Stupid abstraction, not smart action

Stupid ads

Does a microscope look like a pistol when you turn it on its side?

Ehh … slightly, maybe.

The more important question: Would this ad be any more effective if a microscope looked very much like a pistol when you turn it on its side.

No. It wouldn’t. Either way, it’s a stupid nonprofit ad.

It’s for Sidaction, a French AIDS charity, but it looks like a portfolio-padder for the ad agency that created it: It’s an oddly-dimensioned 4-color piece that has no evident intended placement, and the agency’s logo is on the piece (very small, upper right corner). And there’s an English-language version.

Stupidsidaction

Like most nonprofit ads that fall into the “stupid” category, this one counts on abstraction and a visual pun. I could excuse the pun if it were in the service of actually connecting with donors. But it isn’t.

“The only weapon that can defeat AIDS is research. To put an end to AIDS, we must continue” is not fundraising. It’s the equivalent to a disturbed person running down the sidewalk shouting “I exist!” It’s of great interest to the shouter; it means almost nothing to everyone else.

Fundraising is connecting donors and their values with your cause. Just saying you do something — even making it clear that the thing you do is very important — is not fundraising. It’s noise.

Oddly, this ad has a call to donate. That’s a step most ads in this genre omit. So a limited sort of kudos for that. But it gives no reason for any donor to take that step.

If you want people to join you and support your cause, you need to talk to them about their values and their importance and give them a specific action they can take to make the world better. That’s the only way to raise funds.

Thanks to Osocio for the tip.

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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