"Green Power for Advertisers": Advertising Industry Unites at SWA Annual Meeting

The Swiss Advertising Clients Association (SWA) invited its members and guests to its traditional annual meeting on Tuesday afternoon. More than 300 advertising clients, agency and media representatives attended. After the keynotes on the conference theme of sustainability in marketing and communication, the new Advertiser of the Year, André Hefti CMO of Switzerland Tourism, made his first appearance.

SWA President Roger Harlacher spoke about the green transformation.

Climate change is one of the most urgent problems of our time and is increasingly influencing consumer behavior. That's why this year the SWA has focused on the topic of sustainability in marketing and communications, to inspire and motivate all partners in the advertising market. In doing so, advertising companies are called upon to make a contribution to a sustainable future. As an association, the SWA wants to support its members in this, among other things with information and initiatives. In order to determine the status quo of sustainability communication, market research was carried out at the beginning of the year by the ZHAW, which was supported by the SWA.

The SWA also participated in the global sustainability study conducted by the World Federation of the WFA. As the latest results of the ZHAW study "Swiss Sustainability Benchmark 2023" show, 57 percent of the companies surveyed find it difficult to communicate their sustainability efforts credibly, and 40 percent fear accusations of greenwashing. This illustrates how important and topical this issue is.

Two new board members

For the first time on the big SWA stage, Johannes Hapig, Co-Editor-in-Chief of m&k, took over the moderation of the annual meeting. In his welcoming speech, SWA President Roger Harlacher addressed the importance of the green transformation. This requires attitude from the companies. And not at some point, but now, as Swisscom is demonstrating. In addition to sustainability, the SWA is also addressing its key topics this year: transparency, prices and services in the media business, security in the digital market, and further unnecessary advertising restrictions. The 74th General Meeting was held in the run-up to the event. The SWA was able to report a new record of 209 members and elected two new board members, Laura Loos from Coca-Cola and Urs Odermatt from l'Oréal Suisse.

"Communication means power"

As the first guest speaker of the evening, Prof. Dr. Johanna Gollnhofer, Director of the Institute for Marketing and Consumer Insight at the University of St. Gallen, provided an answer to the question of how brands can credibly communicate sustainability without greenwashing or greenhushing. Because although sustainability is important to consumers, everyone understands something different by the term. Moreover, consumers have become true greenwashing detectives, which is why many brands prefer not to talk about the topic at all rather than risk negative reactions. "Greenhushing" is not a solution, however, according to Gollnhofer, because "communication means power." Companies should ask themselves what exactly their target group understands by sustainability, which sustainable goals fit their own brand identity and how these are best communicated. On the last point, Gollnhofer pleads for more wit and playful lightness - "that would give sustainability wings".

"Bock for a sustainable tomorrow"

Jan Pechmann, Managing Director of BAM! GmbH VE and initiator of the Marketing For Future Award, who would like to see marketing that makes renunciation look cool and reason look sexy and thus "makes you want a sustainable tomorrow. According to Pechmann, this is achieved through the marketing trinity of credibility, creativity and commerciality. Or to put it another way: a sustainability promise that is as concrete and verifiable as possible is communicated uniquely, emotionally, enthusiastically and with wit, and also brings the company economic success. Because greenwashing can only be avoided through credibility. With creativity, the message reaches the target group and sticks. But without commercial success, companies have no incentive to stick with it and continue their own sustainable transformation. Sustainability must not only be worthwhile - it must be worthwhile!

Sustainability as part of the corporate culture

Michel Siegenthaler, Head of Commercial & Marketing Management at Swisscom, presented a current case on the topic of sustainability. For the company, sustainability is not a trend, but has been part of its corporate culture for 25 years. Although the company relies 100 percent on renewable energy, has reduced its CO2 footprint by 80 percent and recycles used cell phones with a Second Life program, the brand had been hesitant to advertise sustainability. The risk of facing greenwashing accusations or leaving the important field to competitors were carefully weighed. Finally, the decision was made to address the issue of sustainability in the telecommunications market - with a campaign that involves all touchpoints throughout and consciously distinguishes itself from other sustainability campaigns through its urban appearance. Although the success of the "Now instead of someday" campaign cannot be quantified directly in terms of sales, the positive impact on the brand's reputation is clearly visible.

Appearance for the advertiser of the year

At the end of the presentations, the newly awarded "Advertiser of the Year" André Hefti answered Johannes Hapig's questions. The head of marketing at Switzerland Tourism was honored above all for his communications during the pandemic and for the commercials featuring international celebrities Roger Federer, Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway, with which the tourism organization scored several viral hits. On the subject of sustainability, Hefti referred to Switzerland Tourism's Swisstainable program and the fact that Switzerland is always at the top of renowned rankings as a sustainable travel destination. When asked whether more or less regulation in sustainability communication is better, he answered quite diplomatically "as much as necessary, as little as possible" - and then added: "Orientation and transparency are more important than regulations".

The most important facts about the 74th General Assembly of the SWA

The 74th AGM of the Advertising Clients Association took place immediately before the Annual Meeting. The SWA can look back on another intensive and successful year. Once again, the numerous webinars on various specialist topics, the meetings of the six expert groups, and the leader event held at Google in Zurich in the fall were in great demand among members. At the same time, SWA was able to represent its members on all important topics and make its voice heard. For the first time, SWA can report a record number of 209 active members.

The detailed annual report with the theme "Green Power for Advertisers". here retrievable.





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