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Walk the talk: DBS and CNN find a common purpose

Walk the talk: DBS and CNN find a common purpose

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As leading brands in respective fields, CNN and DBS found common ground in their ambition to create a better, sustainable future for the world we live in. Today, DBS, a leading bank in Singapore is known for its advocacy for a sustainable future, whilst CNN aims to inspire global audiences to change their societies for the better. This perfect combination was the bedrock of a powerful campaign around innovations for sustainability that the two inked first in 2020, which then carried on well into 2021.

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Engaging consumers on critical topics around sustainability and innovation across multiple touch-points, the CNN-DBS cross-platform campaign was created with the aim to motivate positive action in building a sustainable future. Real life inspiring stories were brought to life through a branded content series, Portraits of Purpose, produced by CNNIC’s global brand studio Create. Through the perspectives of authentic change-makers who have successfully navigated the pandemic, the films created highlight how DBS partners with its clients, and the larger community, to create a positive impact in the current environment. As part of the partnership, DBS also sponsored ‘Inventing Tomorrow’, an award-winning program that highlights the innovative steps that entrepreneurs and businesses are taking to change the way we live during this time of unprecedented change.

Sharing with MARKETING-INTERACTIVE on the makings of a fruitful partnership was CNN’s, Rob Bradley, senior vice-president of advertising sales for Asia Pacific and Latin America, and Karen Ngui, head of group strategic marketing & communications, DBS Bank.  The two explained when tackling topics such as sustainability, the need for a credible partnership is key.

The fact that the partnership is well into its second year, said Bradley, shows the great relationship DBS and CNN has with each other. He added that at the end of the day, any great partnership is built on trust, respect and alignment – which made the pairing of the two brands ideal.  “When you look at what DBS is doing, and the stories that we have, you know the real impact they are having on the world,” Bradley said. This gave the teams at CNN even more confidence to bring all of the stories to life by delving further into audience insights and data points, to ultimately create a robust content pipeline in tandem with DBS’ objectives.

Adding on to the point around partnership and trust, Ngui said that when tackling a topic such as sustainability, authenticity is paramount for DBS. DBS was therefore very careful about finding the right partner who not only mirrored its commitment to the cause, but also helped the bank in telling these purpose-driven stories. Sharing specifically on the Portraits of Purpose initiative, Ngui shared that DBS was clear that in bringing these stories to life, the brand wanted to work with a respectable partner who also believed in the act of doing, and in the importance of storytelling, and this is where CNN fit the bill perfectly.

“For us, Portraits of Purpose is not just an advertising campaign. These are all real stories, real portraits. And the ability to work with the CNN team to tell those stories in a compelling way is something that has worked well for us,” she said.

Of course, what also added weight to the partnership was CNN’s commitment to the sustainability cause. As a brand which believes in walking the talk, CNN International Commercial’s branded content studio Create is committed to producing content as sustainably as possible, and has joined the ad net zero initiative, working with the Albert and Isla carbon calculator tools, to obtain carbon neutral certifications on global film productions and events, and to ensure all films and events are produced with the carbon footprint front of mind.

Built on trust and human stories

Moreover, for CNN, be it editorial or branded content, the media company has incredibly high standards and practices that it adheres to, given that its rise to prominence is built on the back of authenticity and trust of its viewers. Today, individuals from all over the world come to its platform for information on how they can live better, and to understand what’s going on within geopolitics, sustainability and technology, to have a positive impact in the world they live in.

What has made CNN so successful across the world, explains Bradley, is that the company prides itself in being experts in human-led storytelling, which is powered by unique data insight. This is particularly important with the backdrop of a pandemic and social shifts, where companies around the world are now stepping up to stand for something more, and consumers are looking to brands to create a better world. 

This then presents leading brands making real change with an amazing opportunity to creating authentic content that can place their company in the centre of conversations that truly matter to consumers. For CNN, some trending topics that emerged throughout the year were around issues such as the environment, sustainability and conservation, diversity and inclusion. The team also saw a spike in interest around green recovery through the rebound from COVID-19 across the globe. What this then means is that consumers want to align themselves to causes that have a real impact on society.

Explaining the trends further, Bradley added that we are now living in a time where all eyes are on companies to advance positive change. This simply means that brands leading with purpose will yield stronger reputation, brand affinity and bottom-line results.

Adding on to the need to drive real change, Ngui commented that for DBS issues such as sustainability go far deeper that simply having a “campaign-led approach”. Rather, it is a fundamental organisation-wide belief in the importance of it, and how crucial it is to put words into action.

