Creating With Empathy at VSA Partners

Partner and Executive Director Bob Winter gives his insights about the social responsibility in advertising.

Bob Winter
Partner, Executive Creative Director VSA Partners

Tell us about yourself and what you do.

I'm a partner and executive creative director which is just a fancy way to say i'm responsible for the creative output of the agency.


How has the shift towards more responsible or politically correct advertising impacted your work?

Hopefully we've always been responsible and politically correct. We try to be good at understanding people and acting and creating with empathy—now more than ever it feels like the world could use a little of that. Working with the YWCA has given us the opportunity to pull people into one of the most important issues of our time, to be inclusive and to make a difference- for our daughters, sisters, mothers and friends, but also for all of us.


Can you give some examples of clients that have adopted a responsible approach but remained and how they’ve used creative to help further their message?

Working with the Kleenex brand we had great partners who helped us find real truth in the brand that was there but not at the forefront. The brand had always been about caring and showing empathy for others, but we found a way to show moms that Kleenex could be a simple tool for demonstrating you care, and for helping teach their kids to show kindness to others.


Do you believe this helps the audience develop a deeper bond with their audience? Might taking a stance on social/political issues also turn away some potential customers?

It can forge a real bond for sure—but it has to be truthful and the stance has to be genuine. When we get it right, it can really help people and brands find common ground, and shared values.


Are there any specific causes your agency as a whole or you yourself hold near and dear? If so, tell us about them.

We have a really special partnership with the YWCA. They are incredible people and we are proud to help with their mission to eliminate racism and empower women everywhere. It's really a privilege to do the work we do with them. And it feels good to put good things in the world together.


As we move towards more socially conscious advertising, are there any campaigns from the past that you think simply wouldn’t be able to get made today?

Well you sure don’t see a lot of work that portrays women just as sexual people selling snacks, booze  or cologne any more. Thank God we’ve evolved past that.  A little. There’s a reason campaigns like the Always “like a girl’ campaign really resonated. Because it needed to be said.


Is there a specific campaign for a good cause you worked on that you’re most proud of? Or a favorite campaign from another agency.

The YWCA work is some of my favorite work i've been lucky to be a part of. And, for good or bad, there will always be lots more to do...