Today, I make way for our very talented colleague Cora Bundur from the Bucharest office of Lürzer's Archive. She decided to interview Andrea Henao, Managing Director of 360 Agency Berlin the first ever sustainable advertising agency in the world to work exclusively with sustainable brands.
Andrea Henao originally hails from Paris, she started her adventure in advertising at BETC in 2003. In her 15 years of experience, she worked at Carat in London on the media planning and strategy side for Philips and Nokia. Climbing another step, she managed the LG Global account for Mindshare and continued to manage the Heineken Global account at Starcom in Amsterdam. Going even further, she was named global associate Director of the Volkswagen global account at Mediacom, when she decided to fund 360 Agency Berlin. She will be speaking about the importance of a shift in paradigm in the industry of advertising at the 26th edition of the Golden Drum festival, which will take place in Portorož, Slovenia, in between the 17th and 18th of October.
It must have been difficult when opening the agency, considering the strong principles it was built on. Which were the biggest challenges when opening 360 Agency Berlin?
It has been indeed a challenge, but I was delighted to fight for it. The initial one was to identify how to audit sustainability levels of potential clients. Luckily, we’ve been introduced to specialists in Berlin who worked for a sustainability audit company and who could advise us on how to do so. The second challenge was to set the foundations of the agency and reflect our thoughts and hopes for the future of advertising. We decided to exclusively work with sustainable clients and fight for what we call sustainable advertising, including a better regulation of online data privacy. Convinced that we need to reestablish consumers’ trust towards the advertising industry, we strongly believed that regulation should come from the industry itself. Defending that point of view during industry conferences, with industry specialists as attendees, has sometimes been a real challenge.
One other challenge we’ve been confronted with was to achieve our complex vision as we wanted to be more involved with developing countries, since global advertising often lets these territories unapproached. We knew that if we wanted to actively fight against climate change, we would need to have these countries on board. Hence, the third challenge was to find the way to involve them. We found out that the European Commission had a scheme of preferences for these countries called GSP+, which helps least developed countries (LDC’s) to export sustainable products to Europe exempt of exportation tariffs. This GSP+ initiative was grouping everything that we were looking for. Thus, we decided to lead workshops with sustainable companies to explain how they could use advertising to promote their sustainable products both in their own country and in Europe. We managed to organize these thanks to the help of some local European delegation in Honduras, Vietnam, Mongolia, but it always remains a challenge to ensure that 100% of the attendees are exclusively sustainable companies when leading these workshops in LDCs.
I understand that there are three criteria that you take into consideration when deciding whether to accept a client or not. How did you start attracting sustainable clients who complied to your strong set of values?
Alexander Olenga and Martin Gosch, who work on the sales team, did an amazing work by scanning all the potential clients they would approach. They selected clients that were already actively sustainable, they answered publicly all the certifications related questions we would have approaching clients who were already fulfilling our criteria.
It’s rather easy to track your activity using clear KPIs that can be measured in numbers, but it’s a lot more difficult to measure, for example, the impact the campaigns have on the final consumer: will they opt for the sustainable product or buy the one they are used to. Did you manage to spot a tendency towards sustainable advertising on the part of the consumers throughout the campaigns created so far by 360 Agency Berlin?
Even while working on global advertising for well-established brands, it was often quite difficult to get a hold of sales figures from both clients and competitors. Meanwhile, there are some available data showing how sustainability criteria influence purchase intention: According to Nielsen, in 2019, nearly half (48%) of the U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits in order to reduce their impact on the environment. Since 2014, these influential shoppers have grown sustainable product sales by nearly 20%.
While we see these criteria increasingly influencing purchase intentions, it’s extremely important to clearly distinguish the communication of a sustainable brand and the sustainable communication of an unsustainable brand. On this matter, we highly recommend the documentary relayed on our YouTube channel, called “H&M conscious label not so conscious”. It is a great work of journalistic investigation, showing how unsustainable the brand actually is and how they communicate in a sustainable way, which is extremely dangerous for everyone involved in sustainability as it directly impacts the reliability of sustainable products in general. We are convinced that, in order to avoid losing consumers’ trust, it is vital for brands not to play this dangerous card of green washing, but to align their communication with their actual production standards.
What do you think is the next step in sustainable advertising?
The next crucial step is helping LDCs (Least developed countries) to grow in a sustainable manner and to be able to fight for the environment as well. As much as we need efforts from Western countries, they are not going to be able to resolve the situation without the other half of the hemisphere, so we really need to have everyone on board. We are confident that sustainable advertising should help sustainable initiatives from emerging markets and raise awareness in those countries as well.
Also, creativity is a great way to fight against what we call at the agency ‘The banality of evil in 2019’, which consists of ‘being used to’ the most abnormal effects: being used to see temperatures massively increase all around the globe, Greenland melting at record levels, to see less insects, bees, birds and a biodiversity decreasing at a speed never encountered before. We think it is vital to create different key visuals to raise awareness of the disastrous effects of climate change to a broader audience out of our echo chamber. As part of our CSR terms, we do not generate any revenue when launching these, we only truly ally our passion and determination with creative action. It is a drop in the ocean, but each drop counts.
The project you are most proud of since you opened 360 Agency Berlin is …?
The current project we are working on is with the Water Integrity Network. They act in places of high risks of drought and help governments, local communities and companies to reinitiate the dialogue and install processes and immediate actions to protect and better use their natural resources. For this purpose, we help them with all sort of designs to ensure that the different audiences can fully understand their initiative. Truly a great project to be involved i
A piece of advice you’ve received was …?
A great piece of advice we received was to be cautious and grow step by step. Not to be too ambitious, as the project itself is ambitious. Therefore, we are taking each new step very carefully, in order to avoid losing control or credibility.
Considering what is happening worldwide in terms of the climate crisis, I believe many of us feel too small to make a change. What is your opinion considering you are fighting against it every second of every day?
This is one of the biggest challenges human life will probably ever encounter, so we should never forget that no one is too small, as we’ll need everyone to be on board to make a change on the tough curse of climate change.
The power of collective consciousness is immense, and I do believe that if we all start at our own level by getting better informed, we might just find impactful solutions and efficient ways to act. Significant accessible resources, such as the ‘GIEC report’, enable us to understand with precision the extend of the problem and refine our thoughts and knowledge against the inherent ignorance on the subject. Another power that each and every one of us has is boycott. You actively vote for the world you aspire for by becoming a responsible active buyer, which, again, requires to be well informed. Thanks to social media, we have in our own hands a third massive power. Ideas can spread at a vertiginous speed, so, after being well informed by serious sources, you can become a strong advocate. There truly is an important work and needed effort from everyone to lead these conversations with proven facts and reliable sources, inspiring creative actions such as drawings, short movies or animations.