Stupid ad agency gives fundraising the runs

Stupid ads

It’s hard for most people in the Western world to grasp the fact that diarrhea can be a fatal disease. Those of us who have worked to raise funds for water projects know the difficulty.

It looks like WaterAid of the UK may have hit the wall and tried to solve the problem by bringing in an ad agency.

Bad move.

Here’s a TV spot, the centerpiece of the Dig toilets, not graves campaign.

(Or watch it here at YouTube.)

Okay, it’s cute to watch a bunch of kids joyfully singing a potty-humor song about diarrhea. Twenty seconds have gone by, and there’s not a clue about what the spot is about.

Then it gets even weirder. I can just hear the agency presentation: “When the sad African boy sings When it’s just killed your sister and you’re really going to miss her, diarrhea, diarrhea. — it will jar viewers into reality.”

Really, now.

You had — on camera — an English-speaking, sympathetic little boy whose sister died from diarrhea — and you thought using him to provide a perceptual jolt was the way to go? Really? Really?

Once again, an ad agency screws up a fundraising message because they think word-play, mind-games, and symbolism communicate more than telling a story and making an offer.

I’ll give them this, they actually managed to mention pit toilets. That’s more real than a lot of agencies would manage. Unfortunately, they then majored on the size of the unsafe-water problem. That’s a proven way to make sure people don’t respond.

The other way to make sure you don’t get any response is to leave out any response options. There’s no URL, no phone number, not even a mailing address. I’m not sure what they think anybody who happens to be moved is going to do.

Fundraising isn’t easy. Some situations — like unsafe water — are harder yet to get traction for. But don’t make it worse by drinking the ad agency Kool-Aid.

Thanks to Adrants for the tip.

More Stupid nonprofit ads.


Comments

8 responses to “Stupid ad agency gives fundraising the runs”

  1. Saw this the other day and made a mental note to track it down and send it to you if you hadn’t posted within a week.
    Think some of the comments on that youtube clip show just how badly it has failed to get the message across.

  2. Saw this the other day and made a mental note to track it down and send it to you if you hadn’t posted within a week.
    Think some of the comments on that youtube clip show just how badly it has failed to get the message across.

  3. Jeff,
    Um. I’ll not say whether I think the ad is bad or good but I just wanted to say, you can’t put the responsibility for the creative entirely on a ‘stupid ad agency’. Charities don’t just email a brief to an agency and get a campaign back, signed sealed and delivered. They’ll have worked closely together to come up with a campaign. And ultimately the responsibility to donors lies with the charity employees and board.
    Once the campaign has finished its run, perhaps ask Water Aid how much money the campaign raised before you judge it “stupid”.
    Maybe you’d also like to think about your tone. This is a very aggressive post. You could try being constructive and positive rather than simply offensive to the people from both the charity and the ad agency who worked on this campaign. After all, I’m sure they are all aiming to make the world a better place.
    Lastly, before you ask I’m nothing to do with Water Aid, the agency or this campaign; I just felt the above needed to be said to you.

  4. Jeff,
    Um. I’ll not say whether I think the ad is bad or good but I just wanted to say, you can’t put the responsibility for the creative entirely on a ‘stupid ad agency’. Charities don’t just email a brief to an agency and get a campaign back, signed sealed and delivered. They’ll have worked closely together to come up with a campaign. And ultimately the responsibility to donors lies with the charity employees and board.
    Once the campaign has finished its run, perhaps ask Water Aid how much money the campaign raised before you judge it “stupid”.
    Maybe you’d also like to think about your tone. This is a very aggressive post. You could try being constructive and positive rather than simply offensive to the people from both the charity and the ad agency who worked on this campaign. After all, I’m sure they are all aiming to make the world a better place.
    Lastly, before you ask I’m nothing to do with Water Aid, the agency or this campaign; I just felt the above needed to be said to you.

  5. I have to disagree with you on that, Anon. I talk about bad fundraising a lot, but these agency-created ads are the only place I resort to saying they’re stupid.
    The work done by these agencies should be named for what it is and ridiculed. The cost in money, time, and lost opportunity is huge — and calling these snake-oil peddlers’ work for what it is in a blog is about all we can do to fight it.

  6. I have to disagree with you on that, Anon. I talk about bad fundraising a lot, but these agency-created ads are the only place I resort to saying they’re stupid.
    The work done by these agencies should be named for what it is and ridiculed. The cost in money, time, and lost opportunity is huge — and calling these snake-oil peddlers’ work for what it is in a blog is about all we can do to fight it.

  7. I’m off work sick, watching daytime TV, and what do I see?
    A very good DRTV ad for Wateraid; emotive, thoughtful and above all else compelling.
    And guess what?
    It was a traditional DRTV ad, and not the diorrhoea song one. looks like that one lasted two months max, before testing realised it didn’t work.
    Funny that.

  8. I’m off work sick, watching daytime TV, and what do I see?
    A very good DRTV ad for Wateraid; emotive, thoughtful and above all else compelling.
    And guess what?
    It was a traditional DRTV ad, and not the diorrhoea song one. looks like that one lasted two months max, before testing realised it didn’t work.
    Funny that.

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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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