Member Spotlight: Phillip Sontag

By Julie Knight

His claim to fame? Phillip Sontag was one of the masterminds behind the “Campaign for Real Beauty from Dove,” one of PR’s most successful and talked-about campaigns.

The campaign, which began about 10 years ago, started with a study of more than 10,000 women in 10 countries to learn what women’s priorities and interests were.

The study revealed that only 2 percent of women considered themselves beautiful.

Instead of featuring the typical “model perfect” women shown in most advertisements, the Dove campaign sparked interest by featuring the beauty of “real” women of all shapes, sizes and ethnicities.

Phillip took over the campaign about five years after it launched and ran it for two years on behalf of a large PR agency.

“Our goal was to bring self-esteem education to 15 million girls,” Phillip says. That goal was reached in 2015.

But that’s not all. Phillip has helped build brand awareness for some of the world’s best-known brands and companies, including eBay, P&G, Mercedes, Unilever, Kodak, Toyota and UPS, to name a few.

Originally from Southern California, Phillip, lived in New York City for 10 years before returning to San Francisco a year ago to join Instinctif, an international business communications agency.

We asked Phillip, engagement director for Instinctif, to tell us a little about the Dove campaign, as well as what value he gets from his IABC membership.

Phillip will be speaking at our May 18 event, “Reinvigorating the eBay Brand from the Inside Out.”

What is it like to have orchestrated a world-famous campaign that’s helped women feel better about their self-image and true beauty? 

Phillip: It feels extremely satisfying. It truly changed my whole thinking about PR. Thanks to this campaign, I started focusing more on helping people move from intention to action, with a focus on doing good.

Please tell us about your role as “engagement director” for Instinctif.

I work with clients to create innovative solutions around change management, transformation, a company’s culture, values and leadership.

Our integrated communication campaigns aim to disrupt, inspire and engage with a brand. 

Aha. That’s what you’ll be speaking about at our May 18 event, right? Can you give us a little tease about that presentation?

eBay is passionate about its 12,000 global employees. We worked with them this past year to develop compelling, innovative ways eBay employees can help drive brand advocacy from the inside out.

Can we get a sneak peek at a few of the tips you’ll be sharing?

For starters, know your audience. Understand their wants and needs. Then you can bring them into the fold to co-create programming, so they feel ownership.

Next, it’s a good idea to create a network of employees who can help spread the word and influence other employees.

Allow your employees to have a voice, whether it’s in person or on social media. Have fun with that. Employees are a brand’s greatest asset.

Is there anything you’d like people to be thinking about for the QA portion of your May 18 presentation?

Yes. It would be wonderful if attendees could think about how they’ve driven employee brand advocacy. Tell us what’s worked and what didn’t work so well. We would love this to be part of the discussion.

You’ve been an SF IABC member for six months now. What value does your membership bring you?

Because I’m new to San Francisco, SF IABC has given me a wonderful opportunity to meet other communicators, network, build friendships and learn. I’ve attended several IABC events and find that I always walk away learning something. 


Julie Knight is an award-winning, accredited business communicator. Her clients have included The Walt Disney Company, Starbucks, Cisco Systems, McKesson Corporation, and Hewlett-Packard to name a few. Connect with Julie on LinkedIn or

If you haven’t yet, join our SF IABC group and follow our new SF IABC company page on LinkedIn.

There’s still time to sign up for Reinvigorating the eBay Brand from the Inside Out.

Thursday, May 18, 2017, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Don’t miss how one of the world’s most established e-commerce companies re-branded itself, starting with its own employees. eBay and Instinctif Partners will tell you how they did it.


  1. Great spotlight! Phillip’s story is inspiring and Julie’s fresh writing style is a pleasure to read.

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