Stupid ad fails to shed light on charity’s powerful message

Stupid ads

I have a theory about what makes smart organizations end up with stupid nonprofit ads. Tell me if this rings true:

Hotshot ad agency offers to do some work for a deserving nonprofit. Maybe they offer to do it pro bono (to enrich their portfolio). Maybe they charge for their work. Either way, the nonprofit is thrilled at the chance to get some Madison Ave glamour.

The Ad people, who don’t really grasp what charitable giving is about, apply their high-production-value magic and their product-as-hero approach … then they employ abstract symbolism, because they can’t imagine that telling a true, real, literal story would motivate anyone to give.

The result: something like this:

(Or watch it here on Vimeo.)

I’m guessing that’s about how it went when Saatchi & Saatchi London produced this piece for Marie Curie, a UK charity that helps people with terminal illness.

The ad is built on the idea that Marie Curie nurses are a light in the darkness. Which I imagine is a thoroughly apt metaphor. But it’s just a metaphor, something that seemed to escape the ad people.

Truth is, the story of Marie Curie nurses and the people they help is a human drama, full of beauty and heartache. But the ad foregoes all that and turns the human nurses into floating lights. That’s right: they replace humanity with abstract symbolism. Which is too damn bad, because the real story, the one they couldn’t figure out how to tell, is powerful. The floating light story is merely clever.

Telling a real story is no small thing. It’s hard to capture. Not a job for amateurs or newbies. But don’t give up on your story by defaulting to abstraction. That’s not fundraising. And it’s not real branding. It’s a waste of time, energy, opportunity, and money.

Just say no.

Thanks to Osocio for the tip.

More Stupid Nonprofit Ads.


Comments

6 responses to “Stupid ad fails to shed light on charity’s powerful message”

  1. I’m sitting here chuckling to myself thinking back on some of the ads pro bono firms produced for some of the nonprofits for which I worked. OMG! They were gorgeous, but often left me scratching my head. I really couldn’t understand the point they were trying to make. You’ve hit a real nail on it’s pointy little head. Thanks Jeff!

  2. I’m sitting here chuckling to myself thinking back on some of the ads pro bono firms produced for some of the nonprofits for which I worked. OMG! They were gorgeous, but often left me scratching my head. I really couldn’t understand the point they were trying to make. You’ve hit a real nail on it’s pointy little head. Thanks Jeff!

  3. Michael Hodgson Avatar
    Michael Hodgson

    The first time I saw this, it was without sound – something to do with iPad auto play settings, perhaps. And it seemed like a short film about alien abductions. With that in mind, perhaps, as I watched again with sound, it really struck me that they’ve removed the part that is perhaps most important about Marie Curie Care – the human. They’ve replaced the very human part of care with a light. Absolute nonsense! A handy reminder that marketing isn’t fundraising.

  4. Michael Hodgson Avatar
    Michael Hodgson

    The first time I saw this, it was without sound – something to do with iPad auto play settings, perhaps. And it seemed like a short film about alien abductions. With that in mind, perhaps, as I watched again with sound, it really struck me that they’ve removed the part that is perhaps most important about Marie Curie Care – the human. They’ve replaced the very human part of care with a light. Absolute nonsense! A handy reminder that marketing isn’t fundraising.

  5. Speaking of charity and doing a good deed, I am trying to promote a crowdfunding page for my son with Autism. I would be ever so grateful if you would take the chance to read our story and possible share it with others:
    https://www.gofundme.com/ConnerChristmas

  6. Speaking of charity and doing a good deed, I am trying to promote a crowdfunding page for my son with Autism. I would be ever so grateful if you would take the chance to read our story and possible share it with others:
    https://www.gofundme.com/ConnerChristmas

Leave a Reply

What this blog is about

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.

Blog policies

Subscribe

Get new posts by email:

About the blogger

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.


Archives

Blogroll

Categories


Search the blog

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.

Recent Comments

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.

Blog Roll

someone’s blog