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December 5, 2017

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December 5, 2017

Vote now for the best/worst charity ads of 2017

December 5, 2017
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Every year, the ‘rusty radiator’ site runs a poll on the year’s best/worst aid agency ads. Let’s start with the good ones.

My favourite has to be War Child’s batman video – very moving

The others are a smart Save the Children US take on children and Christmas gifts, a very knowing Below the Line film on aid stereotypes and a human trafficking film that I can’t find on youtube (please send a link if you have one).

The candidates for the worst ones got me thinking. Two of the videos are appeals from the UK Disasters Emergency Committee (of which Oxfam is a member) about Yemen and East Africa. The Guardian discussed the other candidate – Ed Sheeran’s video for Comic Relief – so I’ll stick to the other two. The award jury’s remarks on the Yemen film are nuanced: ‘Very graphical and stereotypical. Devoid of dignity to those suffering. They’re really bringing back the 80s with this video. This ad shares the same problems as the Africa Famine Appeal by DEC. Context of ‘we’re doing well, you selfish people’. But it offers some context and a bit of detail. Humanitarian crises are difficult though.’

Yes they sure are. I can happily join in the criticism of charities that routinely use ‘poverty porn’ as a way to raise funds for their work all year every year, deny the dignity and agency of people living in poverty, and contribute to an entirely misleading view of what is going on around the world. But is there really no circumstance in which the suffering is so great and the need so immediate that you say ‘OK, we have to show what is going on and try and raise some extra cash to save a few more lives?’ And in order to do that, an organization like the DEC simply can’t start getting into criticising UK or other policy on Yemen (though Oxfam does plenty of that).

So what do you think? Does the Rusty Radiator crew need to nuance its message, or should these kinds of images never be used? I know, let’s have a vote on the vote:

Is Rusty Radiator's short list of the worst aid ads in 2017

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Sadly, the Rusty Radiator vote ended yesterday. Winners will be announced on Thursday.

Update: Batman got the Golden Radiator, Ed Sheeran the rusty one. Sounds about right.

2 comments

  1. I thought the Ed Sheeran one was truly appalling, just awful, and deeply unprofessional in the way it handled the vulnerable children apparently being filmed. The batman film is wonderful and also terribly sad. The Yemen film I felt the criticism was a bit harsh. Yes the images are problematic but they are still shocking and awful and most importantly for me, this is happening, few people seem to care, and the world needs to know about it. Would have been better if combined with some Yemeni people talking about what they are doing/want to happen etc.

  2. Are DEC marketers saying that they would have raised less cash if their ads would have been different (less emotional and guilt-based) and that there are no implications for future campaigns? What about the effect on the general fundraising environment (beyond the extra cash for the DEC organizations)? I guess there are context issues to consider, like how was the media covering the different humanitarian emergencies at the time of the campaigns and how other charities were responding with their campaigns. There have been studies (including this one conducted by Oxfam: http://www.ibtimes.com/africas-negative-image-undermining-food-aid-efforts-oxfam-970792) that reveal media coverage combined with multi fundraising campaigns with constant images of suffering (hunger, disease, deprivation, etc.) intended to bring about action and more money, they instead leave the general public desensitized and apathetic. The argument is that people are more likely to act and give when they see in campaigns treating affected/suffering people with dignity and showing grounds for hope as well as the potential that already exist locally.

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