Stupid metaphor equates education with being thrown from an airplane

Stupid ads

If a friendly and engaging stranger offered you a gift that you knew to be very expensive, but had absolutely no value or utility for you, would you accept the gift?

Would your attitude change if you learned that the stranger had a lot more to gain from giving you the useless gift than you ever could from receiving it?

That’s not as weirdly hypothetical as it sounds. It seemingly happened to Plan UK, saddling them with this silly yet disturbing TV spot:

Or watch it here on YouTube.

The creator of this mess is my favorite serial creator of stupid nonprofit ads, Leo Burnett. We’re fortunate to have a press release that gives us some insight into what everyone thought they were doing: New Plan TV ad highlights the power of girls education. The ad, it seems is supposed to “highlight the difference education can make — and draw attention and support to our campaign.”

Um, yeah. It looks to me not so much like an ad that encourages education, but one that encourages flinging girls out of airplanes.

Yes, once again, stupidity is achieved through abstraction, that favorite tools of ad agencies and those who would imitate them. Here’s more insight into the craziness, from the Executive Creative Director at Leo Burnett: “Poverty often feels like an insurmountable problem and because we don’t know where to start, we simply don’t. The fact that Plan know that girls are the best place to start is so simple and arresting that it demanded a narrative to make people really stop and think about the possibility.”

So the “narrative” they come up with: Girls falling helplessly through the sky. Somehow, by the time the reach the ground, they seem to regain consciousness and land on their feet. That causes buildings to magically appear. Suddenly, the whole issue is so clear!

The work of educating girls in the developing world is wonderful, transformative, and exciting. There’s no reason to hide it behind a bizarre and violent metaphor. The work of motivating donors is also wonderful. No reason to hide it, when a clear, specific, and emotional call to action is what motivates people to action.

Plan takes pains to make it clear that this spot was done pro bono. That’s nice. But the reason the agency did it was to pad their portfolio, and possibly win some kind of bogus award, which is currency in the agency world. They used the work of Plan for their own advantage — offering nothing in return but a weird piece of eye-candy.

No harm done? Maybe. But ineffective marketing is like a tax on effective marketing. It’s like pointlessly calling for help, crying wolf. There is a cost to stupidity.

Thanks to Creative Advertisements for NGO for the tip.

More Stupid Nonprofit Ads.


Comments

6 responses to “Stupid metaphor equates education with being thrown from an airplane”

  1. I have to disagree completely. Maybe it’s because I watch so many movies and so much tv, but this ad makes the girl into a superhero – a perfect metaphor for education. With superhero movies and tv shows so hot now, it seems like a great choice for tapping into public consciousness.

  2. I have to disagree completely. Maybe it’s because I watch so many movies and so much tv, but this ad makes the girl into a superhero – a perfect metaphor for education. With superhero movies and tv shows so hot now, it seems like a great choice for tapping into public consciousness.

  3. If you start watching the ad at 0:34 seconds, it’s actually quite good. A girl talking about how her education can impact her family and community, the written text that says “Join the fight to educate girls…”. but the first half of the ad is quite disturbing.

  4. If you start watching the ad at 0:34 seconds, it’s actually quite good. A girl talking about how her education can impact her family and community, the written text that says “Join the fight to educate girls…”. but the first half of the ad is quite disturbing.

  5. @ Glenn, I don’t see how superheroes are a perfect metaphor for education, at all. And surely depicting people who are legitimately in need of our help as superheroes is the wrong way to solicit support – superheroes don’t need our help, they can save the world by themselves! If there was some indication that it was donor support that had this transformative effect on the girls, then the ad’s Call to Action might just be salvagable, but the only suggestion that Plan UK requires OUR support is right at the end with a weak “Join the Fight.” There’s nothing wrong with making the case that girls are the “most powerful force for change on the planet”, but if you don’t append that with “as long as I have your support” then that’s not fundraising, it’s ad agency navel-gazing.

  6. @ Glenn, I don’t see how superheroes are a perfect metaphor for education, at all. And surely depicting people who are legitimately in need of our help as superheroes is the wrong way to solicit support – superheroes don’t need our help, they can save the world by themselves! If there was some indication that it was donor support that had this transformative effect on the girls, then the ad’s Call to Action might just be salvagable, but the only suggestion that Plan UK requires OUR support is right at the end with a weak “Join the Fight.” There’s nothing wrong with making the case that girls are the “most powerful force for change on the planet”, but if you don’t append that with “as long as I have your support” then that’s not fundraising, it’s ad agency navel-gazing.

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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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About the blogger

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.