Wednesday, June 11, 2008


When I arrived at Geneva airport recently, I was stopped as I hurried across the departure lounge. A man I had not met before indicated that I should walk with him to a car parked outside. Not much was said. I was driven into the city. The building we pulled up at was anonymous with the usual security. I was taken into the foyer and put into a cage. Around the cage and hanging off the stairs and upper galleries hundreds of people stared at me in near silence.

Sound like a nightmare? It could have been in some countries. Fortunately for me the cage was the place I was to speak to P&G friends. As some of you may have guessed, my theme was Saatchi & Saatchi’s Social Work campaigns and the exhibition that is the result of them.

I have always believed that social advertising is about the power of a simple but unexpected idea to connect in a sea of clutter. It is not about using shock tactics for the sake of shock. Over the years, Saatchi & Saatchi has created many high impact campaigns that have played their part in helping to make parts of the world better places to live in.

There are a lot of problems in the world. At Saatchi & Saatchi, we believe the response is not to despair but to be inspired to take action. In the bigger picture, I see what we do as one of the ways business can lead the way in identifying and helping deal with social, environmental and cultural issues. Businesses can play this role because they power progress and turn people’s lives around like nothing on earth. It is, after all, businesses that create self-esteem, prosperity, jobs and choices. It is business innovation that touches the lives of people everywhere.

Speaking from inside my “cage”, one thing was absolutely clear to me. The way forward is optimism: believing in the power of people to resolve their problems and work towards a common good. “Two men look out the same prison bars; one sees mud and the other stars”. Put me down as a stargazer.