Stupid nonprofit marketing in the mall

In a swanky office in Madrid:


Ad Guy 1: We face an amazing challenge. Nobody in the history of the world has ever been asked to get people to give away their money for free! Are we up to the challenge?


Ad Guy 2: What are we asking them to give it to?


Ad Guy 1: Let’s see … it’s the Red Cross … whatever.


Ad Guy 2: How about reminding people that the Red Cross helps a lot of people during disasters of all kinds, and that they rely on the donations of ordinary people.


Ad Guy 1: [snicker] Like that would make anyone give away their money. C’mon dude, we have to invent the wheel here. Like open up a high-end pseudo-bookstore in a mall, so people can walk in and hand us money.


Ad Guy 2: I see — the store will be full of books about the amazing things that happen when people give to the Red Cross …


Ad Guy 1: Mr. Literal! Blank books! For this thing to be cool, it’s gotta be symbolic.


Ad Guy 2: Symbolic of …


Ad Guy 1: Symbolic of the state of incompletion that exists until someone hands over some dough!


Ad Guy 2: How will people know that blank pages mean that?


Ad Guy 1: [sigh] I guess we’ll put bookmarks in the books that spell it out for the weak-minded.


Ad Guy 2: And that will make people give?


Ad Guy 1: Just to make sure, we’ll display large photos of abstract images like tree roots and people’s feet. Our work is finished here. Happy hour!


I’m thinking a conversation very much like this happened a few months ago at Leo Burnett Madrid (Warning: This website is almost completely unreadable, and not because it’s largely in Spanish.)


I have a theory for why ad agencies do such insanely bad work for nonprofits: It’s because the people involved don’t give to charity. To them, the very idea of people voluntarily handing over money is utterly mysterious. So they tie themselves in creative knots because the whole thing simply doesn’t make sense to them.


A literally, straightforward presentation of need? No way that would work they think. Our only chance at getting the message through is analogy, symbolism, and metaphor. It doesn’t hurt that awards juries love the indirect approach.


To be fair, a high percentage of commercial advertising, which these people presumably do understand, makes the same obtuse error. Could be that they aren’t singling out nonprofits for their stupidity.


Check out the Madrid retail fundraising project here. It’s scary.


Thanks to AdRants for the tip.


Comments

10 responses to “Stupid nonprofit marketing in the mall”

  1. I thought you had made the story up until I clicked on the link. I was thinking you had been very creative!
    (I have to say, thanks in large part to you, I now look at every television commercial with a jaded eye – so many are focused on blowing their own horns and not on their consumer or potential consumer.)

  2. I thought you had made the story up until I clicked on the link. I was thinking you had been very creative!
    (I have to say, thanks in large part to you, I now look at every television commercial with a jaded eye – so many are focused on blowing their own horns and not on their consumer or potential consumer.)

  3. Jane Steen Avatar
    Jane Steen

    Thanks for the link… I couldn’t agree more, although being European myself I understand how this approach meshes with the European mindset. I hope you’ll follow this campaign and report back on how it did.

  4. Jane Steen Avatar
    Jane Steen

    Thanks for the link… I couldn’t agree more, although being European myself I understand how this approach meshes with the European mindset. I hope you’ll follow this campaign and report back on how it did.

  5. I like how you think, Jeff. Enjoying your blog.
    Cheers
    S. Neil Vineberg

  6. I like how you think, Jeff. Enjoying your blog.
    Cheers
    S. Neil Vineberg

  7. Katie Graf Avatar
    Katie Graf

    Wow. Just…wow.

  8. Katie Graf Avatar
    Katie Graf

    Wow. Just…wow.

  9. So what were the financial results? Seems to me it doesn’t matter what you, me or anyone else here thinks. What matters is whether or not they raised significant funds doing it and how the donors felt.
    Personally, I sort of like the idea that my donation is inspiring someone’s life story. I find it very touching.

  10. So what were the financial results? Seems to me it doesn’t matter what you, me or anyone else here thinks. What matters is whether or not they raised significant funds doing it and how the donors felt.
    Personally, I sort of like the idea that my donation is inspiring someone’s life story. I find it very touching.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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