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What you need to know as we enter the Decade of Do

Friday 13, Sep 2019

The next decade will be shaped by a generation of pioneers determined to take action on the matters they care about. From climate change and gun control to diversity and inclusion, they’re planning to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues while they’re at it. Welcome to the Decade of Do.

This new and insatiable appetite for direct action will be led by Generation Do – a subset of Millennials and Generation Z that has no faith in government or business to resolve these big societal problems. People like Greta Thunberg, who started a global movement after wagging school one afternoon to protest against the lack of climate change action, and Australia’s very own Plastic Free Boy, Arlian Ecker. 

This is the central narrative underpinning the five chapters and 19 insights in opr’s fifth annual Futures report – ‘Outlaws and Anti-Heroes: Pioneers, Persuasion and Policy in the Decade Do’. These insights have been gathered from the world’s most important creative, design and technology events including Cannes Lions, SXSW, D&AD, E3 and CES. 

The report provides an overview of what’s happening and why, observations from leading thinkers, examples of relevant work and thoughts on how we should respond as professional communicators.

Positive action, meaningful difference

The Outlaws in the title of the report are the people, brands and organisations taking a stand against outdated laws and outmoded organisations. It is about standing up for what’s right, no matter what the cost. Nike’s Dream Crazy – featuring former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick – is the definitive campaign for this trend. Although it made some customers so angry that they burned their shoes, causing a short-term dip in the company’s share price, it ultimately delivered a powerful message that struck a chord with the brand’s most valuable audience. French supermarket Carrefour broke a law that means 97 per cent of fruit and vegetable varietals are illegal in Europe, while the Female Company sold tampons in a book to highlight a crazy tax law that says feminine hygiene products are luxury goods

In a world obsessed with celebrities and influencers we are noticing the fascinating rise of the Anti-Heroes. This is a move away from the ultra-curated, same-same look that we are now so used to on social media. It is about a messier, unfiltered vibe, and using real and everyday people. Diesel’s ‘Be a Follower’ campaign, as well as their fashion collaboration with Mustafa’s cult kebab shop for last year’s Bread & Butter are great examples. An ice cream owner in Los Angeles has started advertising that “influencers pay double” after tiring of requests for free cones in return for exposure. 

Previously confined to communications, we’re increasingly seeing positive action baked into the heart of business strategy. It’s no longer about winning awards and posting humble brags about the impact your efforts are having. 

We’re calling this insight The Purpose Of Business, with examples like Volvo tackling gender inequality in car safety and Libresse taking on feminine taboos. It’s all about connecting with your most important audiences and being prepared to sacrifice those on the periphery.

The Long Tail Of Inclusivity is a related trend. Think about Microsoft making an Adaptive Controller so that people living with disabilities can play Xbox, Tommy Hilfiger designing clothes with innovative modifications that make it easier to get dressed or IKEA making 3D design files available through its ThisAbles project so furniture can be modified.

In a world where beautiful has been normalised by social media, we’re seeing perfect and polished replaced by real and even ugly because it feels more authentic. We’re calling this insight Beautiful Ugly. Australian actor Celeste Barber has built a following of six million Instagram followers for her parodies of celebrity photos, the Netflix show ‘Nailed It!’ has amateur bakers trying (and failing) to make complicated cake recipes, while Gucci explored the concept of beauty in imperfection to launch a range of lipsticks.    

We’re very proud of this work and you can read a sample of the report here. We’ll be taking our findings on the road to talk about what some of these insights mean for specific brands and organisations so please email to register your interest.

Written by Richard Brett - CEO at opr (Ogilvy PR Australia)