Stupid guy burns guitar, fails to help the poor, confuses everyone else

Stupid ads

I’ve been fortunate to have worked with quite a few Salvation Army units in my career.

The Salvation Army is one of the most real organizations you’ll ever encounter.

So why someone thought they had to create a symbolic representation of what the Army does is a mystery to me. The literal truth is more than thrilling enough to inspire normal people who live in the real world.

The victim of this stupid ad scam is The Salvation Army of Switzerland:

(Or see it here on YouTube.

I’m assuming the Army is the victim of an ad agency stupid ad scam here, even though I can’t find a self-congratulating agency taking credit. My only evidence it’s a scam is the weird explanation (suspiciously in English) on the YouTube page:

Every year in Advent, the Salvationists take out their guitars and play heartwarming Christmas songs. Will that always stay that way? Or is this tradition ending soon, because the Salvation Army is running out of guitars? Watch this perhaps the last music video and share it.

The implication is that the Salvationists have been foolishly singing to people who needed more tangible help, in direct disobedience to the biblical call to help those in need: If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? (James 2:16)

I don’t think so. In fact, the gritty, open-eyed realism of the Army is what sets them apart from a lot of would-be do-gooders who’d rather strum a guitar than actually work to help someone. And that’s not something they’re just now figuring out.

I’m also pretty confident that even if a Salvationist out with his guitar on a frigid December night would burn his guitar — or even a nice log of firewood — to give a homeless person on a few minutes of slight warmth.

I think he’d invite the homeless guy to come inside, to get a warm meal and a comfortable bed. And maybe start work on the issues that made him homeless in the first place. I mean, they’d do all that before they thought about tossing a guitar into a burn barrel.

I realize I’m taking this all very literally, and that the video’s intent is probably more symbolic. But that’s just the problem.

For a feet-on-the-ground organization like The Salvation Army, reality is far more interesting (and far less silly) than goofball symbolism that doesn’t even capture the situation.

If you actually want to help people understand the Army, to think well of them, or — who knows? — maybe even donate … show them the reality. And give them a chance to be part of it.

It’s not rocket science.

Though it’s unlikely to win an ad industry award or bulk out an agency demo reel.

If my guess is wrong, and this video is self-inflicted by the organization … then I have no explanation. Either way, it’s a towering example of a Stupid Nonprofit Ad. A waste of money, time, and opportunity.

More Stupid Nonprofit Ads.


Comments

4 responses to “Stupid guy burns guitar, fails to help the poor, confuses everyone else”

  1. Seems to me you’ve entirely missed the point of this ad. First of all, don’t assume that the SA in Switzerland has the same brand values or brand issues that the SA in the states has. Secondly, I think there is a perception among many (more wide spread in Europe than America maybe) that SA is a silly organization that wears goofy uniforms and plays music at Christmastime. And this ad was a clever way to acknowledge that perception and address it. And to drive home the point (with a smile) that they know what people say about them but they also know the main point of them is serving the homeless. Sometimes self-deprecation makes people like you more and sometimes taking yourself too serious opens you up to counter-productive ridicule.

  2. Seems to me you’ve entirely missed the point of this ad. First of all, don’t assume that the SA in Switzerland has the same brand values or brand issues that the SA in the states has. Secondly, I think there is a perception among many (more wide spread in Europe than America maybe) that SA is a silly organization that wears goofy uniforms and plays music at Christmastime. And this ad was a clever way to acknowledge that perception and address it. And to drive home the point (with a smile) that they know what people say about them but they also know the main point of them is serving the homeless. Sometimes self-deprecation makes people like you more and sometimes taking yourself too serious opens you up to counter-productive ridicule.

  3. I think Rod Taylor is right. The SA in Switzerland is perceived as honest and serious but fudamentalist christian and humourless.
    The wink in this ad and in the second one about teeth (see them both here https://spinas-cv.com/project/heilsarmee-videos/) are an extension of the pleasant poster campaigns (https://spinas-cv.com/project/heilsarmee-5/).
    But Jeff Brooks is also right, that there is an ad agency behind – THE nonprofit agency in Switzerland https://spinas-cv.com/.

  4. I think Rod Taylor is right. The SA in Switzerland is perceived as honest and serious but fudamentalist christian and humourless.
    The wink in this ad and in the second one about teeth (see them both here https://spinas-cv.com/project/heilsarmee-videos/) are an extension of the pleasant poster campaigns (https://spinas-cv.com/project/heilsarmee-5/).
    But Jeff Brooks is also right, that there is an ad agency behind – THE nonprofit agency in Switzerland https://spinas-cv.com/.

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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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