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Power Shift: Consumers And Corporations Step In Where Government Has Failed

Global Study from Havas Worldwide Explores New Realities in Community, Citizenship, and Social Action

NEW YORK, Jan. 15, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Who has the most power to effect change today? If you think it's the world's political leaders, you're in the minority. According to a new study from Havas Worldwide, the single greatest agent of change is "the people, empowered by social media." It's part of a shift that is seeing the responsibility for solving our most pressing challenges shared not just by the world's governments, but also by citizen-consumers and businesses. (Thirty-five percent of the sample cited social media-empowered citizens as the greatest agent of change, while 25% picked "government/politicians," 24% said "what we consume," and 16% chose "corporations and companies.")

The Havas Worldwide survey was fielded online by Market Probe International among more than 10,000 adults in 31 countries.

Additional findings:

We don't trust politicians to do their jobs: The survey respondents live under a variety of forms of government, but few are satisfied with the results they're seeing from their political officials.

  • Fewer than 4 in 10 (39%) say they have moderate or a lot of faith in their national governments, while only slightly more (42%) have faith in their local governments.

Social media is motivating and empowering people to push for change: Faith in government may be diminished, but people are taking advantage of digital communications to get informed about issues and try to make a difference themselves.

  • Eighty-eight percent of the global sample use social media at least once a day, and 45% say it has made them more politically aware/active. The latter is especially true of two subsets within the sample: leading-edge Prosumers (62%) and millennials, defined here as ages 18-34. Fifty-four percent of millennials say social media has made them more politically active, compared with just 24% of those aged 55+.
  • Forty percent of the global sample believe social media has made them more influential/powerful, including 57% of Prosumers and 49% of millennials.
  • A third of the sample already use social media to change the world for the better, and 42% expect to use it more in the future to promote worthy causes.

"Six in 10 of our study respondents—and nearly 8 in 10 Prosumers—believe social media gives ordinary citizens an extraordinary ability to influence others and create change," said Marianne Hurstel, vice president, Havas Worldwide's BETC and global chief strategy officer, Havas Worldwide. "This sentiment is especially prevalent in emerging markets, where 68% agreed with this statement, compared with 49% of those in developed markets. In places where control has traditionally been in the hands of the few, social media may well offer the single most important pathway to power."

People want businesses to step in where government has failed:

  • Seventy-three percent believe that the more powerful corporations become, the more obligated they are to behave ethically and with the public interest in mind. In fact, more than two-thirds (68%) say businesses bear as much responsibility as government for driving positive social change.
  • Seventy-six percent want corporations and government to work together to make the world a better place.
  • Sixty-one percent would like their favorite brands/companies to play a bigger role in their local communities.
  • And 6 in 10 expect corporations to play an increasingly vital role in addressing the world's major problems.

Adding to the pressure on businesses to get involved is the widespread sense that they are better equipped than government to get things done:

  • Sixty-three percent say that, in general, businesses are better run than governments.
  • Around two-thirds of Prosumers (67%) and 55% of the mainstream think corporations are better positioned than governments to combat climate change.

"We're entering the age of damage, where social media has empowered people to hold businesses accountable," said David Jones, global CEO of Havas and author of Who Cares Wins: Why Good Business Is Better Business. "As corporations have grown in size and power, people are expecting more from them. They want big business in general—and their brand partners in particular—to play a role in driving positive change and to work toward the greater good rather than acting solely on the basis of their own agendas. Consumers are rewarding those businesses that take the lead and punishing those that don't."

Mindful consumption trumps voting: While a majority of the sample (56%) consider themselves better-than-average citizens, they're not defining that in terms of political participation. Good citizenship is now linked not so much to voting as to doing.

  • According to the survey respondents, the most important factor in being a good citizen today is behaving ethically and responsibly (cited as a top-three factor by 68% of the sample), followed by being self-sufficient/taking care of one's family (54%) and being a responsible consumer (36%).
  • For many, the most important votes they place are not at the ballot box a few times a year, but every day, with their pocketbooks, as they make purchasing decisions in support of things they care about. Around half the sample (48%) believe they have more influence on society as consumers than they do as voters, while only 14% disagree (the remainder being neutral).
  • Most (56%) believe that a person who recycles regularly is a better citizen than someone who votes in every election but doesn't make an effort to reduce his or her waste.

"What we're seeing is a shift away from traditional political activity in favor of social change driven by governments, citizen-consumers, and corporations working together," said Marianne Hurstel. "This is changing the relationship between consumers and brands, as people increasingly look to big business to act as a sort of super-citizen, advancing societal interests while also taking care to cause no harm—to our shared environment, to employees and other stakeholders, and to the broader community. It's an opportunity for businesses to play a much more essential role in people's lives."

To learn more about the study and to download the "Communities and Citizenship: Redesigned for a New World" white paper, please visit And follow us on Twitter @prosumer_report.

About the Study

The Communities and Citizenship study was created by Havas Worldwide and fielded as an online survey by Market Probe International during summer 2012. The 10,219 respondents are ages 18 and older and live in 31 markets across the globe: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, the Czech Republic, the Dominican Republic, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

About Havas Worldwide

Havas Worldwide, formerly known as Euro RSCG Worldwide, is a leading integrated marketing communications agency and was the first agency to be named Global Agency of the Year by both Advertising Age and Campaign in the same year. The Havas Worldwide network is made up of 11,000 employees in 316 offices in 120 cities and 75 countries, and provides advertising, marketing, corporate communications, and digital and social media solutions to clients, including Air France, BNP Paribas, Citigroup, Danone Group, IBM, Kraft Foods, Lacoste, Merck, Pernod Ricard, PSA Peugeot Citroen, Reckitt Benckiser, Sanofi, and Volvo. Headquartered in New York, Havas Worldwide is the largest unit of the Havas group, a world leader in communications (Euronext Paris SA: HAV.PA).

For more information about Havas Worldwide's global studies, please visit or contact Matt Weiss, global chief marketing officer, at

Follow us on Twitter @prosumer_report.

Lisa Gruber
Global Communications Manager
Havas Worldwide
T: (212) 886-2018

SOURCE Havas Worldwide

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