“For us at DBS, what we’re sharing with consumers is something that has already been done. It’s not just about an advertising campaign. These are all real stories, real portraits, we want to bring real-life stories that demonstrate DBS’ sense of purpose to audiences, to inspire them towards positive action and impact.” she said.

The process to selecting stories

When asked to share further on how the teams and DBS and CNN uncovered hidden gems of content, Ngui shared that the team at DBS goes through an elaborate process to ensure the right stories are being told.

Reaching out to the different markets DBS has a presence in, the teams collate stories where DBS has made an impact or made a difference in their clients’ business, or in their clients’ lives. After which, the team shortlists stories that are most compelling and demonstrate the bank’s ability to provide technology and digital solutions, financial aid and beyond that not only altered or helped the course of a client’s busines but also promises a sustainable future for the community at large.

One such story that emerged through the hunt and saw great success in attracting audiences was “Feeding and Healing Cities”. The film created in partnership with CNN, spotlights social enterprise Edible Garden City (EGC), which is making Singapore’s ambitious food security goal, 30 by 30, about something more than just self-reliance.

Following the story of founder Bjorn Low, the team at CNN’s Create took a look at how EGC goes about building an inclusive and productive community for urban farming and how the DBS Foundation works together with EGC to scale up their operations.

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Meanwhile, the spot Solar Energy Takes Flight unearthed how a solar project is helping to balance ecological needs with Taiwan’s move toward a green economy. The film also explores how Vena Energy works closely with local communities, universities and NGOs to bring Mingus Solar Project to life, as well as how DBS Taiwan helps Vena Energy overcome operational, financial and regulatory challenges with a combination of green financing and pre-emptive solutions.

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Commenting on the stories, Ngui said, “Banking is about living. And I think the best way to involve ourselves in our customers’ lives is to understand what their real challenges and their fears are. We need to know what they like to do with their families, how they'd like to grow their business and what they believe in. Telling these real life stories is actually the inspiration behind our brand promise to enable people to ‘Live more, bank less’.”

Bradley added, in executions such as that with DBS, CNN becomes the ideal partner for brands to communicate their ‘purpose’ to a global audience. “As brands you have to stand for something and make a difference in an authentic manner. And this needs to be communicated through powerful, meaningful, beautiful and engaging content,” he said.

“We ensure the content is served at the right moment and in the right context with high-quality. It is human-led storytelling informed by deep insight,” he said, adding that this is only possible because of the investments the company has made to become both a media and technology company with proprietary tools to help brands create conversations in a way that is optimised for news media.

Having the right reach

Other than the ability to tell the right stories in a credible manner, the reach CNN has through its platforms is also unmatched by many. CNN’s portfolio of news and information services is available in seven different languages across all major TV, digital and mobile platforms, reaching more than 475 million households around the globe.

Ngui added that what also impressed her team was also the psychographic segment interested in regional issues that CNN was able to attract. This is also a segment that resonated with DBS’ target audience.  “Through the partnership, CNN also gave us a breadth of reach. CNN is in the markets that we're in, and reaches out to our target audience. We also have worked with CNN in the past, and we've always been very happy about the partnership,” Ngui said.

When asked how CNN can be certain that it is truly reaching the right audience, Bradley explains that the way CNNIC connects brands with their customers in impactful and purposeful ways on CNN’s global platforms is by using a unique combination of data and creativity. Over 75% of CNNIC campaigns are now cross-platform as it connects brands with audiences across all touchpoints.

Its audience first strategy is based on four key principles. The first and most fundamental principal it zeroes in on is in its ability to know its audience and their behavior holistically. This is then layered with ensuring the right creative content and campaigns are built, based on deep audience insight. Keeping in mind the user experience, the teams are also often experimenting with innovative new formats to ensure a great ad experience for readers. And of course, using next-gen targeting, CNN ensures the right audiences are reached in the right moment.

Commenting on CNN’s approach, Bradley explains that the team can not only reach a highly affluent audience, but looking at audience behaviour, it can also unlock new audiences, and therefore, new customers for brands. “When brands work with us, they’re really looking to take advantage of the fact that CNN has this incredibly large audience that can be understood in detail through the data that we have, and through the contextual tools that we have, to really understand what people are talking about right now.

“By understanding our audience and their behaviour, advertisers can trust that we’re going to reach the right people.  At CNN we trade on trust – when we work with clients we make sure our clients leverage the trust that we have built and create that same type of relationship with their own consumers,” he said, adding:

“We’re truly a modern media company. We are just as much technology, research data, creative agency, media buyers, as we are a media company,” he said.

This article was created by MARKETING-INTERACTIVE in collaboration with CNN.

Related article:
Walk the talk: Trust and sustainability 

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