Stupid video creates shadow version of the cause

Stupid ads

It must be overwhelmingly tempting. You’re a hardworking charity. You’re looking for a breakthrough.

A creative agency comes knocking. They’ve won awards for their creative work. You’ve even encountered their work in the real world. They’re ready to do something creative and award-winning for you.

That’s when the stupid starts.

I don’t know if that’s how it went for Human Appeal, a UK-based international relief organization, but I bet that’s close to the reality.

Here’s the short video they got:

Or see it here on YouTube.

You might have to watch it a few times to get the concept, so in case you don’t have the time, I’ll describe it for you:

Two little kids run happily through some kind of partly-ruined building. Suddenly, one of them freezes! You see his shadow, stopped mid-stride. But wait! That’s not a kid casting that shadow, it’s a bunch of Bad Stuff!! Drug paraphernalia, weapons, some other things … it’s moving a bit too fast at this point to identify most of it. The other child turns back, frightened (not nearly frightened enough, given what has just happened). She touches a bullet that’s part of the Bad Stuff. It turns back into a boy!!! They hug. A whole bunch of words flash by on the screen, too quickly to read most of them. Then, bigger and slower, because they apparently want us to actually read these ones:

6.3M children need saving

Then, for five seconds, a screen with a lot of contact information on it, including: Help #ShineALight in the darkness

This video follows the lead of so many stupid nonprofit ads: It’s built on abstraction. Even the call to action is abstract: “Shine a light.”

Shine a light? How about actually do something to help?

But maybe that doesn’t matter, because the video dosn’t actually make any case that there’s a problem that needs solving. It just throws out a statement: 6.3M children need saving. That’s pure fundcrushing, the action-killing evil twin of fundraising.

Children around the world really do need help. I imagine quite a lot more than 6.3 million of them. And there are donors who are ready and able to help.

But clever, high-production-value abstractions will not move those people to action. It’s a utter waste of time, money, and attention that saps the ability of good organization to do the realistic work of connecting with donors.

Elsewhere on the Human Appeal website, you can do all kinds of specific good things, like feed a family for £50. There should be amazing videos about that.

Thanks to Osocio for the tip.

More Stupid Nonprofit Ads.


Comments

4 responses to “Stupid video creates shadow version of the cause”

  1. Ken Wilson Avatar
    Ken Wilson

    But… they’re raising awareness. Bringing attention to the problem. That will cause people to act, right? Because, once folks are aware of the problem they’ll be compelled to act even though they have no idea how, correct?

  2. Ken Wilson Avatar
    Ken Wilson

    But… they’re raising awareness. Bringing attention to the problem. That will cause people to act, right? Because, once folks are aware of the problem they’ll be compelled to act even though they have no idea how, correct?

  3. gollux Avatar

    I actually quite liked it. It was different. It wasn’t another ad showing brown children with some dirty water or in a field… yawn. concept was ok- running towards the light, then getting stopped by nasty things… got slightly murky after that. Got the overall message though.I’d like to see how this worked.

  4. gollux Avatar

    I actually quite liked it. It was different. It wasn’t another ad showing brown children with some dirty water or in a field… yawn. concept was ok- running towards the light, then getting stopped by nasty things… got slightly murky after that. Got the overall message though.I’d like to see how this worked.

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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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