The ground-breaking campaign from Engine Creative for the Kiyan Prince Foundation underlines that there's no such thing as caring too much when it comes to making work that matters.

No one gets into advertising to create mediocre work yet, when it comes to social impact, work cynicism prevails. Agencies investing their time and resources in not-for-profit campaigns must automatically be chasing awards with shell campaigns. An industry narrative of ‘you care too much’ and an underlying discomfort with social impact and purpose in marketing create an ecosystem in which, rather than aiming higher, we are teaching the next generation of creatives that their work does not matter. That they shouldn’t even try. 

The simple truth is [that] creativity has the power to change the narrative.

Yet, the simple truth is this: creativity has the power to change the narrative. On the 18th May 2006, Kiyan Prince was murdered by a fellow student outside the gates of his school whilst trying to break up a fight. He was just 15-years-old. On the 15th anniversary of his death a campaign for the Kiyan Prince Foundation [KPF] by Engine Creative reimagined his legacy virtually in EA Sports’ video game franchise FIFA 21, thanks to the incredible commitment of  Kiyan’s father, Dr Mark Prince OBE.

EA Sports – Long Live The Prince

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Above: ENGINE London's campaign for FIFA 21 which featured Kiyan Prince, a young man murdered when he was 15. 

Earlier this month, at BITE LIVE 2021, Dr Prince spoke movingly about the incredible, personal commitment and emotional cost of telling Kiyan’s story, a story handled with immense energy, commitment, collaboration and compassion by brand, agency and partners alike. Each and every one personally and emotionally invested in not just the campaign, but Dr Prince’s vision for creating a positive legacy; for his son, and for 100,000 young people.

Raising the bar

The truth is, in spite of the swathes of marketing commentators lining up to declare that purpose is overrated, campaigns such as reimagining the legacy of Kiyan Prince require a level of commitment and guts that is difficult to fathom. Far from simply chasing awards, there is an immense emotional cost to social impact work, where creativity often involves taking the harder path; a path which demands openness and the vulnerability, which comes hand in hand with being emotionally invested in the work that you are seeking to put into the world, and the difference you are trying to make.  

Far from simply chasing awards, there is an immense emotional cost to social impact work.

As Dr Prince shared with the BITE LIVE audience: “One of the most powerful questions anyone can ask themselves when they have a vision to get something completed is; are you willing to pay the price? There is a cost for everything.”

He continued: “I had a vision to impact the world, to change generations of young people's mindsets concerning how they saw themselves and the impact they can personally have on the world, and that they have purpose in that world. I’ve been willing to pay whatever price I have to pay, and the price is quite high because I get emotionally exhausted.”

Sharing the emotional exhaustion that came with the pressure of undertaking multiple media interviews to support the campaign, he explained: “That was probably one of the biggest prices that I paid.” Yet Dr Prince paid it with grace and strength that is difficult to fathom. “I’ve got to continue this, I’ve got to reach 100,000 young people.,” he said. He believes the emotional pain of sharing his story is worth it

Above: Dr Mark Prince [bottom, middle] spoke on BITE LIVE 2021 panel earlier this month with [clockwise from top left] Nicola Kemp, Editorial Director, Creativebrief; Karl Woolley, Global Real-Time Director, Immersive & IA, Framestore; Richard Nott, Creative Director, ENGINE; Nadia Kokni, Global Group Marketing - CMO, JD Sports; Katie Farmer, Head of Production, ENGINE.

Striving to make the impossible possible

There is no question that, collectively and individually, we are all grappling with grief in the wake of the pandemic. Behind all those masculine headlines on the ‘War for Talent’ and ‘The Great Resignation’, a deeper truth has emerged; across the industry, people are choosing change.

For purpose is not just a driver of market share growth, it is oxygen and fuel for creative talent.

Yet, embracing this shift isn’t just about changing where you sit, your company or your job title. In many ways, it's less about the agency you choose to work for and instead recognising the agency we each possess as individuals. For purpose is not just a driver of market share growth, as Peter Field’s recent research into the IPA Effectiveness Awards Databank underlines, it is oxygen and fuel for creative talent.

Creativity is taking the harder path 

So, why, as an industry, are we so collectively cynical about the work that matters most?  Work that so often takes the harder, poorly-funded, emotionally-draining path. “We have to ask ourselves if we are willing to pay the price because we give up too easily when doors shut," said Dr Prince, "when walls get put up and we are willing to make excuses and throw in the towel.”

Why, as an industry, are we so collectively cynical about the work that matters most?

So, let's stop drowning in a sea of purpose cynicism and consider instead the phenomenal courage and commitment of Dr Mark Prince and his work. Let’s instead admire the care, creativity, and collaboration of the team behind the campaign. 

For, when we start telling different stories, it is clear that change is possible. So keep going, don’t give up. Dust off that idea that no one believed in and dare to care deeply about the work you are creating and the impact you can have. 

The time for a new narrative is now.

Nicola Kemp is Editorial Director of Creativebrief. BITE LIVE is available for you to catch up on here.