Stupid threat of instant karma?

Stupid ads

Sometimes, stupid happens by accident.

I’m guessing that’s how it happened here, but the stupid turned out so severe, I simply can’t give it a bye. Take this as a cautionary tale, because it could happen to anyone.

It’s a campaign for the Motor Neurone Disease Association in the UK (that’s ALS in the US). It features the stories of people with MDA/ALS. This one is about a young man named Michael Smith:

Icebucket

In case you can’t read that (after all, it’s all-cap text reversed against a photo, which basically the same as invisible ink) here’s what it says:

Last summer, I was the only person I knew who didn’t do the ice bucket challenge. Five months later I was diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

You can see the problem. It looks more like a threat than a story: Donate, or you’ll be stricken with a terrible disease!

You can imagine how this played on Twitter:

Clearly, that’s not what the people who created this ad had in mind. They couldn’t see it.

You can see their anguished “we didn’t mean it” in an article at Third Sector:

It was certainly not our intention to cause any offence. As we always do with our campaigns, we put people with MND at the centre of them. In this case it was Michael talking about his story in his own words.

If you go online and read Michael Smith’s story, you’ll see that it’s a powerful account of one person facing a terrifying disease. The bit about not doing the ice bucket challenge is not an important part of the story.

But it unavoidably looks like a bizarre, thuggish threat of instant karma on anyone who doesn’t support the organization. Anyone outside of the MNDA can see that in an instant. It wasn’t visible to those who created this ad.

This could happen to you or me. When we’re too close to see the obvious. Be careful. Get an outside view of things.

More Stupid Nonprofit Ads.


Comments

4 responses to “Stupid threat of instant karma?”

  1. Irony is the real villain here. It just doesn’t work in fundraising.

  2. Irony is the real villain here. It just doesn’t work in fundraising.

  3. Ken Wilson Avatar
    Ken Wilson

    As a media producer (the person who actually creates the content being used in a campaign), I see this lack of ‘self-awarness’ all too often. The look on someone’s face showing they cannot conceive that their message would be unclear, misunderstood, or even offensive, is one I see frequently.
    As Jeff points out in the article, knowing the intent of the message can blind one to the perception of the message. Many times I’ve heard the response “that’s not what I meant” from well-meaning clients when they’re made aware of possibilities for misinterpretation.
    Yes, do get an ‘outside’ opinion/reaction. In fact, get several. But not from others in your organization. Ask those who are not aware of your work. It’s the best defense against a misunderstanding that would cause potential supporters to reject your appeal.

  4. Ken Wilson Avatar
    Ken Wilson

    As a media producer (the person who actually creates the content being used in a campaign), I see this lack of ‘self-awarness’ all too often. The look on someone’s face showing they cannot conceive that their message would be unclear, misunderstood, or even offensive, is one I see frequently.
    As Jeff points out in the article, knowing the intent of the message can blind one to the perception of the message. Many times I’ve heard the response “that’s not what I meant” from well-meaning clients when they’re made aware of possibilities for misinterpretation.
    Yes, do get an ‘outside’ opinion/reaction. In fact, get several. But not from others in your organization. Ask those who are not aware of your work. It’s the best defense against a misunderstanding that would cause potential supporters to reject your appeal.

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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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