Things to Keep in Mind When Developing Your Social Good Ad

Katie Dunlap February 13, 2018 CSR Trends, Employee Engagement

After reading last week’s blog post, you might be thinking “we can’t all have a Super Bowl ad focused on our CSR program!” And while that is true, we can definitely all learn from these ads. Last week, we learned how great it is to talk about your social good goals in our interviews. Interviewees liked that brands shared the good that they have accomplished with new audiences and consumers. But, these philanthropy-focused ads can also fail in the eyes of the public. As you create an ad it’s also important to assess the four W’s (and the bonus H).


  • What do your programs share?
  • Where do you share your CSR programs?
  • Why are you sharing them?
  • When should you share your program?
  • Bonus: How are you sharing it?


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Easy Mistakes to Avoid


Our interviews last week showed that commercials highlighting social good tend to be well received. If done well and authentically, they can often change consumer perception for the better about a brand. Commercials like these might even influence buyer behavior in the long-term.

What we failed to mention, however, are a few dangers to avoid when marketing your philanthropic achievements. The first pitfall is where and when you choose to share your CSR program. There are broad criticisms about doing a CSR-focused Super Bowl commercial. Many argued there are better ways to spend $5 million, like actually doing social good, instead of taking out an ad to tell the Super Bowl audience what you already have done.

Another trap to avoid is what you are sharing and why are you sharing it. Viewers can perceive certain ads as self-serving instead of encouraging or uplifting. Some of the comments we received asked whether the company aimed to do good, or instead, profit from the message of doing good.

Finally, it is important to realize how your corporation chooses to talk about their CSR programs. The language or tone your company uses can backfire. Some ads were off-putting to consumers because of the exploitation of quotes and social issues. Consider the context and venue before including outside sources.


Hyundai’s Ad titled “Hope Detector” for Super Bowl LII promoting Hyundai Hope On Wheels, support for pediatric cancer. (PRNewsfoto/Hyundai Motor America)


How to Plan a Well-Received Ad


Since none of us want to feel the push-back of a poorly-received ad, here are a few steps you can take to mitigate the risk:

  1. Examine your CSR program. Find the unique and interesting story your ad can tell. Make sure both the program and the story have substance and are rooted in historical CSR performance.
  2. Know the internal goal. A social good advertisement may not drive sales. But if the goal is to strengthen brand image and perception, this type of ad is perfect.
  3. Root your story in authenticity. Consumers are drowning in information, advertisements, and comparisons. They can tell if a story or program is dramatized or “green-washed”.
  4. Understand your target audience. Do they already know the program exists? You might have to tell the story differently depending on whether the audience has prior knowledge.
  5. Carefully consider the script. Remember, how the story is told is just as important the details above. Make sure the words used directly relate to your company, values, and program.
  6. Assess avenues to share this ad. Is it possible to get the word out about your CSR program in a way that parallels your program’s goals and doesn’t appear to take resources away from those goals? Often, this comes down to the cost of the ad.


It is possible to create a well-received, popular advertisement about CSR programming with a little finesse and understanding of all aspects involved. As CSR practitioners, you’re used to analyzing stakeholder needs. The above assessment of your social-good ad is really a long way of saying: consider every stakeholders’ needs and how they might perceive this advertisement. Once you’ve assessed each group, you’ll be able to trust intuition and find the right way to talk about your programs.


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If you missed last week’s post on companies featuring CSR advertisements in the Super Bowl, check it out here!