Back in 2014, the White House rolled out a bold new campaign to help inspire not only awareness, but sweeping changes in the cultural attitude toward sexual assault on college campuses. “It’s On Us” enlisted celebrities of all stripes, from Kerry Washignton, Connie Britton, and Common, to campus leaders, survivors, and athletes, to spread the message that sexual assault of any kind is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. That campaign was created by agency Mekanism, and now the creative shop, along with fellow agency Wolf & Wilhelmine, has helped bring together a collection of other top agencies to collaborate on campaigns for social good.
The Creative Alliance is made up of 20 creative, technology, design, and communications agencies, to support Civic Nation, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that uses organizing, engagement and public awareness to address some of the nation’s most pressing challenges, including White House-launched initiatives. Members include Mekanism, Wolf & Wilhelmine, BBH, Matter Unlimited, Republica, Sub Rosa, 72andSunny, HUGE, The Black Sheep Agency, Blue Engine Message & Media, TruthCo., Spark, Chapter, Translator, RPMGRP, Havas Worldwide New York, Big Spaceship, AKQA, Briefcase and Sew L.A.
Mekanism president and CEO Jason Harris says that the “It’s On Us” campaign helped redefine how The White House partners with outside agencies to tackle civic issues. “From the success of that experience, we realized that this could be so much bigger than one issue,” says Harris. “So we worked with Civic Nation to gather our friends that run agencies, and we formed a super-friends network in which we could tap lots of talent in the industry to create awareness and activism for dozens of issues. Everything from immigration to education to empowering women could be professionally campaigned. From that initial spark came the recruitment of the agencies and the official development and launch of the Alliance.”
Michael Ventura, founder and CEO of Sub Rosa, sees the new partnership as a prime example of a sum being greater than its parts, and cuts out some of the usual collaborative issues faced on corporate projects. “By participating in this group, we’re able to leverage each other’s strengths, collaborate openly and with clear alignment on the greater good,” says Ventura. “Too often, ‘cross-agency teams’ make true collaboration difficult–as practice areas, timelines, and budget allocations are often overly prescriptive. However, with the Creative Alliance, we’re truly run as a team of equals and working toward goals that are massively important to our country. The fact that this work is volunteer-based has a self-editing effect. Everyone in the circle wants to be there for the right reasons.”
On any given business day, these agencies are either fighting over new clients, or are creating work for competitors fighting for our attention. Wolf & Wilhelmine founder Heidi Hackemer says the dynamic between agencies changes when it’s not about just winning. “When it comes to the Creative Alliance itself, we pointedly put companies in rooms together who would traditionally consider one another competitors and instead say, ‘let’s solve this problem,'” says Hackemer. “At the end of day, we’re all good people who respect one another and get that the Alliance is not about winning but about solving. The all-hands-on-deck attitude and lack of ego has been refreshing to say the least.”