Most stupid ad concept, bar none

Stupid ads

Here’s a doozy, done for Amnesty International Poland by one of the all-time great purveyors of nonprofit stupidity, Leo Burnett (Warning: Out-of-control website that might make your brain implode.)














Amnestybars

The ad industry relies on visual puns to communicate things. (You seldom win awards by just coming out and saying something.)

Given the assignment of getting people to care about human rights violations, a normal person might consider showing that happening, and what exactly fellow humans are going through at the hands of bad governments.

No. Too straightforward.

The brief must have said, “Make the viewer feel the pain of the victims.” But rather than communicate that pain by vividly telling the truth, they had to find an indirect, abstract way to say it. Like when they’re selling a product that’s big, they show an elephant instead of a big product.

So they make us “feel the pain” with design that creates visual vibration, something most people dislike.

It’s utterly fatuous to compare the suffering of the victims of human rights abuse to the mild discomfort we get from looking at this ad. But worse than that, the pun makes no sense. Close-set vertical bars don’t actually hurt you. Being jailed, tortured, or killed for your beliefs can ruin your whole day. The comparison is even less apt than an elephant standing for the idea that something is big.

The viewer doesn’t know — rationally or emotionally — one iota more about the world human rights situation.

The barely-visible face in this ad is jailed Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Ky. You may have known that, but I wouldn’t count on one in ten regular people recognizing her by her image alone — much less an image you can’t stand to look at.

Burma is a repressive police state that uses torture, rape, slave labor, and many other kinds of violence to keep its people down. Rather than mention any of that or help us feel the pain — this ad serves up a portrait of someone most people won’t recognize in a design that pretty much forces you to quickly look away.

Wow. Could they have gone any farther away from actually communicating, much less motivating action?

Reality and truth are powerful. Seriously, you can use them to get people to care, give, or volunteer. Abstract visual puns? Not so much.

Thanks to Osocio for the tip.

More Stupid Nonprofit Ads.


Comments

12 responses to “Most stupid ad concept, bar none”

  1. With all due respect, I must say that we don’t know the direction given to the agency or the input from the client, so it’s difficult to simply throw the agency under the bus as though the client were an innocent bystander in this process. I come from an agency background and understand this all too well. Also, what you described should be in the ad is exactly what is expected and therefore can be lost. Doing something unexpected and simple can grab attention for easier than an ad filled with all of the things you suggested. To many visuals and messages can cause the viewer to pass over the ad.
    I certainly understand that the non-profit marketing world is different than the traditional marketing world, but I think both sides can learn from the other and and be better in their approaches.

  2. With all due respect, I must say that we don’t know the direction given to the agency or the input from the client, so it’s difficult to simply throw the agency under the bus as though the client were an innocent bystander in this process. I come from an agency background and understand this all too well. Also, what you described should be in the ad is exactly what is expected and therefore can be lost. Doing something unexpected and simple can grab attention for easier than an ad filled with all of the things you suggested. To many visuals and messages can cause the viewer to pass over the ad.
    I certainly understand that the non-profit marketing world is different than the traditional marketing world, but I think both sides can learn from the other and and be better in their approaches.

  3. I agree with John.
    I worked with AI for two years & as Clients they will have had a lot of input in the final executions that ran.
    This Ad is simple & arresting visually.It’s not wallpaper that often the reader can skip.
    It stops you & makes you think, therefore it works.

  4. I agree with John.
    I worked with AI for two years & as Clients they will have had a lot of input in the final executions that ran.
    This Ad is simple & arresting visually.It’s not wallpaper that often the reader can skip.
    It stops you & makes you think, therefore it works.

  5. Jeff, your ongoing effort to blast the sanitizing light of ridicule upon self-indulgent, overthought advertising was one of the hit themes of the IFC Congress in Amsterdam this October, I can report. Please continue with this work: you have a lot of fans. Mark Phillips from the UK’s Bluefrog agency did a major presentation (mentioning you) at the IFC where he showed charity ads dating back to the 1800s. You won’t be surprised to learn that these “ancient” ads were far better mousetraps than the modern examples. These older, straightforward, very donor-centered ads were the ones that built powerful international charities into brands so well-established that today’s occasional ad foolishness cannot do them grave damage. I do agree with John on one point: agencies are not entirely to blame. Nonprofits are strong willed. They chase the new. They churn and burn staff. And they forget their marketing successes of the past.

  6. Jeff, your ongoing effort to blast the sanitizing light of ridicule upon self-indulgent, overthought advertising was one of the hit themes of the IFC Congress in Amsterdam this October, I can report. Please continue with this work: you have a lot of fans. Mark Phillips from the UK’s Bluefrog agency did a major presentation (mentioning you) at the IFC where he showed charity ads dating back to the 1800s. You won’t be surprised to learn that these “ancient” ads were far better mousetraps than the modern examples. These older, straightforward, very donor-centered ads were the ones that built powerful international charities into brands so well-established that today’s occasional ad foolishness cannot do them grave damage. I do agree with John on one point: agencies are not entirely to blame. Nonprofits are strong willed. They chase the new. They churn and burn staff. And they forget their marketing successes of the past.

  7. One additional comment – Using an ad to tell the story of Aung San Suu Ky wouldn’t do it justice.
    This ad has stopping power but could be more effective if it called me to visit a website to learn more about Aung San Suu Ky’s story.
    Thanks for the discussion.

  8. One additional comment – Using an ad to tell the story of Aung San Suu Ky wouldn’t do it justice.
    This ad has stopping power but could be more effective if it called me to visit a website to learn more about Aung San Suu Ky’s story.
    Thanks for the discussion.

  9. I might be in the minority here, but I like that advert.

  10. I might be in the minority here, but I like that advert.

  11. This ad does make you stop and try to understand which may have been the goal of Amnesty. There’s no call to action and I think if there was, it would prompt me to find out who the person is, as I have no clue.

  12. This ad does make you stop and try to understand which may have been the goal of Amnesty. There’s no call to action and I think if there was, it would prompt me to find out who the person is, as I have no clue.

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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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