Interview with Chris Arnold from Creative Orchestra Advertising

chris arnold

This is one I’m really pleased to present, this is an industry professional with a real passion for ethical marketing, and the man who literally wrote the book.

For those people who have not heard of you could you explain a bit about who you are and what you do?

I have worked in advertising and the creative industry for over 25 years and been Creative Director of Saatchi & Saatchi before setting up the UK’s first integrated ethical marketing and advertising agency, FEEL. We helped ethical brands convey their message to consumers. After several years I founded the world’s first not-for-profit ad agency.  Part of our mission was to cultivate young talent.

I have written the Brand Republic blog on ethical marketing for almost a decade and also wrote the book Ethical Marketing & The New Consumer.

Currently I run Creative Orchestra Advertising and The Garage, which is a disruptive innovation consultancy. Ethics is still a key part of what we do. The Garage taps into the dyslexic community of ‘Super Thinkers’, the first company in the world that does that.

I am also heavily involved in community, I founded the UK’s biggest community arts festival, am a director of London Community Arts CIC and run one of London’s smallest venues, The Intimate Space, based in a 500 year old church tower in North London.

I am also really passionate about encouraging creativity in kids and am a governor of a performing arts school.

What is your definition of ethical marketing ?

It all starts with honesty. Brands need to be truthful and not bullshit or spin. Conveying a brand’s positive and ethical values to consumers is an art. Done wrongly it feels fake, done well it comes across as sincere. One of the key things is understanding the consumer and what ethics means to them.

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You literally wrote the book on Ethical Marketing with your release ETHICAL MARKETING & THE NEW CONSUMER, can you tell us a bit about that?

Wiley’s approached me to write it, having read a lot of my writings (FT, Brand Republic and numerous other publications) plus attending some of my lectures. They’d published another book but it was too high brow and no one understood it. They wanted a more accessible book, one people could relate to and would inspire them. It’s packed full of marketing education and case studies and my own personal experiences working with brands. I wanted it to be as interesting to an experienced CEO as well as someone starting up a small ethical business. Over the years I’ve had some incredible feedback and no end of thank you letters.

How important do you feel ethical marketing is?

I don’t think ethical marketing itself is as important as understanding what consumers expect of companies, what values matter and how that is conveyed. It all starts with a company taking an honest look at itself. Re-evaluating its core values.

Consumers now look for values, purpose and judge you by what you do, not what you say. They see through green & ethical wash, don’t trust badges or charts – when a petrol company can get a certificate for being green it’s a joke. There’s a lot of ethical tokenism about.

Brands need to do what they preach.

Marketing always starts with good consumer insight and brand values.

Which ethical marketing campaigns have really stood out for you?

Need to think about that as there are so many. I love the Dove self esteem campaign, encouraging young women to not be influenced by the fashion industry in a bad way.

What would you say to those companies who aren’t sure about marketing, and indeed running their whole business in an ethical way?

Tell it as it is. Convey your values, your purpose and encourage your customer to help you become even better at it. Customer engagement is essential.

In a world of alleged ‘fake news’ and greenwashing do you think it’s getting more difficult to showcase ethical marketing?

No, the truth is out there, lies, fake marketing, green and ethical washing gets exposed via social media and WOM. The real stuff stands out.

I know you believe community engagement is a big part of ethical marketing, can you highlight why you think that and maybe some ideas on how a new company could do that ?

Start by listening to your customer. Insight is everything. Not enough brands, new or old, big or small invest in really understanding their customers and communities. Most big brands are clueless as they do it from a telescope from the 27th floor. Small brands can engage one to one.

Communities are slightly different in the sense they are usually united through a purpose, geography, a common factor. You need to be able to align with them.

Chris Arnold

What’s next for you?

We are working with Connect 2, a specialist in community engagement, helping brands to connect better with communities. Very exciting area that has not been well done in the past, or brands think it’s just about social media (which it really isn’t).

What’s next for the future in ethical marketing?

Although it’s essentially spin, a number of big brands are talking a lot about ethics. They believe they need to be more ethical to improve the bottom line (read John Browne’s book Connect). This is in fact driven by economics rather than true belief in being a better business. But strangely, this is in fact good as it means they do have to move towards a more conscientious consumer positioning. Which also encourages others.


Thanks so much to Chris for this, it’s a fascinating insight from one of the most experienced Ethical Marketers out there.


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  1. […] the best ethical marketing campaigns from the past, this one is one which was highlighted by the Chris Arnold in the interview we did with him […]

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