Stupid nonprofit ads: garbage in, garbage out

Stupidadssmall
News flash! A Stupid Nonprofit Ad wins an award!

Well, almost. It was a student division of the D and AD awards (a UK ad industry association).

(Thanks to Queer Ideas for the tip, and don’t miss Mark’s cogent discussion of this project.)

(Or watch it here on YouTube.)

I realize it’s really not fair to label the work of students as “stupid.” What’s stupid about this is that it won an award, judged, presumably, by professionals who should know better.

Further, it was an assignment that could hardly do otherwise than produce stupid work: The challenge to students was to “present an idea that engages support for Oxfam by triggering shared values and concerns in a wide range of people.” There’s a brief with a lot more information, but the direction is no better.

The main problem here is the “wide range of people.” That’s not an audience. It’s simply not possible to communicate effectively with everyone. In fact, the students who produced this ad solved that problem by aiming at themselves.

At least, I think that’s what they did. How else could you explain an attempt to stir people to compassion by parading a series of snarky, pissed-off potty-mouths who would rather do anything else than fight poverty? These kids seem to think fundraising is a bigger enemy than poverty itself.

In other words, this ad doesn’t have the faintest clue about the psychology behind charitable giving.

I’m sure the students who produced it learned a lot from the project. And that’s the main point for them. But the judges then told them their work was good, thus potentially setting them out on careers of more stupid nonprofit ads. They also signalled clearly to all the other students who entered their work, some of them quite good, that the stupid, snarky stuff is the gold standard.

So we can expect the plague to continue in the coming years. Shame on the D and AD judges.

More Stupid Nonprofit Ads.


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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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