Tell us about yourself and what you do.
I’m Mathoto Matsetela I am a Brand Strategy Director at Virtue, the creative agency by VICE. I was born in South Africa where I started by career but am now based in NYC after a several years working in brand consulting and innovation across Europe and southeast Asia. In my current role as Brand Strategy Director I take care of a couple of Unilever and Google brands including Dove Men+Care and Google Chrome.
How has the shift towards more responsible or politically correct advertising impacted your work?
I’d caution against the words and phrases like responsible and politically correct. Thoughtful and courageous brands that don’t live in a marketing vacuum is what we should be aiming for. In short, if your ‘do good’ mission starts and ends with your advertising you’re doing it wrong. I’m fortunate enough to work at an agency that attracts brands and businesses that really get this. Unilever brands, Ben and Jerrys and Seventh Generation are 25 years ahead of the pack with this thinking. A thoughtfulness and courage permeates their entire organization and it’s truly inspiring. It’s what makes their storytelling and advertising so entertaining, so real and so very powerful.
Can you give some examples of clients that have adopted a responsible approach but remained and how they’ve used creative to help further their message?
In 2017, we helped Smirnoff realize their mission to make nightlife a little more inclusive. It all started with an article published on VICE’s Thump one year prior, highlighting that only 17% of headlining acts at music festivals in 2016 were women. Smirnoff was brave enough to commit to doubling this number by 2020 and with our help launched Equalizing Music on International Women’s Day 2017. We kicked things off with a documentary film featuring Chicago’s The Black Madonna and Uganda's DJ Rachel; two women leading their communities towards equal representation of women through mentorship. The documentary was accompanied by a Smirnoff Top 50 Women Making Noise editorial hub and list on Spotify for mass exposure and discovery of other top female DJ tracks. We got the industry talking and most importantly we gave music fans a way to increase the women’s visibility in music with each Spotify listen.
Another project I’m very proud to have worked on, is helping Dove Men +Care launch their commitment to champion paid paternity leave worldwide. You’ll know from Dove women and it’s work around Real Beauty that Dove Masterbrand does not take brand purpose lightly. We finally launched this father’s day with #DearFutureDads after a two year exploration involving global research in 7 markets, multiple planning engagements and creative development with a coalition of agency partners. When a brand idea, changes a global organization’s HR policy, that’s powerful, that’s what I mean by thoughtful and courageous over responsible and politically correct. Just this week, Dove Men+Care Japan launched part two, with a film titled #DearFutureMen.
Do you believe this helps the audience develop a deeper bond with their audience? Might taking a stance on social/political issues also turn away some potential customers?
I strongly believe that a brand that has nothing meaningful to say is just a product. So yes and yes. It’s okay to piss off some people if it means deepening your connection to an influential core.
Are there any specific causes your agency as a whole or you yourself hold near and dear? If so, tell us about them.
Our agency philosophy is: Make Ideas of Importance. We believe that adding cultural value delivers commercial success. And we would consider ourselves incredibly lucky to help many of our clients create strategic platforms that don’t add to the “ad-noise”. Contrary to many cause-marketing agencies, these platforms needn’t be worthy or philanthropic; they need to be just believable, thoughtful and courageous.
As we move towards more socially conscious advertising, are there any campaigns from the past that you think simply wouldn’t be able to get made today?
The AXE get a girlfriend creative likely would not get made today, and some racial representation within post apartheid advertising from South Africa is outright offensive.
Is there a specific campaign for a good cause you worked on that you’re most proud of? Or a favorite campaign from another agency.
Last year we supported Axe’s mission to counter toxic masculinity amongst teen boys. Using Google trends data from partner agency 72&sunny, Virtue and Vice Media created six Snapchat Discover Takeovers. We created ± 46 pieces of original video and editorial content aimed at challenging archaic stereotypes (The Secret History of Pink & Blue), pushing boundaries (Thoughts From The Skate Park: What Does Gender Even Mean Now & is it okay to cry?) in order to encourage young men to live life on their own terms, free and unlabeled (Miss Vera’s Finishing School For Boys Who Want To Be Girls). The work was powerful and very effective – a perfect example of what we mean by Ideas of Importance.