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Reject or accept? Moral Compass tool helps agency staff pick ethical briefs

19 Sep 2019  |  Michaela Jefferson 
Reject or accept? Moral Compass tool helps agency staff pick ethical briefs

As the debate around adland's responsibility towards tackling climate change continues, "ethically-driven" creative agency Nice and Serious has developed a tool which it hopes will bring the best interests of humanity to the forefront of agency decision making.

The Moral Compass gives employees the opportunity to anonymously vote on whether their agency should work on a particular brief or client. In Nice and Serious' case, the team is asked to vote on whether they believe the brief will change the world for the better, and any brief which scores an approval rating of less than 51% is rejected.

Nice and Serious said it has rejected a number of briefs since implementing the mobile app, including one from aerospace and defence company Airbus.

The Moral Compass is now in beta testing with a number of other agencies, including strategic communications specialists MullenLowe Salt. According to Nice and Serious, the tool has also had interest from the likes of Ogilvy, R/GA and Wieden+Kennedy.

The beta launch of The Moral Compass comes following calls for the advertising industry to take responsibility for its role in driving unsustainable consumption and the effect that has had in exacerbating the climate crisis.

The debate has raised some complex, existential questions for adland, including whether agencies should work with clients which have a negative impact on the planet.

Speaking to Mediatel News, Tom Tapper, co-founder and creative director of Nice and Serious, said: “The problem we see is that the way decisions are made at a corporate level almost requires everyone to leave their own moral compass at the door.

"We agreed that the moral compass of Nice and Serious should be a reflection of everyone's moral compass, and the only way to do that would be to democratise the decision making process."

Asking employees to separate their personal moral compass and their working self "ultimately breeds resentment", Tapper added. He hopes The Moral Compass will help the ad industry to better retain its creative talent, who can then use their creative persuasion skills to convince consumers to change their behaviour for the better.

However, despite receiving interest, Tapper admitted that implementing the tool is currently "quite daunting" for agencies - even though it could be used in a "very guerilla fashion" or as a sense gathering tool.

"I find it hard to see a legitimate reason why businesses wouldn't be interested in that. I think the only reason they wouldn't be interested is that they are scared of what it will say," he said, adding that it should be considered a bad sign for the client if its brief gets rejected by the agency team, as that likely means consumers will not respond well to it either.

"What value are you adding beyond the creative value? The agency is the one who should be reading the pulse of society... Perhaps The Moral Compass allows that conversation to happen [with clients] in a slightly more constructive way."

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01 Jul 2020 

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