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:
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.
This is a conversational blog written and maintained by Duncan Green, strategic adviser for Oxfam GB and author of ‘From Poverty to Power’. This personal reflection is not intended as a comprehensive statement of Oxfam's agreed policies.