterwards? Do we have too many non-profit organizations? Can people even make the difference between them? Are they just fighting against each other or should they merge? Should non-profit organizations do just B2B and not waste time and effort with overall B2C communication?


Versiunea in limba romana, aici.

 

Advertising - choice or circumstance?

I guess advertising chose me at the end of the day. I was a teenager when my family moved back to Finland from Sweden and I really loved some ads that I later realized were made by the same man, Timo Everi, one of the founders of hasan & partners. They were clever, brave, funny and distinguishable compared to the average stuff that was made in Finland in those days. He became my CD later on. Advertising is perfect combination of creativity, business strategy and commercialism, all of which are close to my heart.

 

Biggest changes that had impact on you as a creative

Of course, new media environments have changed the game a lot. Previously you could reach whole Finland when you bought a TV spot for Saturday night.

Another big thing is the demand of transparency companies are facing nowadays. I love that people - and especially millennials - are more aware of the responsibility companies are carrying, but at the same time it means that we need to bear in mind that social media is also spreading wrong information.

The way of working has changed a lot too. When I started in the industry nearly 20 years ago, the copywriter / art director pair was in core. Now we gather a group of right people around the clients’ problem, which allows us to give a wider perspective and input, instead of just to “make ads”.

 

No less than 16 years at hasan & partners

This is an agency that during nearly 30 years has changed from a boys’ club into an international group based in Helsinki, Stockholm and San Francisco. What I love abour this agency is that we are a bunch of people who care more about the future of the industry than the short-term perspective of how the company is doing. Money follows if you do great things. Also, if you want to work on an international level in Finland, hasan & partners is the place.

 

Would say you’re a loyal employee or rather loyalty has nothing to do with it?

There are some really important people for me who still work at the agency, like my chairman Ami Hasan, whose life lessons I appreciate a lot. For me it’s important to be surrounded by people from whom I can learn more all the time. From the very beginning I have fit perfectly into the family culture of this agency. I also love its diversity. We have people with 20 different nationalities and great mix of the young and old. Three of our CEOs are female and over 40 years old female. So, I guess for me it is combination of love and loyalty.

 

Favourite personal ad projects

To be honest, I hate advertising. I always have. On the other hand, I love ads that break rules and don’t look like ads. So that’s what I keep making. I love projects that create earned media and PR for the client and carry a bigger meaning.

I have several projects from the first years that only I appreciated, haha. But after that, I guess the ones closest to my heart are “Do a better one yourself, then” for the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, “Maternity wear for a 12-year-old” to non-profit organization Plan or the documentary “Lick-hikers guide to Inner Strength” for a dairy product company Valio. Not only because of the end result but because of the process and amazing team work during the journey

 

Changes and challenges you see coming in the future

I love the fact that the industry is currently in a tough place where we need to redefine ourselves and our role to clients. I think the most beautiful minds and creative people still work in the industry and we need to find a way how to solve the big global issues the world is facing, like climate change and nationalism, together with our clients. This demands quite a big mental leap from everyone.  It is super exciting and not only a great possibility, but also a great responsibility for all of us.

And of course, there are things that the digital change will bring us next year like AI and voice assistants. Can’t wait for AI to take care of my hourly reports, receipts and bulk banner texts. And imagine what we can do with Alexa or Google Home in future.

 

Do you see yourself retiring from the ad world?

I’m quite certainly going to retire from this industry, but I also hope the industry doesn’t look like it does right now.

 

"An honest story of a purpose campaign where everything went wrong" @ ADC*RO Focus on Impact

I was a bit worried before presenting because the subject is really close to my heart and it's still quite an emotional thing for me. I fought a lot for 4 years to make this project happen and I hadn't spoken about the whole process before.

I didn’t cry during the presentation! Yeah, I guess it was all good at the end of the day. I guess you need to fail, if you want to learn. Failing without learning is just waste of everyone’s time and energy.

 

A good purpose campaign. Where do they usually miss?

I’ve been doing non-profit advertising for over 10 years and the biggest objective is to get both donations and as much earned media as possible. Our client is Plan International that is fighting for the girls’ rights in the developing countries. This means preventing child marriages and pregnancies and giving girls the possibility to get education. So it’s not a non-profit organization’s only issue to raise awareness of basic gender equality but also get money and donations for the girls.

I guess that charity organizations are facing a new era while big brands are taking bigger and bigger role in purpose marketing.

What is the position of charity organization in peoples' minds after they can help the world by buying milk or sanitary towels, why should they still donate afterwards? Do we have too many non-profit organizations? Can people even make the difference between them? Are they just fighting against each other or should they merge? Should non-profit organizations do just B2B and not waste time and effort with overall B2C communication?

I don’t have the answer yet, but these are the questions that are in my mind right now.

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